Nowicki, a member of the Nittany Lions' 2011 recruiting class who sat out his first season in State College, told the Chicago Tribune that his decision was not entirely because of the penalties imposed in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
"With everything going on, it was really rough," Nowicki said. His soon-to-be ex-teammates "know this is what's the best for my future. . . . It just wasn't the same as when I got here. I wasn't feeling it anymore. It wasn't for me."
He becomes the first departing Penn Stater to join another Big Ten team. In announcing Penn State's harsh punishments, the NCAA said players could transfer without sitting out a year and could transfer within the conference.
After that announcement, Illinois sent eight coaches to State College to talk with those players who had expressed a desire to leave, a move that drew widespread criticism from within and beyond the Penn State community.
The Fighting Illini lost two offensive linemen from last year's team and Nowicki is expected to compete for those openings.
"I liked the family atmosphere [Illinois] had as a team," Nowitzki told the Tribune. He also had considered Washington and Arizona State. "The coaches are there for their players, no matter what. All that together was a great package for me. It's a team on the rise. They're going to be a great team in the future, and I want to be a part of that."
Meanwhile, the school set a "Blue Out" for its Sept. 22 Beaver Stadium game against Temple. The school asked fans to wear blue as a symbol of solidarity with victims of child sexual abuse. Donations for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape will be solicited outside the stadium. A previous "Blue Out" was held last year when Nebraska visited, the first game after one-time assistant Jerry Sandusky was arrested on child sex-abuse charges.
Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, Giving 'Em Fitz, at www.philly.com/fitz.