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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Nine former Illini were on active rosters for the Divisional Round and four will be playing in this weekend's Conference Finals. Four former Illini, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, FS Tavon Wilson, DE Michael Buchanan and CB Justin Green, all New England Patriots, will be playing for a trip to the Super Bowl in Denver this Sunday (2 pm CT on CBS). See how all nine Illini fared during the Divisional Weekend.

    Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, New England Patriots - Started and had one catch for six yards in the Patriots' 43-22 victory. His biggest impact was as a blocker for the Patriots' rushing attack, which churned out 234 yards on the ground against the Colts. Watch Hoomanawanui pave the way for LaGarrette Blounts' big day (166 yards and 4 TDs), including his second 2-yard TD run in the first quarter, his 73-yard TD run in the fourth quarter and his 30-yard run in the fourth quarter.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    A total of 12 former Illini are on active rosters of NFL playoff teams. During the Wildcard weekend, eight of those 12 players were in action, while nine will take part in next week's Divisional round. Here are the highlights from Wildcard weekend.

    Hugh Thornton, OL, Indianapolis Colts - Started and helped the Colts pile-up 536 total yards to overcome a 28-point second-half deficit in a 45-44 win over the Chiefs. Watch Thornton (#69) pull and help pave the way for a 10-yard Donald Brown TD run. Thornton also was involved in Andrew Luck's can't-miss improv TD. Thornton and the Colts will travel to New England to face the No. 2 seed Patriots in the Divisional round (Saturday, 7:15 pm CT on CBS). 

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Chargers DE Corey Liuget and Chiefs WR A.J. Jenkins both had big games in Week 17, while 12 former Illini punched their tickets for the playoffs, which start next week. 

    Headed to the playoffs are four Patriots (DE Michael Buchanan, CB Justin Green, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, CB Tavon Wilson), three Chiefs (OL Jeff Allen, OL Jon Asamoah, WR A.J. Jenkins), two Saints (DE Glenn Foster, RB Pierre Thomas), two Colts (CB Vontae Davis, OL Hugh Thornton) and one Charger (DE Corey Liuget).

    Corey Liuget, DE, San Diego Chargers - Liuget produced a big game for the playoff-bound Chargers, recording four tackles and this sack on Chase Daniel for a six-yard loss.  Liuget finished the regular season with 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 16, Tavon Wilson returned his first pick-six of his career, Whitney Mercilus tallied his seventh sack of the season, and Alan Ball reeled in his fifth career interception.

    Tavon Wilson, FS, New England Patriots - In his 12th game of the season, Wilson recorded his first career pick-six, returning the interception for 76 yards. It was his fifth career interception. Wilson also had one tackle in the Patriots 41-7 win over the Ravens.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 15, Michael Hoomanawanui made the highlight reel with a one-handed touchdown grab and Rashard Mendenhall found the end-zone twice.

    Michael Hoomanawanui, TE, New England Patriots - Hoomanawanui grabbed some media attention this past weekend when he reeled in a nifty one-handed grab in the endzone for a 13-yard touchdown. Hoomanawanui will continue to see added snaps down the stretch with Rob Gronkowski out for the season.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 14, Corey Liuget recorded another sack and Alan Ball tallied his fourth career interception.  

    Corey Liuget, DE, San Diego Chargers - Started in the Chargers 37-14 win over the Giants, while tallying three total tackles. Liuget also had half of a sack, as Eli went down for -11 yards. The sack pushes his 2013 total to 4.5 and career total to 12.5 just three seasons into his professional career.

    Alan Ball, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars  - Ball started and had four tackles and an interception in the Jaguars' 27-20 win over the Houston Texans this past Thursday night. It was his first interception of the season, the fourth of his career, pushing the Jaguars to their fourth victory in the last five games after starting 0-8.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 13, Rashard Mendenhall rushed for a season high, AJ Jenkins emerged with three catches and Whitney Mercilus got his sixth sack of the season.

    Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals - Despite not posting a touchdown in Sunday's road matchup against the Eagles, Mendenhall was able to record a season-high in rushing yards with 76 yards on 18 carries. The second-most rushing yards Mendenhall achieved this season came back in week two when he ran on the ground for 66 yards against Detroit. The Cardinals lost Sunday's game to the Eagles in Philadelphia 24-21.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Week 12 highlights include Pierre Thomas having another big game for the Saints, Rashard Mendenhall rushing for a TD in the Cardinals' win and Whitney Mercilus with another sack for the Texans.  

    Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas had another big game, piling up 130 total yards (73 rushing on 10 carries and 57 receiving on five catches) in the Saints' 17-13 win over the Falcons on Thursday night. Thomas leads the team in rushing (486 yards) and is second on the squad in catches (56 rec. 406 yards) for the season. Watch Thomas stiff arm a Falcon's defender for a big gain

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 11, offensive linemen David Diehl, Hugh Thornton and Tony Pashos all helped their teams to victories, while running backs Pierre Thomas and Rashard Mendenhall led their teams to wins as well.

    Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas had another strong week of production for the Saints, rushing 11 times for 49 yards while receiving another 35 yards on five catches (five targets) in the Saints 23-20 win over the 49ers. Through 10 games this season Thomas has 762 all-purpose yards and 4 touchdowns.

    Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals - Mendenhall had 13 yards receiving in addition to 14 yards rushing including this 5-yard touchdown, helping the Cardinals improve to 6-4 with a win over Jacksonville. The touchdown was his first since week seven. In addition, Mendenhall garnered 35-of-69 offensive snaps.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 10, Pierre Thomas of the New Orleans Saints had a big game Sunday night against Dallas, scoring twice in the Saints big win, while Alan Ball and Akeem Spence helped the Jaguars and Buccaneers, respectively, earn their first wins of the season.

    Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas had a monster week, playing the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Thomas had 111 all-purpose yards, 87 of them coming on the ground. He found the end zone twice, once on a one-yard run and again on a one-yard reception, aiding in the Saints 49-17 rout over the Cowboys.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 9, Offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah helped the Chiefs achieve a franchise tying record of 9-0, Pierre Thomas caught a season high 66 receiving yards and Corey Liuget recorded his third game of three-plus tackles this season.

    Jeff Allen, OT, Jon Asamoah, OG, Kansas City Chiefs - Allen and Asamoah once again both started in their eighth respective games of the season as the Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills 23-13 to tie a franchise record start of 9-0. The former Illini tandem anchored the offensive line and only surrendered one sack.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. In week 8, Offensive linemen Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah moved the Chiefs to 8-0, Pierre Thomas rushed for a season high in his third start for the Saints and Glenn Foster picked up his second sack of the season.

    Jeff Allen, OT, Jon Asamoah, OG, Kansas City Chiefs - Allen and Asamoah both started in their seventh respective games of the 2013 season as the Chiefs defeated the Cleveland Browns 23-17. Yet again, the duo led the Kansas City offensive line as the Chiefs racked up 136 yards on the ground in 29 attempts. Starting the season with an 8-0 record, the Chiefs are now just one win short of tying the best start in franchise history of nine consecutive victories occurring in 2003. Watch Jeff Allen pull around and give a nice block on this 17 yard run.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. In week 7, Vontae Davis provided outstanding pass defense against the formerly undefeated Peyton Manning and the Broncos, Offensive linemen Jeff Allen andJon Asamoah pushed the Chiefs to 7-0, and Corey Liuget picked up his second sack of the season.

    Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts - Davis helped keep the high powered offense of Denver in check Sunday night in the Colts 39-33 victory. He recorded three tackles and two pass deflections and was named Defensive Player of the Week in Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback.

    Jeff Allen, OT, Jon Asamoah, OG, Kansas City Chiefs - Both Asamoah and Allen started in their sixth respective games of the season. They anchored the offensive line into achieving yet another 100+ yard rushing game. With seven wins to start the season, the Chiefs are approaching their best start in franchise history of nine straight wins occurring in 2003.
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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. It was a good week for tight ends and running backs as both Hoomanawanui and Cumberland both reeled in four catches for 50+ yards while Pierre Thomas and Rashard Mendenhall each averaged at least four yards per carry. Meanwhile the duo of Asamoah/Allen has pushed the Chiefs to 6-0 for the first time since 2003.

    Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas ran for 51 yards on 11 carries and caught one pass on one target for 29 yards, his longest of the season, in Sunday's last second loss at New England. Thomas averaged 4.6 yards per carry, his best outing since week 2.

    Jeff Cumberland, TE, New York Jets - Once again Cumberland was productive despite a small number of targets (five) as he caught four passes for 59 yards in Sunday's loss to Pittsburgh. Cumberland has now posted 50+ receiving yards in the past two games. Watch Cumberland reel in a 29-yard reception here.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Pierre Thomas thrived back in the state of Illinois, Jeff Cumberland and Rashard Mendenhall scored their second touchdowns of the season, and the duo of Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah helped the Chiefs move to 5-0 to highlight Illini in the NFL in week five.

    Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints - Thomas had 94 total yards (36 rushing, 55 receiving) and two touchdowns Sunday in the Saints 26-18 win over the Bears. Thomas' 19 carries were a season high and his most since 2010. He also set a season high in catches (9), receiving yards and scores, finding the end zone on a two-yard catch and a 25-yard screen play. Watch Thomas' 25 yard TD reception and his two-yard TD reception.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. Sacks were the name of the game in week four as Whitney Mercilus, Corey Liuget, Martez Wilson and Michael Buchanan were all able to get to the quarterback at least once. In addition, Vontae Davis notched his first interception of the season for the Colts and Jeff Cumberland had a 34-yard TD catch for the Jets.

    Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts - Davis made his presence known against the Jaguars on Sunday, recording three tackles and two pass defections. Davis also reeled in his first interception of the season.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. Week three was a week of firsts as Akeem Spence and Glenn Foster both recorded their first career sacks and A.J. Jenkins tallied his first career reception.

    Akeem Spence, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Spence had a productive day, securing a career high four tackles and recording his first career NFL sack, taking down Tom Brady. Patriots won 23-3.

    Glenn Foster, DL, New Orleans Saints - Foster played in his first game of the 2013 season and recorded his first career NFL sack.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. In week two action, Rashard Mendenhall scored the game-winning TD for the Cardinals, Michael Buchanan recorded his first career sack and linemen Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah helped pave the way for the Chiefs surprising 2-0 start.

    Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals - Mendenhall ran for a game-high 66 yards on 15 carries and caught two passes for 28 yards in Sunday's 25-21 win over Detroit. Mendenhall's one-yard touchdown run with two minutes remaining erased a two-point deficit and gave Arizona their first win of the season. 

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. The 2013 NFL season started over the weekend with 24 former Illini on NFL rosters. Whitney Mercilus had five tackles and sack to help the Texans to a Monday night win over San Diego, while Akeem Spence, Hugh Thornton and Michael Buchanan all made their professional debuts.  

    Whitney Mercilus, DE, Houston Texans - Mercilus registered a career high 5 tackles and a sack on Monday Night Football in a thrilling 31-28 last second win over the Chargers. Watch Mercilus sack of Phillip Rivers

    Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals - In his debut with the Cardinals, Mendenhall rushed for 60 yards on 16 carries for an average of 3.8 and a long of 11 yards. In addition, Mendenhall was in the backfield for 35 of the Cardinals 71 offensive snaps during Arizona's 27-24 loss to St. Louis. Mendenhall also caught one pass for four yards.

    Gameday Central | Training Camp Central

    Exactly one week from the season-opener against Southern Illinois, the Fighting Illini got a sneak peek at what the logistics of a game day at Memorial Stadium will be like. The players suited up in game uniform and took the field for a mock scrimmage of about 50 plays. After the scrimmage, the Marching Illini band and Illinettes dance team played some of their game day tunes, much to the enjoyment of the team. All the classics were played, such as "Illinois Loyalty," "Oskee Wow Wow," "War Chant," "Seven Nation Army," "William Tell Overture," and much more. Led by running back Donovonn Young, the team even showed off some dance moves for the band. 


    Training Camp Central

    Interviews: Beckman | O'Toole | Monheim

    I have to start off today's Training Camp update with the video that took Illini Nation by storm on Friday morning featuring junior quarterback Reilly O'Toole trying to get the football office excited because it's GAME DAY! The video was the brainchild of football graduate assistant Nubis Padhye and, in addition to O'Toole, also features incredible acting from football GA Patrick Embleton, offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, Coach Beckman and tight ends coach Alex Golesh, assistant director of player personnel Matt Sinclar and Padhye himself. Oscar nominations coming? I have no doubts. 

    Here's the video, which had over 25,000 views in its first 3 days (count had to be reset on 8/28): 

    photo 2_8.19.13.JPGTraining Camp Central

    Post-Practice Interviews: Beckman | Brown | Scheelhaase

    The Fighting Illini held their final practice at Camp Rantoul on Monday. After nine practices in eight days, the team will return to Champaign on Tuesday where they'll finish training camp and start preparation for the August 31 season-opener against Southern Illinois. 

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    The Fighting Illini got a much needed, and much deserved day off on Sunday. After a closed scrimmage at Memorial Stadium Saturday night, the Illini returned to Rantoul and enjoyed a relaxing Sunday afternoon at the Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center, which is adjacent to the Camp Rantoul practice fields. Some of the players let loose on the water slides and diving boards, while others watched and lounged in the lagoon area of the pool. 

    FreezePops-Pickles.jpgTraining Camp Central | Beckman AM | Beckman PM

    The Fighting Illini held their 14th training camp practice Friday morning, the front-end of their third two-a-day this week at Camp Rantoul. As has been the case after the first of each two-a-day session, the players enjoyed freeze pops and pickles, along with the usual Gatorade, while taking their ice baths right after practice. 

    Why freeze pops and pickles? According to Illinois director of sports nutrition Chelsea Zenner, it's important for the players to replenish their bodies with carbs and sodium within 30 minutes of the end of practice. Needless to say, they've been a hit with the players.

    photo 4-8.15.13.JPGTraining Camp Central | Buy Tickets

    Post-Practice Interivews: Coach Beckman | OC Cubit | LB Brown

    The Illini held their fourth practice in 40 hours on Thursday morning, after going on Tuesday night, twice on Wednesday and then taking the Camp Rantoul fields at 9 a.m. today. The team wore shorts and shoulder pads and did a lot of situational work - two-minute drill, third downs, red zone, etc. - on a beautiful, mid-70s day in Rantoul. 

