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Surviving the (Wildcat) Game.

(post named after my aforementioned favorite Ice-T/Gary Busey collabo.)

Unless you're an ardent follower of Coach Fitzgerald's Twitter feed or frequent practice attendee, you probably haven't heard of the Wildcat Games. Not sure why. They seem like a pretty comical/interesting thing for the thousands of journalistic peeps peeping NU practices to write about, maybe a lil' human interest story here or there, but instead, we just get the same stuff about how Northwestern will react to the loss of Mike Kafka/Corey Wootton and whatnot. 

Coach Fitz seems like a pretty decent mix of the most intense dude ever and a guy who likes to keep things loose: he's got a sense of humor under his hard, purple exterior, and it shows through this.

So, anyway, if you go to - I generally don't, but it's a pretty sweet recruiting tool the coaching staff or somebody came up with, and I saw the link over there from the thing I linked to above - there's a video on there of what must have been yesterday's edition of the Wildcat Games. I'm a little bit shaky on all the details, but I'll regurgitate what I think I know: basically, sometime earlier in the year, the team was split up into ten teams. (I think they have a draft for this at the beginning of workouts, not sure.) And every practice, these teams compete in some generally silly way, generally putting players in positions that they aren't used to being in. As far as I can tell, somewhere down the line, all the losing teams have to participate in some sort of extra drills, while the winning team doesn't. It's a team-building exercise, and what you're looking for out of spring ball is exactly that: an attempt at building a team.

The video on the site is of guys running the gauntlet, a sprint with people throwing footballs at you, whoever has the fastest time wins. What I saw the other day in practice was my personal favorite: the "big guys catching punts" game. The team has a jug machine that they use to practice catching punts - something that was actually sort of a major problem last year, a lot of fumbled kickoffs and punts, but that's besides the point - except this time, instead of the speedy little special teamers, the ten guys assigned to catching duty are all linemen, and as you'd imagine, hilarity ensued. There were a lot of misjudgments, even more simple failures to catch. Out of the ten guys, the only three that managed to hang on to a punt were Davon Custis (No. 95, a redshirt freshman defensive end), Taylor Paxton (No. 62, a redshirt freshman guard) and Kevin Watt (No. 42, a junior defensive end who will actually see quite a bit of playing time, judging from his appearances with the first team this spring.)

Having passed the test of being able to catch a punt, these three advanced to the next round. Fitz made them spin around a bunch of times, then, when he was satisfied with the amount of spinning accomplished, yelled "pull!" and for all the people who needed more hilarity to ensue after just regular punt-catching, there was more. A moderately dizzy defensive lineman trying to find his footing and catch a punt is not a pretty sight, and all three failed. So next came the pushup-to-punt catch, which once again saw all three attempted catchees come up short. If I remember correctly, I think Davon Custis actually managed to get under one of these, but dropped it in comical fashion. On the third round of the showdown, Custis and Paxton dropped the ball on their tries, but Watt held on for the walk-off victory, leading the Cats to the end of practice.

Nothing much interesting here, but fun stuff nonetheless, and I'm surprised nobody writes about it. It gives you a pretty decent feeling of what type of coach Fitz is, because he's more than just the guy who led to the invention of the intense-o-meter: he's also a team leader as well.