One of the best traditions in Northwestern football is the honor of the No. 1 jersey bestowed each year to the player who best embodies the values and character of the program. Since 2011, the team has voted for one player to wear the honored number throughout the season for his work ethic, attitude and team-first mentality, regardless of position or place on the roster.
On Friday, Pat Fitzgerald announced senior running back Jesse Brown as the recipient of honor and presented him the jersey he would wear for the 2020 season.
“We’ve got a great tradition here, jersey No. 1,” Fitz said in a speech on Friday. “The guy that embodies and represents the Northwestern Wildcats not some of the time but all the time. The consistency in the way he approaches school, the way he approaches life, and the way he approaches being the best teammate he can be every single day. This dude’s overcome a ton.”
The senior from Georgia will wear No. 1 for his fifth year with the program. He has appeared in 17 games at Northwestern, including 13 in 2017 and four last year despite battling multiple injuries throughout his career, including a hand injury that sidelined him for five games last season and one that in part kept him out for all of 2018. He has recorded 30 carries for 191 rushing yards, 23 receiving yards, two touchdowns and five tackles in his career.
Majoring in mechanical engineering, Brown has also earned All-Academic Big Ten honors the past three seasons.
“I will fight as hard as I can to represent this and to represent y’all today and throughout this whole season,” he said.
Brown now joins an elite list of Wildcats to wear the number in the past decade. Defensive lineman Bo Cisek was the first to earn the honor in 2011, and since then, big names have continued to pass down the honor like Anthony Walker, Jr. in 2016, Tyler Lancaster in 2017, Chad Hanaoka in 2018 and most recently Joe Bergin in 2019. Brown is the first running back to receive the award since Hanaoka and the first Black player to be given the honor since Walker.