    "We've had 9 practices in 24 hours," Beckman said after Thursday morning's practice. "That's the grind we've been talking about. They've practiced like pros and have had a great mindset. You have to do what you need to do to get ready for the next one. Now they'll get a little bit of a break since they don't have practice until tomorrow morning." 

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    The Illini had some guests on hand for Wednesday's two-a-day at Camp Rantoul. The Big Ten Network preseason tour bus rolled in to town for the morning practice, which was in full pads. Then for the evening workout, which was in shorts and shoulder pads, several Rantoul tailgaters the Rantoul Falcons youth football team were on hand. 

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    Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany paid a visit to Saturday morning's practice in Champaign. Delany spoke to the team in the Memorial Stadium squad room, where he was presented with an Illinois helmet and #25 jersey in honor of his 25 years as B1G commissioner, before taking in practice with Big Ten chief communications officer Diane Dietz, Illinois executive senior associate AD Jason Lener and former Illinois AD Ron Guenther, who is now a consultant for the Big Ten. Delany also did a few interviews, including one with Illini Productions, during the sixth stop of his 12-stop conference tour during training camp. Full recaps and photos from each visit can be found on the Big Ten Blog at bigten.org. 

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    Two big firsts took place on Friday at practice No. 5 of Training Camp. After four days of split-squad workouts, the Illini practiced together as a full unit for the first time this season. They also wore full pads for the first time, which means you could finally hear the sound of pad popping, particularly in the much anticipated "Gauntlet" drill. Needless to say, the coaches and players were fired up about their first opportunity to strap on the pads and do some hitting.  


    photo 3.JPGTraining Camp Central | Buy 2013 Football Tickets

    The Fighting Illini held their fourth and final split-squad practice Thursday on an unseasonably cool, overcast day on the Memorial Stadium grass fields. Dressed in shorts and shells for the second straight day, the blue team had a quick turnaround with a morning workout right after going Wednesday night, while the orange squad was on the field for Thursday's evening session. 

    Coach Beckman was pleased with what the split-squad practices accomplished. "Reps, teaching the young kids as fast as we could, building camaraderie among their group and then seeing them come together tomorrow," Beckman said of the split practices. "It's what we've done and it's been successful."

    The Illini take the field as a full team for the first time tomorrow and will also be in full pads for the first time this training camp. Look for video of the always intense "gauntlet" drill sometime tomorrow afternoon. 

    Aug6-practice.jpgTraining Camp Central | Buy 2013 Football Tickets

    Post-Practice Interviews:
    The Fighting Illini had their second of four split-squad sessions on Tuesday, with the "blue" team practicing at 8:30 a.m. and the "orange" squad taking the grass practice fields next to Memorial Stadium at 4:25 pm on a cool, overcast day in Champaign. With a large group of freshmen and newcomers, the Illini coaching staff continued go through the basics and take advantage of the extra reps the split-squad practices provide. The third of four split practices will take place on Wednesday, the last day before the team can wear full pads, with the order flipping so the orange goes in the morning and the blue in the afternoon.

    IMG_5792.JPGTraining Camp Central | Photo Gallery

    Post-Practice Interviews: 
    Coach Beckman | OC Cubit | LB Brown | QB Lunt

    The Fighting Illini opened fall training camp on Monday with split-squad practices on the grass practice fields just east of Memorial Stadium. The "orange" team opened things up with a spirited two-hour session at 8:30 a.m., while the "blue" team took the field at 4:25 p.m. and wrapped up at about 6:15. It was perfect weather, with clear skies and temperatures in the 70s for the morning practice and a hint of clouds and a cool breeze for the evening workout. 

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    Photo Gallery | ESPN.com Chat

    Fighting Illini football coach Tim Beckman made the rounds at ESPN Headquarters on Thursday, doing nine interviews in three hours as part of the Big Ten "car wash" in Bristol, Conn, over the last two days.

    The day started off with a hitch, as dense fog at Champaign's Willard Airport pushed our flight to Hartford back an hour. After landing and making the short trip from Hartford to Bristol, Coach Beckman, his wife Kim and daughter Lindsay, arrived at ESPN at 11:45, about 45 minutes after the scheduled start of the "car wash" schedule. That meant we had some catching up to do.

    Flip the Switch!

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    IMG_5564-blog.jpgThe new 96' by 36' Daktronics HD video display at Memorial Stadium was turned on for the first time on Friday and it was magnificent. The Illini Productions video crew was able to do some testing on the main board in the south end zone as well as the new east and west ribbon boards and the auxiliary video screens on the east side. The frame around the video display is still getting the finishing touches put on until it looks like this, and the new sound system is not quite ready to go yet, but there's still plenty of time to get everything up and running before the Aug. 31 season-opener vs. Southern Illinois. 

