Aug. 4, 2008
Jack Rudnay Video
Watch Rudnay address the Wildcats before practice
Watch Rudnay discuss his feelings about addressing the team
Watch Rudnay talk about what NU means to him
Watch Rudnay discuss what it's been like watching the NU program grow since his departure
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's football squad officially hit the gridiron for the first time Monday in preparation for the upcoming 2008 season. Whether it was among first-year Wildcat players getting their first taste of Big Ten football or coaches who have lost count of their "first days," `excitement' proved to be the word on everyone's lips.
"I've never been around a team that wasn't excited on day one," said third-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "Guys are enthusiastic but now is when the real grind of the preseason starts."
For Fitzgerald, Monday also meant a chance to assess where his team stands in terms of conditioning and off-season preparation.
"I was happy with the way we came back in shape," Fitzgerald said. "It's just one practice down with about 25 or so left to get ready for Syracuse (on Aug. 30), and more importantly to get this team prepared for where it needs to be."
The practice began with an unplanned visit to the team by Jack Rudnay, a former Wildcat and fourth-round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969 who spent 14 seasons in the NFL. Rudnay spoke to the team about the opportunities in life afforded to him by his scholarship to Northwestern University, calling it "the best business deal I ever made."
"Unfortunately while I was at Northwestern we didn't have much of a winning tradition, but I learned as an offensive lineman to win my own battles," Rudnay said. "That's been highly influential in my life because as we all know, we win some and we lose some. I never would have survived if it wasn't for what I learned from my coaches, my teammates and my athletic experience beginning here."
The Wildcats worked through a series of drills and simulated game situations, emphasizing the fundamentals and attention to detail. The offense and defense also came together in a spirited seven-on-seven game that saw both upperclassmen and newcomers seizing the chance to make an impression on the coaching staff.