June 5, 2014
Northwestern Medal of Honor All-Time Winners
EVANSTON, Ill. - This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal Of Honor, the Conference's most prestigious award, which was first presented in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work. Big Ten schools currently feature more than 8,200 student-athletes, but only 24 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In the 99 years of the Medal of Honor, over 1,300 student-athletes have earned this distinction.
NUsports.com caught up with several former Wildcats winners and asked what it meant to them to be part of this exclusive group of Big Ten Conference student-athletes. Our Q&A is with John Kidd, NU's all-time leader in career punt average (1980-83) and 1984 Medal of Honor recipient.
Name: John Kidd
Graduation year: 1984
College major: Industrial Engineering
Current location: Los Angeles, California
Current occupation: Telecommunications consulting and sales
In three paragraphs or less, tell us what you've been up to since you left Evanston:
Immediately after graduation, I started an NFL career that lasted for 15 years - mostly for the Buffalo Bills, San Diego and Miami Dolphins. During my last season, I played a couple of games for the Detroit Lions and then finished the year with the New York Jets. My last game was the Jets-Broncos AFC Championship Game in January 1999. During my football career I hosted my own football segment on local TV and in 2001 hosted a morning sports talk radio show in Miami.
In 2002, I formed my own consulting and sales company delivering voice and data network solutions to medium and enterprise level businesses. I continue to run that company and have also branched out into several entrepreneurial ventures.
I am married to Jackie Johnson (CBS Los Angeles) and have four children - Carolyn, Dillon, Garrett and Max. Carolyn graduated with honors in Advertising and Marketing from Michigan State and is now Director of Marketing at Drifire in Chicago. Dillon and Garrett are scholarship football players at Iowa and University of Miami, respectively, and my youngest son Max will be a senior in high school this fall...last chance for a Kidd at NU!
What was your personal athletic highlight during your time at Northwestern?
NU football had very few wins during my four years there. The highlight for me was being part of a group of talented and high quality guys who worked and fought through extremely difficult circumstances and never gave up. Many of my NFL friends who came from the Big Ten commented on how hard NU players hit and always played with intensity until the end of the game. I like to think that the fighting spirit of my teammates kept the program going through the lean years and was part of the foundation for the success the team has achieved since the 90's.
What is your favorite Northwestern sports memory as a spectator (either while you were in school or since)?
First, I have to say that I was a huge fan of NU sports teams while I was in school and watching my friends compete was one of my favorite things to do!
The silver lining of getting knocked out of the NFL playoffs in 1996 was getting to attend the Rose Bowl. My single favorite memory as a spectator was watching the game on the sideline alongside Lynn Swann (USC '74) who was covering the game as a sideline reporter for the TV broadcast. I was so very proud of the coaches and players for the season they had and reaching the #3 ranking and the Rose Bowl. Looking into the stands and seeing the purple of NU and watching the team play against such an iconic national power like USC was something I will never forget.
When Gary Barnett became the head coach, he discussed his plans for success with me and several other NU alums who were playing in the NFL at the time. To see his vision and effort reach fruition with a Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl appearance was amazing and something I know Gary didn't get enough credit for.
What does the Big Ten Medal Of Honor mean to you?
At NU there are many deserving candidates every year and I was very excited and thankful that I was chosen. Because it encompasses all sports and takes academics into account, it is something that I look back on with a lot of pride. My grandfather played football at Indiana University and is in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and my dad played football at Purdue. Big Ten athletics were followed and talked about in my family my whole life and that made the award even more meaningful to me.
What is your favorite non-sports memory of your time at Northwestern?
My sister Janet also went to Northwestern and was a freshman when I was a senior. Being there together is a great memory and we still follow the happenings at NU together.
Is there a person you met at Northwestern (teacher, coach, roommate, etc.) that had a sizable effect on you as a person? In your opinion, what makes Northwestern University special?
The commitment to excellence in academics, arts, and athletics without compromise makes NU a very rare and special place but ultimately it is the people who make it such a great place. I could write a book about all the people who impacted my life at NU but I'll keep it to just a few examples.
John Dundurs was my professor for an entry-level mechanical engineering class, part of the core curriculum all engineering students take at NU. I was having some difficulty and Prof. Dundurs took an incredible interest (and a lot of his personal time) to make sure I understood the material and succeeded in his class. Having someone globally recognized in the field of Civil Engineering helping out a fledgling engineering student is something I'll never forget. He taught me by example that no matter the level of achievement you reach in your field, you should always take time to pass your knowledge on to those who may just be starting out.
The two men responsible for getting me to Northwestern were Head Coach Rick Venturi and Quarterbacks Coach Nick Mourouzis. I learned a lot from both but what sticks out the most is their passion for Northwestern and Northwestern football. They loved NU and did their best to convey a sense of pride and tradition of being a Northwestern student athlete to all of us.
It was mostly out of tune, but singing the alma mater together in a quiet empty stadium after practice is a great memory. They were also passionate teachers of the game of football and the techniques to help players improve. Having their time cut short at NU was a crushing disappointment that they both overcame. Coach V had a long and successful NFL coaching career and Coach Nick became a successful and beloved head coach at Wabash. I learned a tremendous life lesson from the example set by both of them.
Steve Tasker was my roommate and teammate at Northwestern and we later became teammates with the Buffalo Bills. I had the opportunity to play with some great football players over my career including many NFL hall of famers and Steve is right up there with the best of them. Having the best special teams player in the history of the NFL chasing down my punts made my job a lot easier! Steve's example of what it means to be a friend for life has been one of the best blessings of my life and continues on.
When was the last time you were on campus?
It's been a couple years since my last visit but the class of '84 reunion is this fall and I'm looking forward to a fun weekend and a `Cats win!
How much purple is in your closet?
Longtime NU equipment man Bill Jarvis always made sure we had the best uniforms and plenty of purple in our lockers. Nothing has changed...I think I have purple for most any occasion!
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