Big Ten

Will it be back-to-back Thorpe Awards for Hawkeyes' Desmond King?

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Will it be back-to-back Thorpe Awards for Hawkeyes' Desmond King?

 The reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner made the decision to return to school for his senior season. Perhaps it will pay off in the form of a repeat.

Iowa's Desmond King was among the names on the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award when it was released on Monday morning. The award is annually presented to the country's top defensive back, and King is the reigning honoree after winning last season.

King won the conference version, too, last season after a terrific campaign during which he led the Big Ten and ranked second in the country with eight interceptions. He also ranked third in the league and fifth nationally with 21 passes defended, starred as a return man with the fourth-best punt-return average in the conference and earned All-Big Ten First Team honors from both the coaches and members of the media.

There has never been a repeat winner of the award. Last year, King became the second Big Ten player to win the award in the last three seasons after Darqueze Dennard won in 2013.

Three other Big Ten players landed on the Thorpe Award watch list.

Michigan's Jourdan Lewis joined King with All-Big Ten First Team honors from both coaches and the media last season, ranking second in the conference and fourth in the country with 22 passes defended. Lewis also had solid return numbers with the sixth-best kick-return average in the Big Ten.

Maryland's Will Likely broke the decades-old Big Ten record for most punt-return yards in a game in Week 1 last season and also made the decision to return to school for his senior year with the Terps. Like King and Lewis, Likely earned All-Big Ten First Team honors. He was the coaches' pick at both defensive back and return specialist and the media's pick as a return specialist, a Second Team selection of the media at defensive back. Likely ranked fourth in the conference in all-purpose yardage, second in punt-return average and seventh in passes defended.

Nebraska's Nate Gerry was an All-Big Ten Third Team honoree last season, named by members of the media. He has nine interceptions in his career with the Huskers, five away from tying the program record.

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.