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    Photos | Sights and SoundsBeckman on SportsTalk Live

    Illini Football Twitter | Illini Athletics Instagram | Day 1 Recap

    After eight hours of interviews and photo shoots on Wednesday, the Fighting Illini were back it bright and early on Thursday for the second and final day of Big Ten Football Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon at the Hilton Chicago. 

    Head Coach Tim Beckman and seniors Tim Kynard, Corey Lewis and Nathan Scheelhaase started things off with breakfast at 7:30 before heading to media roundtable interviews for two hours. This is probably the toughest part for the players, as they just sit in the same seat for two straight hours answering the same questions over and over, the same ones they answered over and over to the TV networks the day before. As expected, the Illini had a steady stream of media attention throughout the session and, as expected, they handled themselves well. 

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    50th Anniversary Events | Assembly Hall's Greatest Games

    The University of Illinois is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Assembly Hall on March 2, 2013. In it's first 50 years, nearly 10 million fans have seen over 700 games at the Hall, creating countless memories.  We asked Fighting Illini fans to recall their personal memories, both for basketball and entertainment events, at the historic building. Here's what you had to say... 

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    This Saturday when the Nebraska Cornhuskers come to town (4:15 pm tip on BTN) we'll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Assembly Hall. The grand opening of the $8.35 million architectural marvel was on March 2, 1963, exactly 50 years to the day from Saturday's game. During those first 50 years, the Fighting Illini have an impressive record of 553-149 (.787) in the building and have created countless memories for the more than 9.6 million fans that have come to watch them play. Below is a list of some of the Assembly Hall's greatest men's basketball moments. Tell us yours in the comments. 

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    What a night at Assembly Hall. On Feb. 7, 2013, Tyler Griffey made an uncontested layup as time expired to give the Fighting Illini a thrilling 74-72 win over No. 1 Indiana in front of a sellout crowd at Assembly Hall.

    Brandon Paul got the assist on Griffey's game-winner, inbounding the ball from the right corner with 0.9 on the clock. Griffey cut down the lane un-guarded, got the shot off quickly, the ball went though the hoop as the clock hit 0.0 and bedlam ensued at Assembly Hall. Re-live the night with a look at the social media reaction by Illini Nation below.

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    Illini in the NFL Weekly Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Former Illini offensive lineman Jack Cornell has had an incredible year. He graduated from the University of Illinois last fall, helped the Illini to a bowl victory last December, joined the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent last spring, got engaged over the summer, and now he's become a Super Bowl Champion.

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    Illini in the NFL Weekly Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    A pair of Fighting Illini NFL rookies are in New Orleans this week for Super Bowl XLVII, which takes place this Sunday, Feb. 3, at 5:30 pm CT on CBS. Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins of the San Francisco 49ers and offensive lineman Jack Cornell of the Baltimore Ravens practice squad have been in the "Big Easy" all week going through all the usual Super Bowl week events while also getting ready, and helping their teams get ready, for the big game. It marks the seventh straight year and the 11th time in the last 12 years that at least one Illini has played in the Super Bowl.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. Brandon Lloyd had a touchdown catch to help the Patriots advance to the AFC championship game. In all, four former Illini will play for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday after helping their teams wins in the Divisional round, plus Baltimore Ravens practice squad player Jack Cornell is still alive as well. The five total Illini still left on playoff rosters or practice squads is tied for 10th-most among all colleges. 

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. Three Illini were in action during last weekend's wildcard round, Vontae Davis of the Colts, and Alan Ball and Whitney Mercilus of the Texans, while six will be in action this weekend during the divisional round.  

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weeks. Vontae Davis had two clutch interceptions to help the Colts to a Week 17 win over the Texans. In all,  seven former Illini are headed to the playoffs, which begin this weekend with the Wildcard round.


    Here's a look at the most viewed videos from the Fighting Illini Athletics YouTube channel (IlliniProductionsHD) from 2012, plus a couple Illini-related bonus videos that were either posted by another channel or fell just outside of 2012. These numbers are solely from the Illinois Athletics YouTube channel, so they don't include view counts from the fightingillini.com video player. Certainly some great moments to look back on this year. 

    #1 - D.J. Richardson Game-Winning 3-Pointer at Hawaii 11/16 (55,000+ views in 2012)
    A thrilling, late-night finish combined with no television and a shaky internet feed combined to make this video the most-watched video of 2012 on the Illinois Athletics YouTube channel with over 55,000 views in just over a month. The video of Richardson's game-winning three in Illinois' 78-77 overtime win is from the local station that aired the game in Hawaii and the audio is rough, but the shot was spectacular and this was the only way most Illini fans could see it. 


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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Mikel Leshoure and Pierre Thomas both scored touchdowns, Corey Liuget tallied a season high two sacks and both Vontae Davis and Kelvin Hayden recorded interceptions.

