Big Ten

Three Big Ten players picked in NFL Draft's first round


Three Big Ten players picked in NFL Draft's first round

Two years ago, just one Big Ten player was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft with the No. 31 pick. Thursday night, three went in the top 15 picks.

Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes and Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon were all picked in the top half of the first round on Day 1 of the 2015 NFL Draft on Thursday night at the Auditorium Theater.

It was the first time three players from Big Ten schools were selected in the draft's top 15 picks since 2007, when Wisconsin offensive lineman Joe Thomas, Penn State defensive lineman Levi Brown and Ohio State return man Ted Ginn Jr. were all picked in the top 10.

Here's a look at the three players who got to pose for pictures on stage with commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday.

[MORE BIG TEN: Hawkeyes fans' approval of Kirk Ferentz drops dramatically]

No. 5: Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa — Washington Redskins

Scherff was expected to come off the board early, and he did, becoming the first top-10 pick from a Big Ten school since 2008, when Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long went No. 1 overall. He joins a long line of Iowa O-linemen picked in the first round, with Riley Reiff being the most recent in 2012. Scherff is enormous at 319 pounds, and he always projected as an NFL offensive lineman. Now he is one, and he’ll be blocking for Alfred Morris in our nation’s capital.

No. 11: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State — Minnesota Vikings

Waynes was the first defensive back selected, another predicted outcome. His selection by the Vikings gave the Spartans two first-round cornerbacks in back-to-back drafts after Darqueze Dennard was picked by the Bengals with the No. 24 pick last year. Waynes and Dennard were the two starting corners on Michigan State’s 2013 team, which had the top-ranked defense in college football. Waynes now goes to Minnesota, where he’ll be defending the pass against the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford in the NFC North.

[MORE BIG TEN: Urban Meyer: All indications are that Braxton Miller is staying with Buckeyes]

No. 15: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin — San Diego Chargers

Gordon wasn’t the first running back picked Thursday — Georgia’s Todd Gurley was the No. 10 pick of the Rams — but he still earned rave reviews while being selected by the Chargers. He’s the latest in a line of Badgers running backs drafted into the pros, but the name he’ll be attached to for a while will be LaDanian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is arguably the greatest Charger of all time, and now Gordon looks to become the best San Diego running back since Tomlinson left town. Coincidentally, Gordon broke Tomlinson’s FBS single-game rushing record this past season. Both were top-five finishers in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Interestingly, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory was not selected in Thursday's first round despite being projected by many to go in the first 32 picks. Nebraska has yet to have a first-round selection since joining the Big Ten. Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith was also considered a fringe first-round possibility, but he remains on the board heading into Round 2. In fact, Ohio State had zero players selected, becoming the first national champion without a first-round pick since the 2002 Ohio State team.

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


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


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.