Jake Hansen, Kendrick Green head to NFL Draft

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Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Senior Jake Hansen takes a deep breath before a play during competition. Hansen has declared for the NFL Draft following the 2020 season.

By Gabby Hajduk, Sports Editor

Senior linebacker Jake Hansen and redshirt junior offensive lineman Kendrick Green are the first Illini to declare for the NFL Draft following the 2020 season. Both players had the opportunity to play an additional season at Illinois due to the NCAA granting fall athletes another year of eligibility.

“Thank you to my family, coaches, friends and fans for an unbelievable five seasons at the University of Illinois,” Hansen said in a statement. “It has been an honor to wear the Orange & Blue at Memorial Stadium in front of the best fans in the nation. I have made memories and friends that will last a lifetime. I know I will miss my time in Champaign!”

“It has been an honor to wear the Orange & Blue for the last four years and be a part of the Fighting Illini family. The memories we have made will last forever,” Green said in a statement.”I want to thank all my family and friends in Peoria for getting me here. Without all of their support, I would not be where I am today. Thank you to Coach Smith, the coaches and all the staff at Illinois. They made me a better man and football player from the minute I stepped on campus.”

Both Hansen and Green were leaders on their respective sides of the ball.

Hansen, who embodied “Lovieball” by being a takeaway machine, recorded 14 takeaways in his last two seasons, leading the nation. With the shortened 2020 season hindering Hansen’s stats, the 2019 season was his greatest success. He led the country in forced fumbles (7) and forced fumbles per game (0.78) last season. Hansen’s career stats (235 tackles, 26.0 TFLs, 7.0 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and three interceptions) will hopefully land him a permanent spot in the pros next season.

Green has been one of the most consistent guys under Lovie Smith’s team. After playing on the defensive line as a true freshman, Green switched to the o-line and started every game since — 29 starts at guard, four starts at center. Following the 2020 season, Green was named a USA Today Second Team All-American and a consensus First Team All-Big Ten selection. Green showed steady growth between 2019 and 2020 going from the No. 6 guard to the No. 3 guard in the nation by Pro Football Focus.

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