Big Ten

Three former Illini sign with NFL teams following NFL Draft

josh-ferguson-0502.jpg

Three former Illini sign with NFL teams following NFL Draft

Illinois saw three players selected in this past weekend's NFL Draft, and after the festivities were over, three more signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents.

Running back Josh Ferguson signed with the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Geronimo Allison signed with the Green Bay Packers, and cornerback/return man V'Angelo Bentley signed with the New England Patriots.

Ferguson, a Naperville native and a Joliet Catholic product, had a strong career in Champaign. He was hampered by injuries last season, playing in just nine games, and finished second on the team with 708 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He also caught 37 passes for 280 receiving yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns.

Ferguson ranks second in program history in all-purpose yardage with 4,474 yards, sixth in rushing with 2,586 yards and third in receptions with 168 catches. He owns the program records for receiving yards by a running back (1,507) and receptions by a running back (168).

Allison joined the Illini two offseasons ago, transferring in from junior college. He started 12 of the team's 13 games during the 2014 season, ranking second on the team with 598 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Last season, Allison played in all 12 games, catching a team-high 56 passes for a team-high 882 yards and three touchdowns.

Bentley carved out his own corner of the program record book, becoming the only Illinois player ever to score touchdowns via a kick return, punt return, interception return and fumble return. He's the program leader in kick-return yardage with 1,860 yards, and he ranks fourth all-time in punt-return yardage with 550 yards. Last season, Bentley ranked fifth on the Illini defense with 54 tackles.

These three join the trio of Illini who were drafted over the weekend. Defensive end Jihad Ward became the first Illinois product drafted since 2013 when he was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 44 pick in the second round. Offensive lineman Ted Karras was picked at No. 221 by the Patriots, and safety Clayton Fejedelem was drafted at No. 245 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.