Mike Kafka: Northwestern’s Record Setting QB

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By Paul M. Banks

This fall Northwestern breaks in a new starting quarterback, one with a few starting games under his belt. One of those games was extraordinary.

“All Mike Kafka did last year with his opportunity was run for a Big Ten single-game record (for a quarterback) 217 yards. You’ll see if you come out to practice that he’s throwing the ball as well as he has in his career and we’re excited to have a Chicagoan, a St. Rita graduate leading our program,” Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said at Northwestern Media Day.

Because of his performance in that single game, a 24-17 win at nationally ranked Minnesota, Kafka was named an AT&T All-America Player of the Week candidate, Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week and earned an ESPN College Gameday “Helmet Sticker.”

Because of that publicity, and the fact that it’s the only major national ink Kafka has acquired to date, he’s earned a reputation as a Randall Cunningham type, run-first style quarterback. I asked him what he thinks of that designation. “It’s a nice little label, but…everyone’s going to have opinions on you, and I can throw the ball too,” he responded.

Coach Fitz vouched for Kafka’s passing ability, as a complement to the scrambling that he’s known for. “We’re going to ask Mike to run our offense and if that involves running then that’s what we’re going to do. But as I’ve said, he completed more passes than anyone wants to give him credit for last year, right around 70 percent. Mike can throw it well, we’ll spread it out and I think he’s a true definition of a dual-threat quarterback.”kafkadualthreat

But that credit is slowly trickling in for Kafka, as he’s just one of 20 quarterbacks nationally, three from the Big Ten, named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list. And his passing accuracy is reflected by the fact that he’s completed 62 percent of his career pass attempts. Kafka’s QB role model is a player who was certainly not known for scrambling.

“One of the guys I look up to is Brett Favre, I love the way he plays the game and I try to model my game around his.” This fall, Kafka will have a chance to disprove (or re-affirm) the idea that he’s strictly a “running quarterback.” So I asked him if there was anything else he had read or heard about himself in the mainstream media which he found grossly inaccurate.

“I leave that up to my parents, a lot of parents like reading that kind of stuff, but I really don’t read into it. I’m pretty confident in my abilities, I know I what I need to do. I know my teammates got my back, and I got their back, so that’s all that matters to me,” he responded.

Of course, in this age and day of web 2.0 and social media; opinions, facts, rumors, hints, allegations and things left unsaid, but implied get around more rapidly than ever. I asked the NU QB if he gets involved with things like Facebook, Twitter and the like.

“In the past I’ve had one. I still have a Facebook page, but I don’t check it that often, I’m thinking about just erasing it because it’s kind of a waste of time…I don’t care about it that much and it would kind of be a distraction throughout the season,” he replied.