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    Northwestern's Home Opener: A Win for the 'Cats and the Fans

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Kickoff Kid Sawleh Waraich was pure hustle while retrieving the kicking tee during NU's August 30 game against Syracuse.
    Kickoff Kid Sawleh Waraich was pure hustle while retrieving the kicking tee during NU's August 30 game against Syracuse.

    Sept. 8, 2008

    EVANSTON, Ill. -- As part of the annual North Shore Community Day during NU's home opener Aug. 30 against Syracuse, the Wildcats made special plans at the for the members of community beginning with discounted tickets to the game. Area alums and students from other Chicagoland universities also were part of the North Shore Community Day as they joined the current NU students in the WildSide Student Section to help fill in since school isn't in session yet for the 'Cats.

    Fans got an early start to the day by greeting the team two-and-a-half hours before the game on Walker Way as part of Walk With Us, a tradition that began in 2006 to honor Randy Walker. Once the team arrived, fans headed to Wildcat Alley to enjoy interactive games, face painting, the AthletiCo Skill Zone, phone engraving by U.S. Cellular, photos with the Wildcats' Big Ten Championship trophies, Wildcat giveaways, chances to win prizes like Krakus Ham and popcorn compliments of U.S. Cellular, the Goose Island Beer Garden, Hecky's BBQ and much more.

    Young Northwestern fans get their faces painted at Wildcat Alley

    Winners from some of the Wildcat Alley activities included Goose Island Pub Trivia: Jeffrey Price; the AthletiCo Skill Zone winners: 40-Yard Dash (6 years and younger: Hanna Lipman; ages 7-11: Ryan Doney; ages 12-15: Mitch Esparza); Shuttle Run (6 years and younger: Chad Berg; ages 7-11: Jack Berg; ages 12-15: Jason Driscoll); and Vertical Jump (6 years and younger: Lou Passeau; ages 7-11: Charlie Yale; ages 12-15: Jason Driscoll).

    Last week Wildcat Alley also featured special appearances by the Wildcat men's soccer team, the Wildcat wrestling coaches, Willie the Wildcat, the cheerleaders and the pep band.

    As kickoff approached select members of the North Shore Community were invited on the field to form the tunnel for the team to run through to start the game. Once the team was on the field, Julia Belsky, the daughter of Highland Park mayor Michael Belsky, sang the National Anthem. After the anthem Mayor Belsky, Mayor Lorraine Morton of Evanston, Village President Christopher Canning of Wilmette, Mayor Michael Belsky of Highland Park, Village President Kerry Cummings of Glenview, Mayor Krista Kovarik of Gurnee and Village Trustee Frank Charlut of Northfield were named honorary captains. With this honor, they were on the field with Wildcat captains Eric Peterman, C.J. Bacher, Brendan Smith and Prince Kwateng for the coin toss to determine the start of the game.

    Selected members of the North Shore Community took the field prior to the Syracuse game.

    With the Wildcats' kickoff, Wildcat Kids' Club member Sawleh Waraich was selected as the Kickoff Kid of the game. As one of the many perks of the club, all Wildcat Kids' Club members are eligible to win the honor of retrieving the Wildcats' tee. One member is randomly selected before every home game. Click here for more information or to join the Wildcat Kids' Club today.

    Fans didn't need to be on the field to be part of the action. The first 10,000 fans into the game received the Wildcat Winning Offers Card, which gives fans a chance to win prizes throughout the every game this season. The prizes included an official 2008 Football Team photo, $5 off the Willie the Wildcat Create-A-Cat stuffed animal, a game ball autographed by Coach Fitzgerald and a dollar off concessions at Ryan Field. Fans also can enter the season-long contest to win the Wildcat MVP Contest presented by U.S. Cellular. One lucky fan will be named the Wildcat MVP and will sit in the luxurious stadium club with three guests for U.S. Cellular Day against Illinois on November 22. The winner will have a VIP tour before the game, will be named the honorary captain, will receive Wildcat gear and more!

    U.S Cellular will also be giving away a free cell phone at every home game. Another lucky seat promotion is the ESPN Zone Best Seat in the House where two fans are randomly selected to upgrade to the ESPN Zone Dream Seats recliners located in the Wildcat Den. Those winners also take home ESPN Zone prize packs worth more than $150. The winners at the August 30th game were Rick and Aldean Mellon.

    Fans didn't sit for long with the exciting game to stand up and cheer, as well as making noise for the free stuff the Wildcats were throwing out that day. The members of the Wildcat men's soccer team were the guest t-shirt slingers for the Vienna Beef Hot Dog Hail Mary promotion. Inside every Vienna Beef shirt tossed by the soccer team was a coupon for free Vienna Beef hot dogs. That wasn't the only food being given away. Willie the Wildcat delivered Lou Malnati's pizza boxes to screaming fans. Each box contained a t-shirt with one lucky box containing a $25 gift card for Lou Malanti's.

    The crowd stayed on its feet for the Krakus Ham Cam, which featured the wildest fans on the video board during select timeouts. The fun continued with the Wildcat Dance Party at halftime that featured an array of dance songs and movie clips that kept fans dancing until the start of the second half. Members of the Wildcat football team also were part of the Dance Party with previously recorded video of the players doing the Electric Slide and the Macarena.

    Former Wildcat great Darnell Autry was on hand to sign autographs during the Syracuse game.

    For the dancers and the wallflowers, there was even more entertainment at halftime on Randy Walker Terrace. The Wildcat men's soccer assistant coaches, Andy Fleming and Michael Bonelli, were the featured coaches for the Chipotle Challenge. Fans played bean bags against the coaches, and if they beat the coach they won a free burrito coupon from Chipotle. Also on Walker Terrace was Wildcat great Darnell Autry, who signed autographs and took pictures with the 1995 and 1996 Big Ten Trophies at the start of halftime until the end of the third quarter. Fans who purchased the official game day program featuring former Wildcat running backs also received a commemorative running backs poster for Autry to sign. Each week the game program will focus on a different position and will include a commemorative poster of that position.

    Former and current Northwestern student-athletes are incredible role models who appreciate fan support and love giving back to the community and Wildcat Football games are a great place to show this. Michael "Juice" Thompson, Craig Moore and Luka Mirkovic from the men's basketball team roamed the stadium last Saturday talking with fans and randomly selecting people to receive free food from the concession stands. Also on hand at the game were the members of the cross country team, who were honored during the game for logging over 350 volunteer hours in the community, as well as the highest grade point average of all of the 19 varsity teams for the entire year, including over a 3.6 for the Spring quarter.

    Northwestern's cross country team was honored during the Syracuse football game for their high team GPA and their community service.

    The Wildcat football team also had its chance to show its appreciation for the fan support by singing the fight song with the student section immediately following the Wildcats' victory. Join in this Northwestern tradition after every NU victory at Ryan Field.

    Another tradition after a Wildcat victory is turning the light of the Crown Clock Tower on campus from white to purple. After the game on August 30th, loyal season ticket holder Hal Stewart won the opportunity to do this after putting in the highest bid at the Northwestern Gridiron Network Auction last April. Stewart made his way to the basement of the Crown Center to flip the switch to turn the Clock Tower purple for the 'Cats. Keep cheering on the 'Cats to keep the clock purple all season long.