Best Basketball Players in Northwestern History

The Northwestern basketball program has flown under the radar in the Big Ten for decades. The school is known for their exceptional academic programs, but they are not known for sustained success in basketball or football. There are a few players who have set themselves apart from the rest during their careers at the school, and one name will jump out at the reader for very different reasons than they believe. This article shows players who have had amazing careers at the school despite its relative lack of success in the sport.

#1: Jim Burns

Jim Burns led in scoring all three years he started although freshmen were not allowed to play in his time. The period from 1964 to 1967 saw Burns become an All-American, and he earned all-academic honors for the school. His tenure with the program made Northwestern competitive, but he was not able to force the school into a more-competitive force. He had a lovely career at the school, but his career was not one where the school compiled wins in his honor.

#2: Drew Crawford

Drew is second in scoring in school history, leads the school in games played and he was a three-time selection to the All Big Ten team. His career occurred during a hard time for the team, and he was the one bright spot on the team. His tenure with the team allowed him a good look with pro scouts, and he was feared by other teams as he could score at-will. One player does not make a team, and Northwestern spent much of their time with Drew learning to win in a conference where Michigan, Ohio State and Indiana reign.

#3: Max Morris

Max Morris was a two-sport All American at Northwestern from 1944 to 1946. He is the last to do so in school history, and he is a man who brought glory to the team simply by playing a solid where the school did not have much else to turn to. His career began just as Otto Graham’s ended, and he continued a tradition at the school for having one player who is a cut above the rest. His prowess on the court was needed at a time when school like Indiana were making their mark on the sport, and he was left with the legacy of Otto Graham to uphold.

#4: Otto Graham

Otto Graham is best known as the hall of fame quarterback who took the Cleveland Browns to an NFL title before the Super Bowl era. His name conjures images of the early days of the NFL where the players wore leather helmets, they ran a running game with almost no pass and the quarterbacks ran the ball just as much as they passed it. His tenure at Northwestern began with a basketball scholarship, and he slowly branched into football over the years after his career at Northwestern ended. His name is famous for football, but it began as a big name in Northwestern basketball.

Northwestern basketball has featured a few players who have made an impact on the course of Big Ten basketball. The most famous of these is Otto Graham, and his name will stir even the casual sports fan who realizes he is an important figure in the growth of sports in America. He created a traditional at Northwestern that is fulfilled time and again by young men who come to the school seeking the finest education, sports glory and an opportunity to honor the wildcats. The next great player in school history may well be with the school now, and his path is yet to be written.

Greatest Games in Northwestern Football History

The Five Greatest Games in Northwestern Football History 

While the Northwestern Wildcats haven’t had much success on gridiron until the past two decades, there are still several games that stand out in Wildcats lore.

The following are five of the greatest and most significant games in Northwestern football history over the years.

1) 1949 Rose Bowl: Northwestern 20, Cal 14
Date: Jan. 1, 1949

At the time, the Big Ten had a no-repeat clause in regards to which conference representative went to the Rose Bowl. This allowed an 7-2 Wildcats squad to make the trip to Pasadena with defending conference champ Michigan ineligible.

Northwestern would ironically draw undefeated and No. 4-ranked Cal who were coached by Pappy Waldorf, a former Wildcats head coach. The current Wildcats head coach Bob Voights played under Waldorf at Northwestern.

The Wildcats were underdogs going into the game, but jumped to an early lead on Frank Aschenbrenner’s 73-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Wildcats had a 13-7 lead at halftime, but Cal grabbed the lead for the first time thanks to a short touchdown run in the third quarter. But, Wildcats running back Ed Tunnicliff took a direct snap and went 43 yards for the game-winning run. PeeWee Day would then intercept a late Cal pass to preserve the first bowl victory in Northwestern history.

2) Northwestern 19, Michigan 13
Oct. 7, 1995

This was the victory which may have finally cracked the ceiling hanging over the Northwestern football program. Earlier in the year, Northwestern opened with a surprising 17-15 win over No. 8 Notre Dame, but followed that off with a 30-28 home loss to Miami (Ohio).

However, No. 25 Northwestern was determined to prove they were for real when they arrived in Ann Arbor to face undefeated and No. 7-ranked Michigan. Darnell Autry ran for 103 yards and Steve Schnur hit fullback Matt Hartl for a 2-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter for the winning score.

Northwestern went on  to win the Big Ten title and advance to the Rose Bowl, the program’s first bowl appearance in 47 years. The Wildcats finished 10-2, marking their first winning season in 24 years.

3) Northwestern 54, Michigan 51
Nov. 4, 2000

In a high-scoring battle, the two teams rolled up a combined 1,189 yards of total offense. Northwestern running back Damien Anderson rushed for 268 yards and two scores. His Michigan counterpart, Anthony Thomas, ran for 199 and three scores.

However, Thomas fumbled the ball away with under a minute left when it looked like he had a game-clinching first-down run. Northwestern recovered and promptly marched down the field. Zak Kustok eventually hit Sam Simmons on a quick slant route for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left for game-winning score.

4) Northwestern 6, Minnesota 0
Oct. 31, 1936

On Halloween, the Wildcats snapped the 28-game winning streak by the Golden Gophers with a 6-0 shutout win. Minnesota game into the game as the defending national champions and ranked No. 1 in the country.

Instead, Northwestern won the game and claimed the No. 1 ranking for three weeks until a season-ending 26-6 loss to Notre Dame. Still, the Wildcats finished 7-1 and won the Big Ten title that year with a perfect 5-0 record.

