WOAHHHHHHH WE'RE ONE-QUARTER OF THE WAY THEEERREE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAHHHHH THIS DOESN'T HAVE THE SAME RING TO IT TAKE MY HAND, WE'LL MAKE IT I SWEAAAAAR WOOOOOOAHHHH KONOPKA ON A PRAAAAAAYYYEYAAAAARRRRRRR
Yes, we're at 75, which by my count is, oh, Jesus, summer hasn't even really started yet, has it? Anyway, talk about Jack Konopka. The 6'5, 285-pounder could be Northwestern's most important player asked to fill a new role in 2013
Konopka hails from Palatine, where he went to Fremd High School and played both offensive tackle, tight end, and defensive end for a squad that went 11-1 his junior season. But because he was real, real big, nobody really saw him as a defensive player, earning three stars as a lineman, the No. 50 offensive lineman and No. 15 player in the state of Illinois per 247's composite. He got some really solid offers -- Oregon, who likes their o-linemen with a tinge of athleticism, Arizona, Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, and on the B1G hand, Illinois and Purdue and picked the Cats the July before his senior year.
Konopka saw the field immediately, playing on special teams and working his way into the lineup as a superback. He only had one catch, for six yards, as well as having a trick-play touchdown called back -- the same one that sprung Paul Jorgensen last season, but an illegal formation penalty brought it back. As a sophomore, he was back to offensive line, which is kind of lame because I'd bet he was recruited to Northwestern with the promise of playing superback -- he was recruited by Northwestern's superback coach -- but, he's, like, kinda good at it. With Al Netter graduating, Patrick Ward took over the left tackle spot, leaving an opening at right tackle, and Konopka seized it, beating 6'7, 315-pound senior Chuck Porcelli for the starting gig. And he excelled during the year, rarely seeming a point of worry.
Anagram of choice
Discovering the Wildcats' true inner selves through spelling
Jack Konopka, anagrammed, is
Well, there are none which don't include the word "Jack", so, bummer. Way to have three k's in your name, bro.
Relevant musical selection
"Just a Friend", Biz Markie
Basically I saw the name of Konopka's high school and started singing this song to myself -- in a room, by myself, about a high school in suburban Illinois. Biz Markie is one of rap's silliest people, and although he wasn't a great rapper, he was funny, charismatic, and a huge part of defining hip-hop's culture when it was gaining mainstream traction. And I'll never, ever, ever get tired of hearing him sing the chorus here.
How he can help
I said up there that Konopka might be Northwestern's best player in a new role. Let me elaborate:
Saying it's important that Northwestern have a strong left tackle is like, an understatement. And Northwestern has been blessed: in 2008, the first in a string of bowl-eligible seasons, Al Netter started at left tackle, and he'd hold onto the spot for four years, making his way to the Super Bowl last year on the San Francisco 49ers' practice squad. And then Patrick Ward, at the time one of the most highly touted recruits in school history, slid over from right tackle to left tackle, doing a strong job in his only season protecting the blind side before signing with the Miami Dolphins.
Now, there's a gap. Ward's gone, and although Northwestern has the deepest, strongest corps of offensive linemen its ever had in its history -- I'll link to this by Inside NU again -- a lot of that is in the form of freshmen and redshirt freshman who have yet to play. Konopka is the only player on the team with a start at either tackle position.
Now, he'll be called upon to man that left tackle spot, one of the most important on the field. When Trevor Siemian's in the game, its important NU has somebody preventing him from getting tackled from his backside when he's dropped back to pass. And when Northwestern runs the option with Kain Colter, it's imperative that the dude on the left side of the line be athletic, strong, and smart.
Early returns on Konopka in both positions he's played indicate all three of those things. That's great news for Northwestern, but now Konopka has to go out on the field and prove he can be as effective in anchoring the line as he was in keeping things solid on the right side.
We have Konopka starting at left tackle, and its his position to lose.