CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Just when things seemed to be going in Jake Hansen’s favor, it all came crashing down for the Illini linebacker.
“I knew something was messed up when it happened,” Hansen said when asked about his injury last August.
Expected to start the 2017 season, the Florida-native suffered a torn ACL during a scrimmage in fall camp.
“I just went over to the sidelines and got evaluated and we figured out I wouldn’t be playing that season,” the Florida native said.
As a true freshman, Hansen played primarily on special teams in all 12 games with one start at linebacker. His injury was a devastating blow.
“It was pretty tough,” he said. “All the work you put in to play that season and you get it taken away from you.”
“For him not to be able to get into the season and show everybody what type of player he is, it was tough,” Illinois defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson said. “It was hard for me, as a coach, to see a guy like that go down.”
The recovery process has been a long one for Hansen, who is still non-contact during spring ball, but the sophomore says he’s staying active in the film room and where he can at practice.
“I call him Coach Hansen right now because he’s been kind of like my assistant linebackers coach,” Nickerson said. “He’s been helping out, coaching guys up. He’s been very much involved in what we’ve been doing.”
And taking all the right steps in preparation for his return to the field this summer.
“I’ve got to work to get where I was exactly where I left off,” added Hansen.
When he does, it can only mean good things for the Illini’s linebacker corps. With the departure of starter Tre’ Watson, the young unit combines for just ten starts coming into the 2018 season.