    2004-Braggin Rights-1.jpg2012 Braggin' Rights Game Notes

    With the Illini heading to St. Louis this Saturday to face Missouri in the annual Bud Light Braggin' Rights game  (5 pm CT, ESPN2), I thought it would be a good time to look back at some memorable games from the border war. In the 32-year history of the event, the Illini hold a 20-11 series edge against the Tigers, and many of those games have been instant classics. Whether it was a last-second basket or miss, an incredible individual performance or a wire-to-wire blow out, incredible things have happened when Illinois and Mizzou square off in St. Louis.
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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Brandon Lloyd had a huge 190-yard game for the Patriots, while Jeff Cumberland (Jets) and Mikel Leshoure (Lions) both found the end zone to highlight Week 15 action.  

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Brandon Lloyd scored two touchdowns for the Patriots, Whitney Mercilus tied the Texans rookie sack record and Vontae Davis had his best game this season for the Colts to highlight Week 14 action. 

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Whitney Mercilus had a pair of sacks for the Texans, Jeff Cumberland scored the game-winning TD for the Jets and Mikel Leshoure scored his sixth TD in the last five games for the Lions to highlight Week 13 action.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website 

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Mikel Leshoure has now produced five touchdowns over the previous four games while Whitney Mercilus enjoyed a career high four tackle day in a thrilling Thanksgiving overtime win against Detroit.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Tavon Wilson made his team-leading fourth interception for the Patriots and Mikel Leshoure ran for another touchdown for the Lions to highlight Week 11 action.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Liuget broke out with a season best in tackles while Brandon Lloyd returned from a bye week to resume his solid season with the Patriots.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Mikel Leshoure had a huge day with a hat trick of touchdowns, Whitney Mercilus had another sack and forced fumble and Pierre Thomas and Martez Wilson helped the Saints get a win on Monday Night Football.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website 

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Brandon Lloyd found the endzone twice in the Patriots blowout against the Rams and Tavon Wilson added another interception to his season resume to highlight Week 8 action.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. Whitney Mercilus disrupted the Baltimore offense, while Pierre Thomas scored his 24th career rushing touchdown with the Saints to highlight Week 7 action.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous week. David Diehl returned from injury to anchor the Giants offensive line, while Mikel Leshoure and Brandon Lloyd both had productive days during Week 6.

    Harvey Michigan Dive.jpgWith the Illini heading to Ann Arbor this Saturday to face Michigan (3:30 pm ET, ABC/ESPN), I thought it would be a good time to look back at some recent memorable games at the Big House. In the last 20 years, the Illini are a respectable 3-4-1 against the Maize and Blue at Michigan Stadium, and half of those games have been instant classics. Whether it was a last-second touchdown, a miracle comeback, a record-breaking performance or the highest-scoring game in Big Ten history, incredible things have happened when the Illini and Wolverines clash in Ann Arbor.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weekend. Rashard Mendenhall returned to action this week and found the end zone, Martez Wilson sealed a victory for the Saints and Jeff Cumberland recorded his first NFL touchdown.

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    Weekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weekend. Tavon Wilson and Brandon Lloyd highlighted Week 4 with standout plays, while rookie Jeff Allen made his first career NFL start. 

    i.jpegWeekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weekend. Brandon Lloyd and Mikel Leshoure highlighted Week 3 with terrific individual performances. Take a look at how all 22 former Illini did during the week.

    Pierre1.jpegWeekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weekend. Saints RB Pierre Thomas had a big week and Bucs WR Arrelious Benn had a big play in his first week back from injury to highlight week two of former Illini in the NFL.

    Martez2.jpgWeekly Update Archive | Illini in the NFL Website

    Each week the Illini in the NFL update will provide coverage on how former Fighting Illini football players fared during the previous weekend. Tavon Wilson, Kelvin Hayden and Martez Wilson highlighted Sunday with terrific individual performances.

    Aug 24 photo 2.JPGTraining Camp Central

    Interviews: Coach Beckman | Darius Millines | Justin Staples

    The Fighting Illini held workout No. 22 on Friday morning on the grass practice fields just east of Memorial Stadium. The Illini were in full pads and continued preparation for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Western Michigan. A crew from the Big Ten Network show "The Journey: Big Ten Football 2012" was on hand to get up close footage for the behind-the-scenes show.

    photo 8.22 2.JPGTraining Camp Central

    Interviews: Coach Beckman | Coach Gonzales

    The Fighting Illini help Training Camp practice #20 on Wednesday afternoon on the grass practice fields just east of Memorial Stadium. The Illini were in shorts and shells on Wednesday after a lengthy scrimmage inside the stadium the day before. The Orange and Blue won't have much time to rest as they take the field at 9 am on Thursday morning for practice #21.

    photo 3a.JPGTraining Camp Central

    The Fighting Illini held practice No. 15 Friday afternoon on a beautiful day in Champaign-Urbana. The team went through drills for 40 minutes before scrimmaging for a little over an hour inside Memorial Stadium. Following the live scrimmage, the Coach Beckman had the field goal unit practice three kicks while the rest of the team stood around them making distractions. Snapper Zak Pedersen, holder Miles Osei and kicker Nick Immekus were unfazed, as all three kicks sailed through the uprights, ending the practice on a high note.


