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Illini WR Lankford on injury: 'I knew it was pretty bad'

We’ve shared with you the story of how Illinois wide receiver Ryan Lankford leaned on his parents after the hit that ended the 21-year-old senior’s college career.

Before Lankford went in for surgery Wednesday on his injured left shoulder, he and dad Paul Lankford — a former longtime NFL cornerback who played in two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins — spoke with the Sun-Times about a range of topics.

On the immediate aftermath of the hit by Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun: “I knew it was pretty bad,” Lankford said. “I had kind of injured my shoulder a little bit in [training] camp; it was already weaker than my right one. I had the same exact injury, just not as severe. [On Saturday] my arm went numb. I put my hands on the ground and tried to push myself up and I couldn’t.”

On the role he hopes to play the rest of the season: “The biggest thing I can do is put my knowledge in anyone else, especially in the receivers and the young receivers. Build their confidence up. Be a motivator, be a coach out there. Check the game plan for the week and be up to date as if I’m playing. Just come at it from a different perspective.”

On if he’d like to coach someday: “Yeah, for sure. I’d love to coach. I love the game. I love being around guys who love to work and love the game.”

On if his size (6-0, 175) will be an obstacle as he attempts to play in the NFL: “I think ‘obstacle’ is not the word I would use. I think I accept the fact that I’m a lean, skinny ‘track type’ of guy. I try to embrace the things that, typically, those type of guys don’t do, like blocking or just being physical. … Inside this little track body is a tough guy who enjoys every part of the game.”

Paul Lankford on his son’s injury: “There’s no good time for an injury, but he could’ve had a worse injury. It’s not a knee; it doesn’t hurt his speed. It’s not a neck, head or back injury. You have to try to stay positive about it.”

Paul Lankford on his son’s NFL goal: “I think he can achieve his goals. He has wanted to play in the NFL for as long as I can remember. This [injury] will make him stronger. Sometimes you appreciate things a little more when you have to work harder. … My first two years with the Miami Dolphins, I was dressed [in uniform] and still trying to weigh in at 175 pounds. I don’t think his size will stop him.”