This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011
I done said it a million times: I'm a young'un. I know Pat Fitzgerald as a coach who likes talking about going 1-0 every week. I know Darnell Autry as a guy who randomly showed up at one game this year in purple body paint and was once on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Those of you with historical perspective, I'd absolutely love to hear about it. I eat that stuff up with a spoon, and not one of those punk-ass spoons they give you for dessert at fancy restaurants, I'm talking a legit spoon you'd use for eating a bowl of chili or something.
But alas, I'm youthy. So I'll tell you my favorite players in my time.
Tyrell embodies a lot of NU players: nobody really wanted him. Ohio State turned him down because he was too tiny, leaving piddly old Northwestern to offer him a scholarship.
So this listed-at-5-foot-9-probably-only-5-foot-7 guy comes in at running back, and immediately sets the Big Ten ablaze, rushing for 1474 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman.
But the thing about Tyrell is that he was a legit star. The type of guy who could refer to himself in the third person, and it would be okay. The type of guy who I saw in one of my classes, and was like "hey, I'm in a class with Tyrell Sutton!" and then I was like "hey! this class is probably going to be pretty easy considering he's a senior all-Big Ten running back and probably isn't going to take anything he could possibly fail in that situation!" Somehow, a guy that had just been straight up passed over was a freak of nature, faster than anybody else on the field and yet always able to keep his feet churning even against bigger defenders. I mean, watch his highlight reel, classily set alongside P. Diddy's "Come With Me".
Sadly, Sutton's career would come to be defined by injuries. But what I'll remember is the heart he displayed coming back from injury. They said he'd be out for the season after injuring his wrist against Indiana, but he was back on the field in the Alamo Bowl. And I'll remember this rush he had - it's in the video above, 3:38 mark - where he got the ball on a draw on 2nd-and-21, and he got about 16 yards up the middle, and he just jumps up with joy that you don't normally see from a player on a football field picking up a decent gain. You could tell he was just so proud to be back on that field, and that's why he'll be on of my favorite players through the ages.
In his time, Sutton was the leader of the team. Not Corey Wootton, not CJ Bacher - the tiny, overwhelmingly fast, always injured running back that everybody overlooked.
Mike probably won't get the all-time love he deserves because he only played a year and then some. But I'm always more interested in people who seem like they should have had much bigger, more important careers than they did (see: Tyrell Sutton), and Kafka fits that bill perfectly.
There's no better way to attract my attention than starting one game in two years, and running for 217 yards against a ranked opponent - even though you're a quarterback - and randomly connecting on a bunch of deep passes, leading them to a last-second victory. Mike Kafka became my - and many other NU students at the time - candidate for best player in the existence of humanity. He could have disappeared from my life at that point, and it would've been awesome.
Unfortunately for storylines, he came back. Luckily, he decided to be one of the better quarterbacks in recent Northwestern memory, driving defenses crazy, and occasionally remembering that he was 6-foot-3 and really fast, but also being really good at passing, and leading NU to eight wins.
He's definitely an under-the-radar pick, but, Crazy Legs' blend of weird, freakish athleticism and success makes him pretty much all I can ask for in a favorite player nominee.
(My boy @D-Vo - anybody into house music? anybody? No? Sorry, Divo I guess our fanbases don't interact much - quickly and angrily pointed out that I didn't mention Kafka's gutsy, murderous performance in the Outback Bowl, in which he went 47-78 for 532 yards, plus 34 rushing yards, four throwing and one rushing touchdown, and had to have at least one lung removed after the game because he was trying so damn hard to will Northwestern to a bowl victory. That probably should have been mentioned earlier, but it's my birthday and all I can think about is how LeBron James is going to ruin my birthday. I hate you all.)
That's all I got for now, but tell me who you got - whether people who were stars, or maybe even people you knew back in the day, or random people who made great plays, whatever your criteria for using the phrase "favorite" is - and we can discuss til the cows come home in the comments section.