As the great St. Louis born poet Cornell Haynes, better known as Nelly, explained in 2002: “what does it take to be #1? #2 is not a winner and #3 nobody remembers.” Or as Chicago native Kanye West told us, alongside Pharrell in 2006, “#1, can’t put nothing above that.”
The prestigious #1 jersey at Northwestern will go to Linebacker Anthony Walker in 2016.
Northwestern coaches and players identified a group of candidates to be numero uno this season. Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald presented the list candidates to the player-elected Leadership Council, and they decided that Walker should get the honor.
(You can check out our exclusive with Anthony Walker at Northwestern football Media Day below)
“The No. 1 jersey, in our program, is used to recognize the young man who truly embodies the values and character of the Northwestern football family” said Fitzgerald.
“It is worn by someone who consistently dedicates himself as a great teammate, an excellent student and an influential member of our community. It is more than a flashy number. Here it represents a way of life.”
(You can hear more about how Anthony Walker was awarded #1 in the NU Media Day press conference with Pat Fitzgerald around the 14:50 mark…later, there’s talk about Walker’s body development, from when arrived on campus to where he is right. That now begins at the 25 mark)
The tradition of the #1 jersey began in 2011 when Fitzgerald bestowed the honor to Bo Cisek. Defensive lineman Max Chapman donned the uniform for ‘Cats last year.
“The No. 1 jersey embodies the program, on the field and off the field,” Walker said.
“You have to make sure you’re doing everything to the standard of the Wildcat Way. To have the respect from my teammates and the coaching staff to wear the number is very humbling.”
Fitzgerald discussed Walker’s leadership at B1G Media Day:
“He’s done a terrific job of taking younger players, the rest of the defense under his wing, showing them how to prepare in the film room, in the weight room and then just how to carry yourself on a daily basis.”
Walker was named All-American last season after leading the Wildcats with 122 tackles. He ranked second in FBS in the regular season with 20.5 tackles for loss, the second-best mark in program history. He’s an early candidate to win B1G Defensive player of the year, and his NFL Draft stock is soaring.
He’s also been nicknamed “The Franchise” by teammate and running back Auston Anderson.
“The tag, the franchise was given to him by his teammates,” said Fitzgerald.
“I think that’s something that’s really neat. His teammates are having a blast with it. They’re totally making fun of him, which if you can’t laugh at yourself and have fun with things like that, that’s what college football is all about.”
“He’s got a lot to improve on, but he’s a sideline-to-sideline physical player that can play great in the run game and pass game. And had, what, 20-plus tackles for loss a year ago. Very talented player.”
I appeared on CLTV “Sports Feed,” at WGN Studios to talk a little Northwestern football, with Jarrett Payton. We were both in awe when revisiting Walker’s highlights.
Fitz added this while on the podium at B1G Media Day:
“He’s a returning all-American. He’s going to have a bull’s eye on his chest. He’ll see more people playing below his waist than maybe ever in his career.”
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.