LB Jake Hansen returning to Illinois for 2021 season

Linebacker Jake Hansen said Monday he is returning to Illinois for a sixth season after initially declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Hansen, who led the nation with 14 takeaways over the past two seasons, made the announcement in a video message posted on the Illini football program’s Twitter feed.

“The 2020 football season wasn’t exactly how I imagine my time at Illinois to end,” Hansen said. “After extensive talks with Coach (Bret) 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!”

Hansen will be one of 21 “super seniors” on the 2021 Illinois roster, players who will be using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am excited for Jake to come back to the Fighting Illini family,” said Bielema, who was hired in December. “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.”

A Butkus Award semifinalist in 2019 and a second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2020, Hansen has registered 243 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, seven sacks, 10 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and three interceptions in 41 games with the Illini.

Hansen earned his undergraduate degree in kinesiology and will continue pursuing a master’s degree in recreation, sport and tourism.

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