Davis, Mendenhall get top Big Ten honors
Illinois junior defensive end Will Davis found at home on the other side of the planet from his mother. But news travels fast.
Pearine Davis-Parkinson works as a key aide to the Liberian president, although that doesn't keep her from following college football. Before Davis learned that he earned co-defensive player of the week in the Big Ten Conference Monday, his mother already heard the news, whether it was from the Internet or a call from a coach.
"She's all over the Internet,'' Davis said. "Last year and the year before that, she was here for every game. She listens to the games (on the Internet). She wants me to send the game film.''
Davis shared the defensive award with Michigan safety Jamar Adams, while Illini junior running back Rashard Mendenhall earned the league's offensive player of the week. The Illini had two players honored by the Big Ten in the same week for the first time since 1994 when linebacker Dana Howard and quarterback Johnny Johnson received the awards after defeating No. 17 Ohio State.
Mendenhall had a career-high 214 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in the 27-14 victory at Indiana Saturday. He averaged 7.9 yards on 27 carries. While Mendenhall has long been considered a star in the making, Davis needed a position change to find a spot on the field.
Davis' four sacks against the Hoosiers tied for third in Big Ten history. He came within one of the school record, set by Simeon Rice against Washington State in 1994. Davis finished with four sacks, five tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.
His big game came with his mother living in Liberia. Davis-Parkinson is the deputy minister for administration in the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs under Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. While Davis was born in the United States, his mother is a native of Liberia, a republic on the western coast of Africa.
"My mom and I are really close,'' Davis said. "I'm used to seeing her all the time. Sometimes she would spend a week down here before a game. It's kind of tough. She's over there doing big things.''
So is her son. Coach Ron Zook considers Davis as a third starter at defensive end. A converted tight end, the 6-foot-3, 246-pound Davis chose Illinois over Virginia, Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse and Maryland. An all-stater as a two-way starter at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md., Davis has 5 1/2 sacks in the last two games.
Davis didn't make a catch as a freshman tight end while playing 23 snaps in 2005 before moving to defensive end during spring drills in 2006.
Illinois (3-1 overall, 1-0 in the Big Ten) hosts No. 21 Penn State (3-1, 0-1) Saturday (11 a.m., Big Ten Network).
BROWN TO TURKEY: Former Illini guard Dee Brown will leave Wednesday after agreeing to play professional basketball in Turkey. He will apparently be joined in Turkey by former Illini forward Warren Carter.
Brown played his rookie season last winter for the Utah Jazz, who took him in the second round of the NBA draft. Brown was a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer from the Jazz that was minimally guaranteed. Brown had a workout this month with the Milwaukee Bucks, but the team signed Royal Ivey as a backup point guard. Utah already signed two other guards.
"Sometimes you have to swallow your pride, and this is what I had to do," Brown wrote on his website. "I'm excited, humbled, nervous, prepared and still confident as ever. Playing overseas isn't as bad as I thought, great talent, and I will still be seen by NBA teams.''
INJURY REPORT: Illinois freshman running back Troy Pollard rode the stationary bike with his right knee in a brace during practice Monday. Zook said he would know more about Pollard's injury before his weekly press conference this morning. Junior Daniel Dufrene practiced after his role was limited in the Indiana game because of a sprained ankle. Junior Walter Mendenhall took snaps at No. 3 running back.
TIME AND CHANNEL: Illinois' football game against Wisconsin on Oct. 6 has been set for an 11 a.m. kickoff with the broadcast scheduled for ESPN.
Other Big Ten games that day are Minnesota at Indiana (11 a.m., Big Ten Network); Eastern Michigan at Michigan (11 a.m., Big Ten Network); Northwestern at Michigan State (11 a.m., Big Ten Network); Iowa at Penn State (2:30 p.m., ABC); and Ohio State at Purdue, 7 p.m., ABC).
IN-STATE GAMES: Illinois will continue to fill an open date with a Division I-AA football opponent from the state during the next three years after hosting Western Illinois this season, Eastern Illinois last year and Illinois State in 2003.
The Illini host Eastern Illinois in 2008, Illinois State in 2009 and Southern Illinois is 2010. Illinois also has non-conference games contracted next season against Missouri (in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis) and Louisiana-Lafayette. Illinois still has one date without a contract signed for next season and two open dates in 2009 and 2010.
Illinois last played Southern Illinois in 1990, when Howard Griffith set a school record with eight rushing touchdowns in a 56-21 victory.
IN OTHER NEWS: Illinois senior Trent Hoerr, of Morton, was named the Big Ten's cross country runner of the week on Sept. 17 after running a personal best of 23 minutes 54 seconds to place him third in school history for an eight-kilometer race. Hoerr and the Illini run at the Notre Dame Invitational Friday. . .
The Illini women's soccer team could be the hottest program on campus. No. 25 Illinois (5-2) won four straight matches, including victories over No. 9 Florida and Kansas. The Illini play at Ohio State Friday before continuing the road trip at Penn State Sunday. . .
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. For more Illini coverage, read Illini Talk blog at www.sj-r.com and www.pjstar.com.