5) 2013 Gator Bowl: Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20
Jan. 1, 2013

While the Wildcats finally starting to have success on the field since the mid-1990s, the albatross of having only one bowl victory in its history lasted a lot longer.
However, Northwestern finally broke the streak against the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. Quinton Williams returned an interception 29 yards for a Wildcats score less than a minute into the game while star running back Venric Mark and quarterback Trevor Siemian added second-half scoring runs. The two teams combined for seven interceptions, but Northwestern finally had its second bowl win.

Top NFL Players Who Went to Northwestern

Northwestern is considered to be one of the top football colleges in the country. This team has seen a lot of talent over the years. Many of the players from Northwestern have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL. These are the top NFL players to come out of Northwestern college.

Matt O’Dwyer
Matt was drafted by the New York Jets in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft. He stayed with this team for four seasons. He then went on to play with the Cincinnati Bangles for the next five years. His career did not end there. His final season in the NFL was played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004.

Cas Banazek
Cas was one of the earlier players to play for Northwestern then go onto the NFL. He was a first round pick in the 1967 draft and was selected by the San Francisco 49ers. He played 10 seasons with this team and enjoyed a good football career.

Curtis Duncan
Duncan went during the 10th round of the 1987 draft. He played with the Oilers for seven seasons. During this time he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

Jack Rudnay
Jack was a fourth round draft pick in 1969. He was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs and played 13 seasons with this team. He was a four time Pro Bowl player as well.

Fred Williamson
Fed was not drafted during the NFL draft got to play for a number of years in the NFL. The first team that he played with was the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1960. He went on to play for the Oakland Raider for four seasons and spent three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was part of the Chiefs team to play in the first Super Bowl. He was able to make it to the Pro Bowl three times. This is not too bad for a player from Northwestern that did not make draft selection.

Irv Cross
Irv went to the Philadelphia Eagles in the seventh round of the 1961 NFL draft. He spend six seasons with this team and then played another three seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. During his time he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl two times.

Chris Hinton
Chris went first round during the 1983 draft. He was picked up by the Denver Broncos but never played for this time. He was sent to play for the Baltimore Colts. He stayed with this team for four seasons and then played for the Atlanta Falcons for four seasons. He also played for the Minnesota Vikings for two years. During his time in the NFL he played in the Pro Bowl seven times.

Steve Tasket
Steve was in the ninth round of the NFL draft in 1985 to the Houston Oilers. He played two seasons with this team and then played for twelve years for the Buffalo Bills. He was part of the Bills team that made it to the Super Bowl four consecutive times. He was also a member of the Pro Bowl players for seven years.

These are some of the football players that attended Northwestern to make it in the NFL. These players started off at this football school and were able to enjoy successful careers playing the sport that they loved.

Best Players in Northwestern Football History

1. Pat Fitzgerald (Linebacker)

Pat stands alone at the mountain top as the best play Northwestern has ever had. Fitzgerald is not only the most decorated player in Northwestern’s history, but he has the admiration of players who played before and after him. Fitzgerald was named the Big Ten defensive player of the year twice and was also named All-American in both seasons.

2. Damien Anderson (Running Back)

Damien pretty much holds every rushing title in Northwestern history. He holds the records for all-purpose yards, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. He also holds the best single season rushing record rushing for 2063 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns during the 2000 season. He ranks as no.6 on the all times leading rushers in the Big Ten.

3. Brett Basanez (Quarter Back)

Only Drew Brees can claim to be the better quarterback in Big Ten history. Brett single-handedly holds 32 Northwestern records. He has every passing and offence record in his pocket. Basanez won the Big Ten offensive player of the year in 2005. Brett was an iron quarterback who started 40 games in a row in his career as a four-year starter at Northwestern.

4. Chris Hinton (Offensive Lineman)

A four-year starter, he was named All-American in 1982. Most Northwestern fans consider him to be the best offensive lineman in Northwestern history. Chris’s career in the NFL makes him even more prolific. He played 13 seasons for the Denver Broncos, playing in the Pro Bowl 6 times. He is still the highest drafted player in Northwestern history.

5. D’Wayne Bates (Wide Receiver)

Ever since Dwayne was a freshman, he led the team in receiving. He still holds team records for single season and all-time receiving yards, catches and touchdowns despite not playing an entire season with a broken leg. His greatest performance came in the 1995 Rose Bowl where he racked up 145 yards helping Northwestern to a stunning victory against USC.

6. Casey Dailey (Defensive Lineman)

There has never been a more successful pass rusher in Northwestern history than Casey. Dailey still holds school records for most sacks in a single season, all time sacks, all-time tackles for a loss and most tackles for a loss in a single season. He played for the Jets in the NFL.

7. Mike Adamle (Running Back)

Mike was an old school running back, lots of speed and used his power when he needed it. His best performance was in a game against Wisconsin where he ran for 316 yards; it still stands as Northwestern’s single game rushing record. He was the Big Ten MVP in 1970 was named All-American too. Mike went on to play six seasons in the NFL with the Kansas Chiefs.

8. Zach Strief (Offensive Lineman)

As far as gifted offensive linemen go, Zach was one of the best Northwestern has and will ever see. Strief stood at 6’7 and weighed in at 335 pounds. He was a beast. He was the first Offensive Lineman to be named All-American since Chris Hinton. He was a seventh-round pick by the New Orleans Saints for whom he is still playing for.

9. Anthony Walker

This still active player is shaping up to be one of the best players Northwestern has ever had. He is not yet a junior but in his first two seasons, he has broken some of Pat Fitzgerald’s records such as interceptions. He also has more tackles for a loss of yardage than Pat Fitzgerald. If he continues at the same rate, he will end up at the top of the pile, above Pat Fitzgerald who is now his coach.