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Wildcat Shootaround: What we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving from Inside NU!

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

While today is America’s annual excuse to eat piles of food and awkwardly make conversation with extended family members, it is also a celebration for all the good things from the past year. Given that this is a Northwestern sports blog, we asked our writers what Northwestern-related things they were thankful for this year.

Graham Brennan: Pat Ryan

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for Pat Ryan. The billionaire Northwestern donor is the reason that beyond the recent success of Northwestern’s football and basketball programs, there is a palpable excitement on campus for what’s next in NU sports. A complete renovation of Welsh-Ryan arena, coupled with the construction of Ryan fieldhouse and Walter Athletics center, a $260 million, 500,000-square-foot lakefront athletic facility, were made possible by Ryan’s donations. The sparkling new facilities are sure to attract highly touted recruits to the University. Thanks to Ryan’s donations, Northwestern fans can reasonably expect more 10-win football seasons, and a perennial NCAA tournament worthy basketball program.

Caleb Friedman: Pat Fitzgerald

I'll go with another Pat — Northwestern's head football coach. I don't care if the Wildcats were embarrassed by a not-so-good Duke team or that they play in a weak division; Fitzgerald has them on the verge of another nine-win campaign, which, at the beginning of the season, most of us would've taken in a second.

After a disappointing stretch at the beginning of the season, the players didn't quit on Fitz and things didn't fall apart; it's been two seasons in a row now when NU has battled through early-season adversity to salvage something of the season. I mean, Northwestern's in the freaking Top 25 for crying out loud! Maybe NU didn't challenge for the Big Ten West, but that's partially a function of where Wisconsin and Penn State were on the schedule. Northwestern football can be agonizing at times, but Fitz has engineered another good season, and we shouldn't take that for granted.

Martin Oppegaard: Chris Collins the recruiter and Taylor Tashima

Collins reeled in the best class in Northwestern basketball history by securing Pete Nance, Miller Kopp, Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. This coup sustains the excitement surrounding the program and ensures that new Welsh-Ryan Arena will be buzzing.

As the volleyball season comes to an end, I’m also thankful for Taylor Tashima and her tremendous career. Nobody has done more for their respective team than Tashima for Northwestern volleyball.

Noah Coffman: Justin Jackson

Any Northwestern football fan, or even casual Northwestern football watcher, knows how great Justin Jackson is, and readers of this website have certainly seen plenty of stories about his abilities. The dynamic senior running back has been the starter for more than half of my football fandom, and has certainly brought me an outsized number of my favorite football memories. Regardless of his NFL success, Jackson will be a Northwestern legend forever. Thank you, Ball Carrier.

Will Ragatz: Alex Spanos

One of the best things about this 2017 football season has been the viral emergence of assistant strength coach Alex Spanos. The pregame videos of him pumping the team up (with plenty of contact) are always a delight, and broadcast crews have begun cutting to Spanos and his famous polo shirt on the sideline more and more of late. Northwestern’s six-game win streak has been all kinds of fun, and Spanos’s energy has been right at the heart of it. For more on his background, check out this Teddy Greenstein story.

Tristan Jung: Inside NU dot com

For once, I don’t have any Northwestern sports takes. I’m just thankful for Inside NU and all our talented staff members (Caleb, Noah, Davis, Martin, Talia, Graham, Chris...hello). Special shoutout to my co-EIC Will Ragatz as well. Thanks to our seniors, Zach Pereles, Josh Burton and Ian McCafferty, some of whom are leaving this website for greater things. And finally, thank you all our readers. Without you, none of us would be able to our favorite extracurricular activity. Have a great Thanksgiving.