Illinois football linebacker Jake Hansen signs with Houston Texans as undrafted free agent


Cameron Krasucki

Linebacker Jake Hansen makes a leap over the players who have fallen over on the field on Sept. 18 against Maryland.

By Jackson Janes, Staff Writer

After spending six years at Illinois, linebacker Jake Hansen is heading to the NFL after being signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent, joining former Illinois head coach Lovie Smith.

Across five seasons in Champaign, Hansen totaled 276 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, three interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. His 12 forced fumbles rank second all-time in program history and are tied for sixth-most in Big Ten history.

A three-star prospect out of high school, Hansen committed to Illinois in the winter of 2016 and immediately saw action as a freshman, though he mostly played with the special teams unit and made one start at linebacker.

Missing the entire 2017 season, Hansen bounced back in 2018 by starting all 12 games at the linebacker position, recording career-bests in solo tackles (48), total tackles (95) and tackles for loss (8.5). His six tackles for loss on Sept. 1, 2018, tied a program record.

As a junior in 2019, he was named a team captain and started the first nine games of the season before being sidelined with an injury for the final four games, including Illinois’ bowl game in California. Despite his late-season absence, Hansen led the country in forced fumbles with seven, set career-bests in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries (3) and was named an All-Big Ten honorable mention by both coaches and the media.

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During the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season, the Tarpon Springs, Fla,, native returned from injury and made his way back into the starting lineup. Despite playing in eight games, Hansen recorded a career-high two interceptions, and he earned Second-Team All-Big Ten (media) and Third-Team All-Big Ten (coaches) honors for the first time in his career.

Hansen opted to use his extra year of eligibility and play under new head coach Bret Bielema in 2021, though his season was once again impacted by injuries. Though he was named a team captain for the third straight year, Hansen played in six games and registered 33 total tackles before undergoing season-ending knee surgery on Oct. 20.

His presence in the middle of the field constantly made things difficult for offenses across the country, and he heads to the NFL with his name and legacy etched into the Illinois record books.



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