NU’s Mike Kafka, Sherrick McMannis get picked in NFL Draft

mike kafka
sherrick mcmannis northwestern

By Paul M. Banks

Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka, the man whose production accounted for an overwhelming proportion of the team’s offense in 2009, heard his name called on NFL Draft day.

As did Sherrick McMannis, who was perhaps the best overall athlete in the Wildcats secondary last season.

Kafka (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) was selected in the fourth round of the National Football League Draft Saturday morning going to the Philadelphia Eagles as the 122nd selection.

“Mike going to Philly, we thought that would happen, I thought it was going to be Cleveland or Philadelphia and when Cleveland took Colt yesterday, I thought he would end up in Philadelphia, and I couldn’t be more excited for him,” NU Head Caoch Pat Fitzgerald said.

“To see his  growth and to have this happen for him, I couldn’t be more pleased,” Fitz said.

Kafka’s height and athleticism, and ability to move around the pocket and create plays with his legs made him a very draftable commodity. In this era of the NFL, a QB with a lot of mobility is no longer a luxury, but instead a prerequisite.  Kafka possesses only average arm strength, but he gets the ball out extremely quickly, and he’s very accurate.

For an exclusive interview and in-depth profile of Kafka, go here

Kafka finished as the eighth all-time leading passer in Northwestern history with 4,265 yards through the air after racking up 3,430 in his senior year, third-most in a single season in NU history. He led the Big Ten in passing yards (263.8 ypg), total offense (286.8 ypg), completions (24.5 pg), completion percentage (.648) and fewest interceptions thrown (2.44 percent of all attempts) on his way to earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and media.

“Mike worked his absolute hardest every day he was a member of our program and I have no doubt he’ll give the same effort in Philadelphia” Fitzgerald said.

Kafka closed his career in remarkable fashion at the 2010 Outback Bowl, throwing for four touchdowns and a school-record 532 yards in a thrilling 38-35 overtime loss to Auburn. His 532 passing yards — the fourth-highest total by a quarterback in NCAA bowl history — came courtesy of 47 completions on 78 attempts. He totaled an NCAA-record 98 offensive plays (78 passes, 20 rushes) vs. Auburn.

Following his senior season, Kafka played in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game (Jan. 23, 2010) in Orlando, Fla., where he led the East Team to a 13-10 come-from-behind victory. The signal-caller completed 18-of-27 passes for 150 yards and a TD in the game.

Kafka was the fifth quarterback taken in this year’s Draft, behind Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Tim Tebow (Florida), Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame) and Colt McCoy (Texas).

The 13th pick in round 5 (144 overall), Sherrick McMannis went to the Houston Texans.

He fell down some draft boards because of a hamstring pull, and limited participation in combine week and pro day activities. But he’s a smart, technically sound corner who could see some time on the field in certain sub-packages for the Texans.

“I was really nervous for Sherrick, not being able to run a 40, but going in the fifth round, had he been able to run he probably would have gone in the 3rd,” Fitz said.

McManis, who earned 2009 team co-MVP honors with Kafka, led the Wildcats and Big Ten with five interceptions (0.5 per game), including one each in his first three games back from an early-season injury. McManis also led the Big Ten and ranked 14th in the nation in passes defended per game (1.2). Despite missing three games, he still was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media (second team coaches) and He also earned Northwestern’s 2009 Sportsmanship Award earlier in the year.

“Sherrick is an outstanding talent, and like Corey and Mike, is only going to get better and has a bright professional football future,” said Fitzgerald. “He had to battle through some leg injuries this year, but his attitude never wavered and remained positive. I’m really excited for him.”

Since the NFL Draft was reduced to seven rounds in 1994, this is the sixth time the Wildcats have had three players drafted in the same year. NU also had three players drafted in 1997, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2006.

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