Ahead of this weekend’s matchup, we decide to take a step to evaluate the broader impact of this year’s senior class.
The year before the redshirt senior players stepped on campus, Northwestern was reeling off the heels of a massive blowout loss to Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. In the four or five seasons that this senior class has spent on campus (with TJ Green’s six seasons being the exception), it has ushered in a new echelon of success for this program.
Among the many accomplishments this senior class has had, it has dominated the rivalry against Illinois, winning every time against Illini so far. This senior class has won three bowl games, the Big Ten West twice and 34 games with multiple opportunities remaining to add to that total. They have seen four winning seasons, including two seasons with 9+ victories, and a 5-1 record so far this season.
With a matchup against Illinois this weekend, this senior class can continue its perfect record against the Illini, leaving behind the expectation of victory from the rival. This season has also shown this class’ ability to respond to adversity, not only in their ability to play football in a pandemic, but their ability to rebound off the back of a difficult season.
However, the contributions of this class expand far beyond the field of play. This senior class has also been leaders in advocating for a better future, with JR Pace, Kyric McGowan, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman bringing in junior Greg Newsome II to create a powerful video to advocate for racial equity and social change.
Senior leader Paddy Fisher has also talked openly about mental health, something that goes drastically under addressed among college athletes. If you haven’t taken the time to watch this video, I would strongly recommend you do.
Appreciate Northwestern preseason All-American linebacker @FisherPaddy & defensive lineman Eku Leota, who is among the Big Ten leaders in sacks, talking about struggling with mental health.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) November 25, 2020
You guys will affect more people with this than your play. pic.twitter.com/BY0vVjbTjf
This class has left an indelible mark on the football program, building off the classes that have come before them and setting a higher expectation for those who are yet to come.
This class is in an odd position, with their senior season occurring under an extreme amount of uncertainty and each of them being offered the chance to return by the program, with the NCAA giving an extra season of eligibility to all fall athletes. Their ability to train the next generation of leaders is not limited to only this season, with this class carrying a unique opportunity to achieve even more unprecedented success.