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Watch now: Knee injury ends Jake Hansen's illustrious career at Illinois

Watch now: Knee injury ends Jake Hansen's illustrious career at Illinois

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Jake Hansen, Illinois (copy)

Illinois linebacker Jake Hansen, center right, ranks second all-time in program history with 12 forced fumbles. He underwent season-ending knee surgery Monday.

CHAMPAIGN — When Illinois takes the field Saturday at Penn State, it will not be joined by Jake Hansen for that game or any others. 

The sixth-year senior's college football career is over.

Hansen, who left the Illini's last contest against Wisconsin on Oct. 9 with a leg injury, announced Wednesday that he underwent "successful" season-ending knee surgery. Illinois' three-time team captain initially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft before returning for one more campaign in Champaign.

"It pains me to say that I will not play another game as an Illinois football player," Hansen shared via social media. " ... I will look back at my time here with no regrets and will continue to cherish every moment I enjoyed here. With that said I look forward to pursuing my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL!"

Despite the abrupt ending, Hansen wraps up an illustrious career with the Illini. He totaled 276 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 12 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, six pass breakups and three interceptions in 46 games. His 12 forced fumbles rank second in program history behind former star linebacker Simeon Rice (13) and are tied for the sixth-most in Big Ten history.

First-year Illinois coach Bret Bielema said he knew Hansen's injury was serious when he saw the look on his face as he limped off the field against the Badgers.

Bielema shot Hansen a text about an hour before he underwent surgery Monday and followed up with a more lighthearted messaged Wednesday when Hansen's season-ending injury was announced publicly.

"When they put out the graphic (about his career), there's a picture of him and he's kind of swelled up, his uniform is all jacked up, and all of our players had retweeted it and a bunch of people had retweeted it, and I just kind of took a moment and I screenshotted it and I sent it to him and I said, 'How'd you get my arms superimposed on your graphic?'" Bielema said, laughing. "I just felt like that (joke) is what we needed. And he responded back and it was really awesome."

Bielema has coached several players who've gone on to play in the NFL. He thinks Hansen has a legitimate chance of competing on Sundays, too.

"I know I only got seven games with him, but the thing I said to him was, 'Thank God I got seven games with you, man,' because he made me better," Bielema said. "He was very complimentary of what he's learned from me, but I said, 'Man, I learned from you.' Unfortunately, (injuries are a) part of this game. That's what we go through.

"I think he'll be pretty good in the future, personally, so we'll do everything we can to get him (to the NFL)."

Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid

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