    Practice 8.15-3.JPGTraining Camp Central

    After a week of practices open to the public at Camp Rantoul, the Illini have returned to campus this week for the remainder of training camp, where all practices are closed. On Monday, the Illini had their second two-a-day of Training Camp with morning and afternoon sessions inside Memorial Stadium. On Tuesday, the team held its first full-contact scrimmage inside the stadium. Then on Wednesday, the Illini practiced on the grass fields just east of the stadium for the first time this season.

    2012_Team_Crop_2846.jpgHighlights | Photo Gallery | Training Camp Central

    The Illini had a busy Sunday, wrapping up Camp Rantoul with a morning practice before returning to Champaign for Media Day and Fan Appreciation Day. The team had a two-hour workout in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts during their final practice at Camp Rantoul, then returned to Memorial Stadium where they went through 90 minutes of photos and interviews before signing autographs for an hour in the Great West Hall.

    Canada-Bronze.jpgFormer Illini soccer star Emily Zurrer will return from London with a bronze medal after the Canadian women's soccer team defeated France 1-0 on Aug. 9 in the bronze medal match. Another former Illini will also return home with a medal, as Deron Williams and USA men's basketball will go for their second straight gold medal on Sunday, Aug. 12 (9 am CDT, live on NBC) in the Olympic final against Spain. 


    Illini Olympic Central | Illini Photos | London 2012 | NBC Olympics

    Aug10-8.JPGPractice 5: Friday Morning

    Training Camp Central

    Interviews: Coach Beckman | Coach Beatty | Coach Salem

    The Fighting Illini were in full pads and did some hitting for the first time at Training Camp on Friday morning in Rantoul. Illinois held a two-and-a-half hour practice in cool, windy conditions at the former Chanute Air Force Base. During the Red Zone portion near the end of practice, the Illini were full contact, doing their first hitting at Camp Rantoul. Follow practice, head coach Tim Beckman joined Jonathan Brown in the cold tubs to help ease the pain of a busy five days in Rantoul.

    Deron-Lithuania-8.4-2.jpgFormer Fighting Illini continue to compete in London as USA basketball star Deron Williams and Team USA are well on their way to their second straight gold medal after a perfect 5-0 mark in group play. The medal round begins on Wednesday. Hurdler Nikkita Holder (Canada) has advanced out of the first round of the 100m hurdles with the semifinals and final coming on Tuesday. Meanwhile, recent alum Andrew Riley (Jamaica) will begin his Olympic quest on Tuesday with round 1 of the 110m hurdles.

    Illini Olympic Central | Illini Olympic Photos | London 2012 | NBC Olympics


    Arch-Dwill.jpgThree of the six former Fighting Illini standouts have begun competition in London. Basketball players Deron Williams (USA) and Robert Archibald (Great Britain) will each play their third game of pool play today in London, while former soccer star Emily Zurrer (Canada) had her second Olympic games cut short due to a hamstring injury. The three Illini track and field competitors will begin action soon, starting with USA discus thrower Gia Lewis-Smallwood on Friday, Aug. 3.

    Illini Olympic Central | Illini Olympic Photos | London 2012 | NBC Olympics


    With the 2012 football season approaching, thousands of Illini fans came out in full force last weekend at several Illinois and Big Ten events in Chicago. The weekend kicked-off with the Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon on Thursday and Friday before Friday night's Illini Summer Bash at Joe's Bar. On Saturday morning, the Illini dominated the first-ever Big Ten Network Big 10K road race at Soldier Field and then hundreds of Illini fans packed John Barleycorn and Wrigley Field for the always popular Illini Day at Wrigley. Check out highlights from each event below.


    photo 1.JPGDay 2 Photo Gallery | Day 1 Photos and Video

    After two whirlwind days of interviews and appearances, the 2012 Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon are now in the books. I was extremely impressed with how the three Illini student-athletes in attendance - DE Michael Buchanan, C Graham Pocic and QB Nathan Scheelhaase - represented themselves, the University of Illinois and the Big Ten Conference.

    And so it Begins...

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    B1G_MediaDay.jpgAs I sit in my room at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago, I can't believe it's already here. Big Ten Football Media Days are upon us, which means the 2012 season is right around the corner. It seems like just yesterday the Illini were celebrating with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl trophy in San Francisco. Now here we are in the Windy City with summer already a distant memory (at least that how it feels for an SID).

    4-BP Wide2.jpgBy now you probably know about Brandon Paul's incredible 43-point performance in Illinois' 79-74 win over #5 Ohio State on Tuesday. Paul's performance will go down as one of the best single-game performances in both Illinois and Big Ten history. The numbers below show just how special of a game it was for the junior from Gurnee, Ill.

