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Fitz Meets the Media 9/25: Lack of National Respect and Indiana Prep

How are things looking with the competition at corner?

Good. I think the guys are working hard and I think that they all want to play, and I think the competition is going great.

Damien (Proby) said yesterday that one of the things you’re stressing is the need to show the Big Ten just what Northwestern is all about this year.

I just think we’re focused inward on improving. We didn’t have the season we wanted a year ago and we took a beating publicly and we got what we deserved. And if we want to change that perception, then we need to change it the other way around. I don’t think any of the guys came here to have the kind of season we had a year ago. That was kind of the offseason talk.

By perception, do you mean the criticisms of the secondary? 

I think a lot of garbage, to be quite honest with you. We don’t listen to it once we get in season, but the whole offseason, it seems like the only people that believe in what we’re doing are in our football family and that’s fine, and that’s pretty typical around the country. But I don’t know, (NU has) been to a bunch of bowl and doing some pretty special things, and it’d be nice if we can continue to keep that going.

How has that motivated the team so far this season? 

I think it motivated us in the offseason. I think as we’ve moved forward our focus has been on the way that we’ve been performing, or lack thereof, so I think that was all stuff from the preseason, quite frankly — stuff we talked about in camp.

You said before that you didn’t care about the top 25 rankings, but do you think that goes hand-in-hand with national respect? 

I think so, but at the end of the day it’s totally out of your control. You’ve got teams that aren’t playing very well, but because they were ranked preseason are still ranked. It’s the same kind of things that happened back when I was playing. I’m not so sure that those things should be done until October anyways, when you’re played three or four conference games. We’ve had a good preseason, but we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves over the next month and typically we’ve been pretty crappy in the month of October. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do and I think the guys had a good attitude today. It’s the first day of gameplan, first time getting ready for a Big Ten opponent, so it’s going to be a great challenge. Coach Wilson is doing a terrific job, physical team, taking on his attitude, throwing the ball over the yard, playing with great tempo; defensively sound, very well-coached, very fundamentally improved, so it’s going to be a fun challenge.

Other than the talent level, which is obviously going up, why are conference games tougher?

I think everybody knows each other. We see each other every year, every other year, kind of on a two-year rotation. And now with the divisions, you’re going to see everybody in the divisions every year, so I think as you move forward, you’ve got a good feel for your opponent; you’ve seen the guys year-in and year-out. Good, bad and indifferent, how you’ve played will determine that. Also, I think there’s a lot of respect; everybody knows anybody can win on any given Saturday in a conference game. You look across the board, some of the other leagues have already played conference games and they’re all dogfights. You look at the track record of this series and (there have been) a lot of close games.