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A look back at Northwestern football’s patriotism

Northwestern has done some pretty cool things over the years to celebrate America.

USA Today

In honor of July 4, we wanted to take a quick look at some of the patriotism that Northwestern football has shown over the years. Obviously, we’ll discuss the iconic gray jerseys circa 2013, but NU has done lots of other things to honor America. As we celebrate the country’s independence, here’s a list of some of the coolest things the university has done.

1. Gray Uniforms from 2013

Big Ten Network

The ‘Cats debuted these in 2013 for a game against Michigan. Generally, uniforms that have a lot going on can seem too busy and aren’t pleasing to the eye. These have a ton going on, but they are an exception. I mean, come on. From the flag-themed helmet and shoulder pads down to the stripe of stars on the pants, these uniforms make you want to grab a cold drink, throw something on the grill, and listen to “Born in the USA.” And also watch Northwestern football. They make me want to do that too.

It’s worth noting that there was some controversy over the uniforms when they were announced. Some felt that the red splatter effect featured on much of the uniform resembled blood. The university apologized, stating that that wasn’t their intention, and went through with wearing the uniforms against Michigan.

Taking the university at its word, the uniforms themselves are just flat-out cool. So often it feels like teams get themed jerseys wrong. This is an example of Northwestern knocking it out of the ballpark.

2. Heroes Day Helmets from 2022

@NUFBFamily Twitter

Last year against Duke, the ‘Cats went simple to celebrate National Heroes Day on Oct. 8. They took the field wearing a white helmet with the classic Northwestern “N” colored in to look like the American flag.

They didn’t reinvent the wheel here; many teams in professional and college sports have done this exact thing, but I like it. In fact, Northwestern should wear them more often. While the uniforms from 2013 were bold, these helmets are more practical. Sure, they wore them for Heroes Day, but it seems to me like they could get away with wearing them for any game.

The flag theme adds a nice touch to the usual Northwestern logo that only elevates the helmet. Besides, let’s not let the biggest memory in this fit be Evan Hull fumbling at the one-yard line.

3. 9/11 tributes in 2012 against Vanderbilt and in 2021 against Indiana State

In 2011, for the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, teams around college football honored victims, their families and first responders by wearing USA-themed helmets similar to the ones NU wore last year featuring flag-themed logos. The year after, in 2012, Northwestern elected to put that logo in the center of its field for a game on the weekend preceding 9/11 against Vanderbilt.


While the helmets are great, the logo on the field was infinitely more noticeable. There was nobody squinting at the field going “hey, do their helmets look a little different to you?” Everyone there understood exactly the message that the logo was trying to get across, and it was a powerful show of patriotism on the anniversary of such a dark day in American history.

In 2021, Northwestern took things a step further, bringing in a skydiving team to unfurl the American flag and Northwestern’s flag as they jumped out of a plane. I really can’t think of a more visually impressive tribute than that, and I wish I’d been there.