It’s like Christmas morning; happy draft day everyone! Cozy in on your favorite spot on the couch and buckle up for four hours of Roger Goodell booing, Mel Kiper analysis and questionable fashion choices. Today is poised to be a great day for the Wildcats with All-American left tackle Peter Skoronski a shoo-in to hear his name called on Thursday night and defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore also holding a real shot to become a first-round pick.
Skoronski and Adebawore could become the 11th and 12th Wildcats to be selected in the first round, so let’s take a stroll down memory lane to revisit the first ten names who made Northwestern history.
2021: Rashawn Slater (OT) - Pick 13, Los Angeles Chargers
After opting out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic to focus on preparation for the draft, Slater broke Northwestern’s 16-year drought of not having a first-round pick. A year after selecting Justin Herbert, the Chargers chose Slater to protect the franchise quarterback’s blindside.
In his rookie season, Slater immediately became one of the best tackles in the NFL and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Due for another big season, Slater’s 2022 season was cut short after rupturing his biceps tendon in Week 3. When he returns, Slater is expected to return to form and be a key cog for a Chargers team looking to take the leap into contender status and overtake the reigning Super Bowl champs for supremacy in the AFC West.
2021: Greg Newsome II (CB) - Pick 26, Cleveland Browns
Alongside Slater, Newsome made the pair the first duo of Wildcat teammates to be selected in the first round of the same draft. Newsome had a strong rookie season opposite Denzel Ward but had a disappointing second season. In year two, after the Browns added Martin Emerson to the cornerback room, Newsome spent too much time playing out of position in Joe Woods’ defense, preventing him from showing off his best skill: boundary coverage.
Rumors circulated this offseason that Newsome was unhappy and wanted out of Cleveland after switching agents, but Newsome denies the reports. In fact, Newsome just founded a charity celebrity softball game in the Cleveland area and seems very happy in brown in orange. Now with Jim Schwartz at the helm, expect Newsome to have a bounce-back year for a Browns team that has put all its chips on the table and expects to win now.
2005: Luis Castillo (DT) - Pick 28, San Diego Chargers
After admitting to having used steroids to prepare for the 2005 NFL Combine in an effort to recover from an elbow injury he suffered during his senior year, Castillo’s stock dipped. Chargers GM A.J. Smith still selected Castillo at the back end of the first round, citing his stellar track record at Northwestern and dismissing the incident as a one-time mistake.
The gamble paid off for the Chargers, as Castillo developed into one of the better defensive linemen in the league for a short stint. He totaled seven sacks in 2006, sacked Tom Brady in a playoff game in 2007 and was rewarded with a five-year, $43.1 million dollar extension in 2008. A broken leg in 2011 effectively ended Castillo’s career, as he retired shortly after. Ultimately, Castillo may not have ever lived up to his first-round billing, but he put together an applaudable career and developed into a quality lineman.
2002: Napoleon Harris (LB) - Pick 23, Oakland Raiders
A two-sport athlete (basketball), Harris was a plus-athlete, warranting an early selection in the 2002 NFL Draft (taken one pick before Ravens legend Ed Reed). Harris was an impact rookie, starting 16 games and recording eight tackles in Super Bowl XXXVII. Harris followed up his first campaign with a strong second year in Oakland.
The following offseason, Harris was shipped to Minnesota as part of a blockbuster trade package for Randy Moss. Harris never caught on in his two years in Minnesota but it seemed like he found a home in Kansas City after producing a career-best 116-tackle season. Unfortunately, Harris was cut soon after and never reached the same production.
In his post-playing career, Harris is a member of the Illinois Senate and has been in politics since 2011.
1983: Chris Hinton (OT/OG) - Pick 4, Denver Broncos
Originally a tight end at Northwestern, Hinton made the switch to the offensive line as a junior and immediately skyrocketed.
Okay, fine, I buried the lede. Yes, Chris Hinton was infamously the player the Baltimore Colts received in exchange for trading the rights to John Elway. But Chris Hinton was a dang-good football player in his own right. With the Colts, Hinton was named to six Pro Bowls and he tacked on one more for good measure as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
Over his 13-year career, Hinton started 172 games and displayed incredible versatility, playing left tackle, left guard, right tackle and right guard at different points in his career. He was a two-time First-team All-Pro (1987, 1993) and was named to the Second-team three times (1985, 1988, 1989). He is one of 13 players in the Colts Ring of Honor. In recent years, Hinton has been a semifinalist in the Seniors category to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1967: Cas Banaszek (TE) - Pick 11, San Francisco 49ers
Although drafted as a tackle, Banaszek played his entire 11-year career as a tackle and remained in San Francisco for the entire duration. He started 112 games for the 49ers and was named a Second-Team All-Pro selection in 1968.
After retiring, Banaszek returned to the 49ers for one season as an assistant offensive line coach in 1981, winning a Super Bowl ring as part of the staff on the Super Bowl XVI Championship team. He also spent some time coaching offensive linemen for the California Golden Bears.
1962: Fate Echols (OT) - Pick 6, St. Louis Cardinals
Echols, selected two picks before Hall of Famer Lance Alworth, never panned out in professional football. He only spent two years in the league and only appeared in eight games, starting just one.
Echols was also drafted by the AFL’s New York Titans in 1962 (21st overall) but did not play for the team.
1960: Ron Burton (RB) - Pick 9, Philadelphia Eagles
After finishing 10th in the 1959 Heisman Trophy voting, Burton was one of the most sought-after players in college football. Burton was selected in the top 10 by the Eagles but never played in Philadelphia, instead opting for the AFL.
Burton was the first-ever selection of the Boston (now New England) Patriots and accomplished many firsts for what is now one of the most celebrated franchises in all of sports. His 91-yard return touchdown on a missed field goal in 1962 is still a franchise record. Burton is in the College Football Hall of Fame.
1947: Vic Schwall (RB) - Pick 10, New York Giants
Schwall was one of nine Wildcats drafted in the 1947 draft (a 32-round ordeal) and played all four years of his career with the Chicago Cardinals but was not a major contributor. Schwall retired early, but it should not be forgotten that as a running back, he donned the jersey number 90. It was truly a different era.
1944: Otto Graham (QB) - Pick 4, Detroit Lions
Otto Graham is widely regarded as the first legendary quarterback in the history of modern football. Graham took the Cleveland Browns (yes, those Cleveland Browns) to championships in every season between 1946 and 1955 and won seven of those 10 championship contests. He posted a career record of 105-17-4, a winning percentage that is unlikely to ever be topped by any quarterback who starts 100 or more games. He is a three-time NFL MVP and collected Pro Bowls, All-Pro nods, and statistical achievements, and he has been named to several legacy teams.
He later served as a head coach for the Coast Guard Bears and Washington’s NFL franchise (where he also served three years as the teams’ general manager).
He is a member of the Browns Ring of Honor, and his No. 14 is retired by the organization as a nod to Graham’s greatness. He is in both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Graham is one of, if not the best player of his era, and even today, is still understood to be among the greatest quarterbacks of all time. And, he was a Northwestern Wildcat. How about that?