    Davis_Vontae_Dolphins_2.jpgWith former Illini and current New Orleans Saints Pierre Thomas and Martez Wilson opening up the NFL season tonight in Green Bay (7:30 p.m. CDT, NBC), I thought this might be a good time to take a roll call of all former Illini on NFL opening week rosters. In all, 19 Illini made active 53-man rosters for the opening weekend. That does not count rookie Lions' RB Mikel Leshoure, who is on IR for the season with an Achilles injury, or the three former Illini that were named to practice squads (Nate Bussey, J Leman and Eddie McGee).

    IMG_6691.JPGThe Illini had some special guests at Wednesday morning's practice. University of Illinois president Michael Hogan and new Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas were both at Memorial Stadium for team's 8:30 am workout. Both spoke to the team briefly expressing their support heading into Saturday's season-opener against Arkansas State (2:30 pm CT, Big Ten Network). The Illini have just one full practice left on Thursday and then a walk-through on Friday before kicking-off the 2011 season.


    Game Week

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    MS_Aerial_2008(MHJ)_0382.jpgIt's finally here...game week is upon us. The Fighting Illini open the season against Arkansas State this Saturday (2:30 pm CT, BTN) at Memorial Stadium. The game marks the first of five straight home games for Illinois, something that is unprecedented in the long history of Memorial Stadium.

    The team is ready, the weather forecast looks great and the lots open bright and early at 7 am, so why not dust off that tailgating gear and get your tickets?

    IMG_6456.JPGThe Fighting Illini returned to the Memorial Stadium practice fields early Monday morning for practice #19. The team spent the last two weeks about 20 miles north of campus at Camp Rantoul, closing with a scrimmage on Saturday morning.

    IMG_6550.JPGThe Fighting Illini held a morning workout in helmets and shorts Friday at Camp Rantoul. After two weeks at the former Chanute Air Force Base, Friday marked the second-to-last practice in Rantoul before the team returns to Champaign-Urbana for the fall semester.
    The Fighting Illini held practice number 13 on Tuesday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. With just four days left before returning to campus, the intensity level of both the coaches and the players continues to climb.

    With Saturday's annual Rantoul High School scrimmage cut short after just 15 minutes due to thunderstorms, the Illini took to the familiar fields of Camp Rantoul on Sunday afternoon to finish it off. The team was on the field for over two hours simulating full drives, goal line situations, coming out (from deep in own territory), red zone, third downs and two-minute drills.

    IMG_6597.JPGThe first scrimmage of the fall for the Fighting Illini was cut short after just 15 minutes and two drives due to lightning and heavy rain at Rantoul High School's Bill Walsh Field on Saturday night. The Illini will finish the scrimmage on Sunday at 3 pm at Camp Rantoul. 

    Camp Rantoul Rolls On

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    IMG_6507.JPGThe Illini held practice No. 8 Thursday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. Fans were treated to a spectacular touchdown pass from Nathan Scheelhaase to Anthony Williams in the back corner of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills. Then during the live, short yardage situations Jason Ford had a long touchdown run and freshman running back Donovonn Young had several nice runs, including a first down run where he broke several tackles and carried a defender across the first down line. After he finally did go down, he got up to helmet slaps and high fives from his offensive teammates.

    IMG_6546.JPGTuesday Photo Gallery

    After four practices in shorts and shells, the Fighting Illini finally got to do some hitting on Tuesday at Camp Rantoul. Practice No. 5 marked the first fall workout in full pads and, as expected, the Illini were ready for some contact in the always intense Oklahoma Drill.
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    The Illini held practice number four on Monday afternoon at Camp Rantoul. After three days of split squad workouts at the Memorial Stadium practice fields, the Illini kicked off their 13th year at Camp Rantoul with their first full squad practice.

    It was clear that the intensity picked up on Monday, and it figures to go even higher on Tuesday as the Illini will strap on full pads for the first time this fall. Be on the lookout for the always entertaining Oklahoma Drill video tomorrow night. 

    Off to Rantoul

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    The Illini had the day off from practice today, but still had plenty going on. As of 5 p.m. this evening, everyone on the training camp roster is checked into the Quarters Inn and Suites in Rantoul. But before heading to Camp Rantoul, the team went through the media rounds at Memorial Stadium.

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    Here we go...

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    After what's seemed like weeks of buildup, the Fighting Illini finally returned the practice field today, beginning preparations for the 2011 season. The team was split into two groups, the orange and blue, so that the young players can get more hands-on instruction. While that certainly helps them learn the ropes faster, it does make for a long day for the coaches and support staff, who are on the field and out in the heat for four-plus hours. By all accounts, day one was a success. It's clear that the team worked hard in the off-season and that they're ready to go this fall.


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    Contact

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