Sept. 22, 2010
By Skip Myslenski
NUsports.com Special Contributor
Back in the mid-'70s, after spending a year as the psychiatrist of the San Diego Chargers, a doctor by the name of Arnold Mandell authored a book called The Nightmare Season. It included his personality profile for each position on the field and here is part of what he said about wide receivers. "(They) share many features with actors and movie stars. . . They love to be the center of attention. They need to be noticed."
There are no divas among the 'Cat wide receivers and certainly none that calls attention to himself like that preening pair in Cincinnati named Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Yet, if Mandell is to be believed, their very genes draw them toward the soft glow of the spotlight that finds them rarely and regularly bathes others. Always, it seems, they are the 'Cats-under-question, the unknown quantity, the bit players in their frenetic offense, and so it is no wonder that one of them, the sophomore Demetrius Fields, will say, "I guess we have a chip on our shoulders. But it's also a testament to the tradition of Northwestern and the receiver corps.
"It's like that every year and that's why there is a chip on our shoulder. We're overlooked constantly, consistently. But we've still got that tradition, that pride in the receivers past. That puts us in a position to have an eternal chip on our shoulders whether we're recognized or not recognized, whether we're noticed or not noticed."
"We'd be lying to you if we said we didn't read the newspapers and the magazines and stuff. We do from time to time," adds another of them, the senior Sidney Stewart. "But at the end of the day, we don't look for outside gratification. We bring things internally and we compete with one another. I'm constantly competing with D. Fields and he's two years younger than me, and he's constantly competing with me. That's what develops the chip. It's not a chip necessarily to the outside world. It's between each other. That's how I view it. Other people may view it differently."
"No one really knows us. No one really gives us the respect we think we deserve," concludes a third of them, the junior Jeremy Ebert
. "So we have to go out there and play like our hair's on fire. Just play Wildcat football, go out there like we have something on our shoulder. That's why we've performed so well so far this season. We always have that in the back of our head, the wide outs. We are who we are. We know how good we can be and that gives us something to work for every week."
She was a beauty long ago and even now, two days past her 76th birthday, she is a beauty still. So Sophia Loren can be considered an expert witness when she testifies, "Sex appeal is 50 percent what you've got and 50 percent what people think you've got."
"The numbers don't lie and, year in, year out as of late, we've proven we could do it," Demetrius Fields is saying. "If you look at what's really going on, you know."
If, indeed, you do look at what has recently gone on, you see this. You see that, in 2008, 'Cats Ross Lane and Eric Peterman were fifth and sixth in the Big Ten in receptions-per-game and that, in yards-per-game, Peterman was seventh and Lane was 10th. Then you see that, in 2009, Zeke Markshausen was second and Andrew Brewer was eighth in receptions-per-game and that, in yards-per-game, Brewer was fourth and Markshausen was fifth.
That is not only the tradition cited by Fields. It is also a tradition so many don't know about when looking at the 'Cat wides, which is one reason why they have both their chip and little sex appeal. But, says their position coach Kevin Johns, "I think that's a product of a lot of things. Go back to recruiting. A lot of these guys didn't get recruited by USC and Florida and Oklahoma. This is their stage to prove what they can do. We know we can go out and run fast. We know we can go out and make plays. And we enjoy going out and showing them."
Is this talked about in their room?
"Not really. What we talk about more is our expectations of the wide receiver group and how we have to come through for our team in order for us to be successful."
What are those expectations?
"To be the best in the Big Ten, I think like every position group. . . We take great pride in what we do and how we do our offense. What we've tried to do in our room is set a standard that has been passed on from year to year. Two years ago it was Peterman and Ross Lane and Rasheed Ward who left. Well, Brew and Zeke stepped up. Now Brew and Zeke are gone. Well, Jeremy Ebert and Sid, now it's their turn to step up. I think our guys take more pride in that than what any outside sources say. We just worry about going out and doing the best that we can."
Last summer, in the wake of the departures of Peterman and Lane and Ward, Stewart labeled the 'Cat wides "The No Names." And this year? "Just keep watching. Just keep watching," he says with a smile.
The stats of the 'Cat wides are tempered this season by both the egalitarianism of their attack and the presence of superback Drake Dunsmore, who's a super weapon and their leading receiver. Still. Ebert is second in the Big Ten in yards-per-game and tied for eighth in receptions-per-game and right behind him are Stewart and Fields, who are each just one catch per-game short of cracking the conference's Top Ten.
So, again, they are producing and building on tradition, but again the spotlight spurns them while it shines on others from schools with more-renowned football names. That, we suggest to Stewart, could be another reason his group lacks sex appeal, that they are not affiliated with names like (to use Johns' citations) USC and Florida and Oklahoma.
"Me personally, I've looked at tape," he says, but then he pauses.
"Now I don't want to say this the wrong way," he now says before pausing again.
"But I've never looked at any other receiver and thought he's outright, overtly better than me," he finally concludes. "I think we all have that. I think Jeremy Ebert is just as fast as anybody anywhere. I think D. Fields is going to get off press against any team. Maybe outsiders look at us as we're not a USC. But look at the film, look at the pass completions, look at all these things.
"We know that. We don't go around and boast about it. We understand how we have to keep working and keep working and keep working. But I think, around game seven, game eight, people will eventually start coming around."
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