Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement

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Arizona Cardinals running back Rashard Mendenhall will retire. Yes, at the tender age of 26. How’s that for a surprise to kick off NFL free agency?

UPDATE: Rashard Mendenhall explains his retirement decision to HuffPo

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter first reported this development. Mendenhall battled turf toe for much last season. When he finally got to be 100%, Mendenhall scored five touchdowns in his final eight games. Rashard Mendenhall was “kind of a big deal” coming out of Niles West high school. As a five-star prospect, he was rated the No. 1 recruit in the state of Illinois by Scout.com. He committed to Ron Turner and the Illini where re-wrote the Illinois single season rushing record book.

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Illini Football All-Decade Team Announced: Part 2 Offense, Special Teams

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The University of Illinois announced their All-Decade Team this week. Today, we’ll list the offense named to the 31-player team. The squad, which honors Illini who played between 2000-10, was compiled by a combination of fan voting and input from Division of Intercollegiate Athletics staff.

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Will Super Bowl Make Rashard Mendenhall Greatest Illini Rusher Ever?

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For the second year in a row, the Super Bowl will have a feature back from the University of Illinois. This time, the Illini tailback is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall;  who in 2008 became the first University of Illinois player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1996.

14 years ago, UI produced the #2 (Kevin Hardy taken by Jacksonville) and #3 overall (Simeon Rice drafted by Arizona) picks. Hard to believe that team went 5-5-1. Mendenhall’s 4.45 forty time, ideal size at 5’11”, 225, a 33½ inch vertical, Shard has developed into a star in the NFL. The native of Skokie will burn by you, run through you and impress you with a last name that sounds like it should belong to a British aristocrat. Or perhaps the name of the English countryside mansion where that nobleman lives.

Mikel Leshoure is drawing all sorts of Mendenhall comparisons right now, as his draft stock is gaining serious momentum. But who are the other Illini rushers who made their presence felt in the NFL?

By Paul M. Banks

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Big 10 Alumni Aplenty in this Year’s Super Bowl

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The Big Ten Conference will be well-represented on Sunday, Feb. 6, in Super Bowl XLV with 18 former student-athletes and nine coaches with previous conference connections on the rosters of the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Big Ten is the only conference to feature at least one former player from every institution in the Super Bowl. The Big Ten and the SEC (20 players) are the only conferences with 18 or more players on the two Super Bowl squads, followed by the ACC (14), Big 12 (13), MAC (13) and Pac-10 (10).

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2010 Illinois Football Season: the Official Exit Interview

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Back in June I gave an interview to collegefootballzealots.com previewing the upcoming University of Illinois college football season. I was pretty negative and pessimistic.

And it takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. So I guess that makes me roughly the size of Jon Asamoah then because I was wrong about a few things. But fresh off a return from the Texas Bowl victory, here’s my exit interview for the same site; recapping the season.

By Paul M. Banks

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Mikel Leshoure to Rashard Mendenhall Comparisons Running Wild Now

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Given that they are/were both Illinois Fighting Illini, wore the same jersey number, played the same position, and didn’t break out until their junior year (and when they broke out, they really did it in style) it’s inevitable to compare current Illini tailback Mikel Leshoure to current Pittsbrugh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall.

Heck, I wrote a column about it in October.

And after Leshoure’s huge, record-setting game in the Texas Bowl, more people are making the analogy. Leshoure was even asked the question Wednesday night, in the post-game press conference. Both are local products. Leshoure is from Champaign (Centenniel h.s.) and Mendenhall is from suburban Skokie (Niles West h.s.).

By Paul M. Banks

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Texas Bowl Sees Illinois and Baylor Break Numerous Records

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Last night’s college football match-up won38-14 by the Illinois Fighting Illini over Baylor broke a bunch of Texas Bowl, bowl history in the city of Houston, as well as Illinois and Baylor records. Seriously, there were a ton, but here are some of the most notable.

-The Illini tied the Texas Bowl record for most points scored 38 and most net yards gained at 533.

-Leshoure tied a Texas Bowl (and Houston Bowl game) record for most touchdowns with 3, rushed for a Texas Bowl record 187 yards.

-Scheelhaase set a Texas Bowl record for most consecutive passes completed at 13, completion percentage of 78.0. highest average gain per pass attempt (min. 20 attempts) at 13.4 yards. Both also highest in Houston bowl game history.

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Illini Mikel LeShoure: the Next Rashard Mendenhall?

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The Illini could very well run the table the rest of the way. Even if they don’t, already at 5-3, (3-2 in Big Ten) they have greatly improved upon last year’s 3-9 mark and will likely make their way into a pretty decent bowl. This season has been a pleasant surprise to say the least.

Among the talent on the Illini roster is a trio of juniors with NFL level measurables and potential. Tailback Mike LeShoure, Middle Linebacker Martez Wilson and Defensive Tackle Corey Liuget will probably all be playing on Sundays.

Given that Champaign’s Mikel LeShoure inherited the starting position from another in-state product, Skokie’s Rashard Mendenhall, who wore the same number, it’s impossible not to compare LeShoure his predecessor. He even earned the starting spot later in his college career like Shard did. So will he forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft like Mendenhall did?

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