Hansen Announces Return to Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Linebacker Jake Hansen is returning to the University of Illinois, he announced Monday. Hansen led the nation in takeaways over the last two seasons (14) and will be one of the most accomplished linebackers to return to the Big Ten and college football in 2021.
“The 2020 football season wasn’t exactly how I imagine my time at Illinois to end,” said Hansen in a video message. “After extensive talks with Coach Bielema and the University of Illinois staff, I have decided that I have unfinished business in the Orange & Blue. I am excited to get back up to Champaign and get to work with my teammates and my new coaches. Go Illini!”
Illinois will have 21 “super seniors” on its 2021 roster who will be using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Illini have more returning scholarship “super seniors” than any team in the nation, according to a report by the Associated Press, and five more than any other program in the Big Ten.
“I am excited for Jake to come back to the Fighting Illini family,” said head coach Bret Bielema. “During my conversations with Jake it was easy to see how passionate he is about the game of football, his teammates and the University of Illinois. We’ve got an outstanding group of seniors that have chosen to come back to Illinois and I am appreciative of Josh Whitman and our staff’s efforts to make sure these young men have the opportunity to wear the Orange and Blue again in 2021.”
Hansen tested the NFL Draft process in 2021 before electing to return to Illinois. The NCAA granted Hansen a final year of eligibility and he will continue pursuing a master’s degree in recreation, sport, and tourism after graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in kinesiology.
Hansen was an All-Big Ten second team selection by the media in 2020 and the No. 3 tackler in the nation according to PFF. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten in TFLs, eighth in forced fumbles, 10th in fumble recoveries, 10th in tackles, and 12th in interceptions last season.
Hansen has been involved in 14 takeaways in the last two seasons, the most of any player in the nation. He has eight forced fumbles recovered by Illinois, three fumble recoveries (on fumbles he did not force), and three interceptions. The 2019 Butkus Award semifinalist is tied for third in Illinois history in forced fumbles (10), behind only Illinois legends Simeon Rice (13) and Whitney Mercilus (11).
Hansen enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 with 72 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, one interception, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries on the season. He led the nation in forced fumbles (7) and forced fumbles per game (0.78) on his way to Butkus Award semifinalist status.
Hansen’s Career at Illinois
- 10 career forced fumbles are tied for third-most in Illinois program history, behind only Illinois legends Simeon Rice (13) and Whitney Mercilus (11)
- 2020 All-Big Ten second team (media)
- 2020 All-Big Ten third team (coaches)
- 2019 All Big-Ten honorable mention (coaches)
- 2019 All-Big Ten honorable mention (media)
- 2019 Butkus Award semifinalist
- #3 tackling grade in the nation according to PFF (90.8) in 2020
- Hansen’s Big Ten rankings in 2020: #5 in TFLs, #8 in forced fumbles, #10 in fumble recoveries, #10 in tackles, #12 in interceptions
- Led the nation in forced fumbles (7) and forced fumbles per game (0.78) in 2019
- Led the nation in takeaways from 2019-20 (14)
- No. 17 graded linebacker in the nation by PFF and No. 5 in the Big Ten (79.6) in 20