Big Ten

Senior year will be family journey for Michigan State's Calhoun

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Senior year will be family journey for Michigan State's Calhoun

Six-foot-5. Long arms. Freak athlete. Productive. Squeaky clean off the field.

Shilique Calhoun is the kind of prospect NFL scouts drool over their notebooks for. Yet when the decision came in the winter to decide whether he would make the leap to the NFL and be a potential Day 1 pick, Calhoun didn't flinch.

More than cashing in his first big pay check, Calhoun wanted that slip of paper from Michigan State signifying his completion of his degree.

"Having that opportunity is very special for me," Calhoun said. "Not only for myself but for my family and my mother. She didn’t have the opportunity to finish college so these past four, four and a half years is really for me but walking across that stage was for her, for her to have her moment and live in the moment also."

[RELATED: Spartans' Calhoun believes he is Big Ten's best DL over Buckeyes' Bosa]

A self-proclaimed momma's boy, the massive Spartan defensive end watched his mother, Cynthia Mimes, go through difficult times throughout his life. In 2002, Calhoun's house burned down and his family was forced to move constantly from place to place. Mimes always stressed to her children the importance of an education. Her message wasn't something that always stuck with Calhoun in high school, but when she finally explained to him the connection between academics and athletics, everything started to click.

"The one thing she would say to me is: ‘You can’t play sports if you don’t have good grades,'" Calhoun said. "That right there just said everything to me. I didn’t need anything else. Once she said that, I knew that I need good grades, I need to do better because ultimately if I want to play a sport collegiately, I need to make sure that academically I’m doing what I need to in the classroom.

"Sure enough, when I was able to gain these scholarships, it kind of made her proud because she knew that I had the opportunity to get my degree."

Not only will graduation be a special moment for Calhoun, who will be a first-generation graduate, but on Oct. 10 Michigan State travels to play Rutgers, allowing the New Jersey native a trip back to the Garden State to play in front of his family. He's already (jokingly) demanded all of his teammates' free tickets for the game so he can accommodate everyone in his family for the special occasion. 

"To be able to go back home and make an impact because I know a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to come all the way to Michigan and watch me play," Calhoun said. "So this will be a great opportunity for my grandmother, my older relatives to come out and witness me play, and I think it’ll be very special because I don’t think many people have the opportunity. Not only that, but a chance to play in front of the New Jersey fans, being a New Jersey native it just kind of sparks things up a lot more so you might see a tear shed that game."

[MORE BIG TEN: Ohio State thinks Braxton Miller can be impact player at WR]

While 2015 may be a year he celebrates and honors family members, Calhoun did lose a member of his football family when Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi bolted East Lansing for the head coaching position at Pittsburgh. While the popular defensive coordinator's absence was tough ("That was my guy"), Calhoun knows the green helmets on defense will be still be swarming to the ball and punishing ball carriers on a consistent basis.

"We’ll still be the same Spartan dogs," Calhoun said. "That’s who we are. It was never a point where we felt that Coach Narduzzi was handling everything. Everyone had a hand in everything that we did so there’s going to be no need for picking up the slack. He’s irreplaceable because he’s Coach Narduzzi but at the same time he would have never left us in terrible condition."

The bubbly and fun Calhoun acts like a friendly guy off the field with the media and his teammates but when he puts his hand in the dirt before every snap, he transforms into a fitting green superhero: The Incredible Hulk. Calhoun hopes he will be carrying more than just a diploma in his hand as he leaves East Lansing (College Football Playoff trophy, anyone?) and coach Mark Dantonio knows the Michigan State family got a big boost when Calhoun put his NFL dreams on hold to lead the Spartans defense into battle one last time.

"He brings a guy with great credibility among our players, among our staff and among our opponents," Dantonio said. "He brings a great credibility back to Michigan State. I think that’s the thing he does. He’s an outstanding person."

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.