Mark Gooden. Jason Goosen. Cam Kolwich. Jesse Meyler. Cody Link. Jackson Tirmonia.
If you’re a casual fan, you may not know these names, and there’s fair reason for that. These players have never starred on the field for Northwestern football. For four (and in some cases even more) years, these guys have donned the purple and white every week, gone to offseason lifts, daily practices, film sessions, and put their bodies on the line to try to make the team better.
The successes of the group on the field is directly tied to this group of six — without them making the starters better, pushing them every day, the team may not have ever had magical seasons like 2018.
While the spotlight shone on fellow seniors like Joe Gaziano (and for fair reason), these players were next to them the workout room, across from them in practice, and grinding. Not for the glory that comes with being the star player, but with the relentlessness and dedication that comes with going in every day and doing your job.
It might be my name on the record, but it takes a village. Thank you to everyone who helped me get here! https://t.co/j86BZSepPY— Joe Gaziano (@jgaziano97) November 26, 2019
There’s no doubt that these players are talented. Many of them went from the star of their high school teams and countless recognitions to being forgotten deep within the Northwestern depth chart.
Mark Gooden was a three-star recruit out of high school. The Wildcats beat out Purdue and Iowa for his signature. He was a high school hero, helping to lead his Reynoldsburg Raiders to the Ohio State Playoffs for the first time in 14 years. In his time with NU, he played in five games, making five tackles, including one for loss. At Northwestern, he studies Environmental Sciences.
Jason Goosen played in the Virginia High School East-West game. Goosen was the 2015 lineman of the year at his high school. He made his collegiate debut in 2017, in Northwestern’s dominant 39-0 win against Minnesota. In total, he has played in three games for the Wildcats. He studies mechanical engineering at Northwestern.
Cam Kolwich was a highly touted three-star recruit. Northwestern beat out an impressive list of schools to get him, including Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Illinois. He was the 36th-ranked guard in the class of 2016 and captained his high school football team to two successive state championships. He was All-Michigan and made the Offense-Defense All-American bowl. Before this season, Kolwich had played in 2 games, but has participated in five games this season.
Jesse Meyler was a three-star recruit out of Virginia. His high school career was particularly impressive, captaining his team to the IAC Championship. Northwestern beat out Wisconsin, Virginia, and Maryland for him. Meyler was named All-State for Virginia, along with All-Conference and All-Met. For the past two seasons, Meyler has also been Academic All-Big Ten as a Psychology major.
Cody Link had offers to play college baseball in addition to football. The Superback was All-City and All-Conference in high school, before becoming a two-time Academic All-Big Ten member. He has played seven games for the Wildcats, six of which came this season. He studies Communication Studies at Northwestern
Jackson Tirmonia was invited to play in the Blue-Gray All-American game in Dallas as a senior in high school. He was named second team All-Ohio at Wide Receiver. He’s played four games for the Wildcats over the course of his career and is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten player. At Northwestern, he studies Economics.
One of the things that makes Northwestern so special is the fact that these players have a life outside football. For many, in the grand scheme of things, the sport will end up as little more than a brief interlude.
However, the skills of football are easily transferable. Grit, dedication, and working towards a goal bigger than yourself. In another world, some of these guys may have committed to other schools, or even gotten thrown into a starting job like TJ Green..
These six guys, each recognized by Pat Fitzgerald and co. on Senior Day last Saturday, had all the reason to quit football, the sport they loved and the one that made them heroes on Friday nights. Being a Northwestern student is difficult enough without the five AM wakeups, the late-night film sessions, and all the practice that goes into a season.
But these guys rejected that idea. Role players are rarely the ones who get the glory. Their contribution is invisible to those outside the team, but any team cannot succeed without them.
And players like the six we listed above, who never truly rose to prominence in a Northwestern uniform, are nevertheless a huge part of the team’s story through both the highest highs and the lowest lows. They may not have made an impact the way they wanted to, but their time in Evanston mattered plenty all the same.