Nov. 18, 2004
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Brett Basanez could have been on the visiting sidelines, wearing black and gold.
After all, growing up in Arlington Heights, Ill., he idolized current San Diego Chargers' quarterback and former Purdue Boilermaker Drew Brees.
"In high school I watched Drew every game," he says. "He was just the man. He ran that spread offense, which is what we ran (in high school), and he carved people up. He was just the guy."
His high school coach, Kevin Kelly, installed the Purdue offensive scheme at St. Viator.
"It was awesome. Running the spread is every quarterback's dream," he says. "When you are a high school quarterback throwing the ball 30-40 times a game, it really helps get your arm up to the college level."
And he definitely had a serious interest in the school.
"I really liked Purdue, I like what they do down there in West Lafayette," he said. "I went down there a lot. It was really high on my list."
"Purdue has some great academic programs, but overall, Northwestern is a better school and fit for me," he said. "I really like this football program and I wouldn't change (my decision) for the world."
The way this season is going for Basanez, neither would anyone else in the Northwestern football family.
In the Wildcats' first game this season--a 48-45 overtime loss at TCU--Basanez set school records for total yards (548) and passing yards (513). He led Northwestern to a 33-27 overtime win over Ohio State--NU's first against the Buckeyes since 1977. He drove the `Cats down the field in the waning seconds to defeat Kansas. Against Indiana, he directed a late fourth-quarter drive that allowed Brian Huffman to tie the game and send it to overtime.
But before all of that success, Basanez hit some serious roadblocks.
As a redshirt freshman in 2002, "Baz" started six of the Wildcats' first seven games before breaking his left fibula. After missing just two games, he returned to play the final three of the season. In the season finale against Illinois, he put together a 368-yard effort on 31-of-49 passing--the sixth-best passing day in NU history.
"We had some great guys like Jason (Wright) and Jon (Schweighardt)," Basanez said. "I was just a wide-eye kid going out there to play ball and have fun."
Having fun on a broken leg would set the tone for what has to be called at this point a resilient career for one heck of a tough kid.
As high as Basanez's final game of his freshman year was, he hit even lower lows personally as a sophomore. Despite leading the Wildcats to just their fifth bowl game in program history, Baz took a lot of heat for throwing 12 interceptions against just four touchdowns on the season.
To recapture the magic of his freshman campaign, he "did everything I did before, just more of it.
"I got in the weight room more, I lifted more weight, I watched more film," Basanez said. "I did all of that but tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I want everything to be perfect and having the guys support me through that has helped me come out and just play this year."
To a man, his teammates cite Basanez as one of the guys who put in the most off-season work--if not THE guy.
Not only has he spent all that time trying to improve himself, but Brett has a little brother, Kyle, who looks up to him for advice--and maybe pushes Brett a little bit, too.
"He's out at Orange Coast College in California right now, and he just sent me some of his film," Brett says. "Man he looks good. He throws the ball so hard. I'm happy he's not here because I'd be looking over my shoulder at him.
"We talk to each other all the time. He'll call and ask for advice and I'll ask him how I looked on TV. I would do anything I could to help him."
With today's matchup against an offensive scheme he ran in high school, Brett cannot help but do everything he can to help the Wildcat defense, either.
"Jeff (Backes) and I are great friends and I might be at fault for some of his mistakes today," Basanez laughs. "I always try to give my advice. I don't know how much it is warranted, but I always have to put my two cents in."
Warranted or not, with the experience Basanez has gained in his development as a football player, people are listening.