Since 2011, the Northwestern football team has voted on the player who “truly embodies the values and character of the Northwestern football family,” awarding whoever earns it, no matter their position or roster status, the #1 jersey as recognition.
Thursday, head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced that former walk-on and senior defensive back Joe Bergin had been unanimously selected by his teammates to wear the prestigious number in 2019.
We don’t give the number out in recruiting.— Pat Fitzgerald (@coachfitz51) August 1, 2019
You can’t ask for it once you’re here.
You have to earn it in the eyes of your teammates by representing everything we believe in.
There can be only 1️⃣. #GoCats pic.twitter.com/rP4ra14Kr9
Defensive lineman Bo Cisek became the first Wildcat selected to don the jersey eight years ago. At the time, Fitzgerald stated one must have above-and-beyond attitude and work ethic in order to earn the number. The most recent beneficiaries of it include linebacker Anthony Walker (2016), nose tackle Tyler Lancaster (2017), and most recently running back Chad Hanaoka (2018).
Joe Bergin came to Northwestern in 2015 after graduating high school from Detroit Country Day. He chose Northwestern over Michigan State, Stanford, Penn and Columbia, despite having to walk on. Bergin redshirted his first season before appearing in just a few games in 2016. In his next two seasons, he emerged as a special teams ace and a backup in the secondary.
In the past three seasons, Bergin has been an Academic All-Big Ten honoree every year. The walk-on was followed to Evanston by his younger brother, Chris, who he watched earn a starting spot at linebacker last season after Nate Hall went down with an injury.
Each of the Bergin brothers have battled to make their impact felt as a part of what Fitz called “a long tradition” of impressive Northwestern non-scholarship players last season. Joe now becomes the second straight walk-on to earn the honor of the #1 jersey, following in the footsteps of the aforementioned Hanaoka.