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Apparently Gavin Skelly wants to join the Northwestern football team this season


NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, here’s a completely unexpected thing to think about on Day 2 of the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern senior — and noted basketball player — Gavin Skelly went on NNN Sports’ SportsNight (the student-run studio sports show) on Thursday night and announced his intentions football?

See for yourself:

I don’t want to leave college yet (laughs). You can play four seasons of one sport and you’re able to play a fifth year of another. I’ve talked to some of the football guys, I’ve mentioned it to Fitz and things like that, of playing a fifth year of football. I think it’d be fun for me; how many chances do you get to play college football, especially at a level like the Big Ten? For me, that would be the coolest thing. I’m all about the experience. So if I’m able to play Big Ten basketball and Big Ten football, there’s not many people who can say they did both.

Skelly went on to say that he hasn’t played football since middle school, but that he’s played pickup and “practiced with the football guys” (unclear if he means in high school or college). He said he’d play superback, and would potentially fill Garrett Dickerson’s shoes.

Well then.

First of all, I have no idea if this is even a remote possibility. Skelly seems pretty serious in the video, and he has mentioned discussing it with Pat Fitzgerald, but it just seems incredibly unlikely for a variety of reasons, the main one being that HE HASN’T PLAYED ORGANIZED FOOTBALL SINCE EIGHTH GRADE. IN 2009.

But let’s put that aside for a moment. It’s tough to find anything about this on the NCAA’s website, but I think his claim about being eligible is legit. Student-athletes have a five-year clock that begins their freshman year, and Skelly never took a redshirt season during his four years on the basketball team. He’s obviously exhausted all his basketball eligibility, but let’s just assume that he’s done his research and would be eligible to play a different sport this fall after graduating.

The logical next question to ask is this: would Fitz seriously want Skelly on the team? Here’s a list of pros and cons:


  • Skelly is 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. That’s taller than any of the other eight superbacks currently on the roster. Most of them, including projected starter Cameron Green, are roughly 6-foot 4. However, Eric Lutzen is 6-foot-6, 235, and incoming freshman Brian Kaiser is 6-foot-7. On paper, he’s got the size and strength to be a legitimate target in the passing game.
  • He’s a great athlete. Skelly threw down plenty of dunks in his basketball career, and has the leaping ability to theoretically go up and get a ball in a red zone situation.
  • He’d be a great locker room presence. Skelly is undoubtedly friends with plenty of guys on the football team and has no shortage of experience competing in the Big Ten. Just...on the hardwood instead. Skelly is one of the nicest, most fun people I’ve ever interviewed and would be an awesome guy to have around.

Cons/question marks

  • I may have mentioned this earlier, but Skelly hasn’t played organized football since Avatar was in theaters and the iPhone 3 was the latest technology.
  • As I alluded to in the pros section, Northwestern will have nine superbacks (including Kaiser) on the roster in 2018. That’s nine guys who, you know, played high school football and eight who have been training and practicing in the program for at least a year.

It’s one thing to experiment with playing football at, I don’t know, the D-III level. It’s another thing entirely to play football in the Big Ten. Skelly is a heck of an athlete and has been doing conditioning and weightlifting for four years. He just hasn’t been doing it as a football player. Power-5 college football players are ridiculously strong, ridiculously fast, and know what they’re doing.

If he were to receive serious playing time at superback, he’d have to be able to run a variety of routes, catch the ball in traffic, and most of all, learn a ton of blocking assignments and then actually execute those blocks (which takes a great deal of technique). Maybe Skelly’s role could be a situational one, perhaps in the red zone. But again, going up and catching a football over a Big Ten safety or linebacker takes a loooooooot more than just being tall and being able to jump.

For those reasons, this just doesn’t seem very likely to me. Gavin Skelly will go down in history for what he did as a Northwestern basketball player, but I’d be very surprised if he spent one last season in a different kind of Wildcat uniform.

But hey, it’s a fun idea! And maybe something to keep an eye on going forward?


Could Gavin Skelly play superback for NU?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Sure, he’s a good enough athlete for it to be worth a try.
    (321 votes)
  • 38%
    Nope. He’d get killed out there and would be taking a deserving player’s spot.
    (201 votes)
522 votes total Vote Now