Nov. 18, 2000
By BRIAN NEMEROVSKI
Northwestern Media Services Office
When Dwayne Missouri came to Northwestern in the fall of 1996, the team was on its way to a second consecutive Big Ten championship. Gary Barnett was the coach. As Missouri's tenure has shown, a lot can change in five years.
"Through this college career, I've probably seen everything a college player could possibly see," he said recently. "Bowl games, 3-8 seasons, coaching changes -- we've been through a lot.
"But it's been worth it."
Today's matchup against Illinois marks the final home game for nine Northwestern seniors. Included in that group are three fifth-year defensive linemen, Missouri, fellow end Conrad Emmerich and tackle Javiar Collins.
While Missouri and Collins have been mainstays on the line -- each is in his third year as a starter -- Emmerich switched from linebacker late last year to become a starter this season. He credits the entire unit for making his transition easier.
"It's worked real well for us," the Foley, Minn. native says. "When I came in this year, I'd never played D-line before. But we've all grown together."
Defensive line coach Jack Glowik, who followed head coach Randy Walker to NU from Miami of Ohio before last season, says the group of seniors is a special one.
"They are fine young men, all three of them," Glowik says. "They work hard in practice, and they work well together because they've been able to take a lot of snaps together."
Missouri says having so much experience on the line helps the unit make adjustments on the fly.
"Sometimes, out on the field, stuff doesn't always work the way it's called," he said. "But we've been playing together so long you just know where somebody's going to be. Now, we just naturally work stuff out on the field. It's great to know what kind of moves, what kind of talents the person next to you has."
Emmerich agrees. "I can just look into D-Mo's eyes or Javiar's eyes and know exactly what they're thinking," he says.
Individually, the three seniors represent very different styles of play. At 6-6, 310 pounds, Collins -- a Minnesotan, like Emmerich -- is a powerful run-stopper. He has racked up 120 tackles in his NU career, including 46 this year. But the big man also uses his power to get past blockers into the backfield. This season alone, he has nine tackles for loss including two sacks.
Emmerich has gotten bigger since his linebacking days, and now fills his 6-5 frame with 270 pounds. He has proven to be a solid tackler, leading the line in unassisted takedowns this season with 30. But not all of Conrad's strengths show up on the stat sheet. His unselfishness and leadership skills prompted Walker to name Emmerich one of the team's two permanent captains for the 2000 season (another fifth-year senior, cornerback Harold Blackmon, is the other).
But it's Missouri -- who goes by `D-Mo' -- who has garnered most of the attention this season, from the media as well as from opposing offenses. Using a remarkable combination of speed and athleticism, the Texan has proven to be one of the most successful defensive linemen in school history. In just his second career start, in 1998 against Duke, Missouri came up with his first sack as a Wildcat. Since then, he has dropped the quarterback a whopping 15 times, good for third place on the schools' all-time list. His 42 career tackles for loss also place him third in NU history (although with one more, D-Mo will pass former `Cat great Matt Rice). In 1999, Missouri received second team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media. He will likely receive greater recognition after this season.
The senior linemen worked together to produce one of the biggest defensive plays of Northwestern's magical 2000 season. Two weeks ago, with the `Cats trailing Michigan by two points early in the fourth quarter, Missouri forced a fumble with a crushing hit on Wolverine quarterback Drew Henson. Collins recovered the loose ball, securing the first turnover of what had been an offensive shootout. On the ensuing NU possession, Tim Long gave Northwestern its first lead with a field goal. The `Cats would go on to win 54-51.
The normally stoic Glowik allows himself a rare grin as he recalls that play. "I was so happy D-Mo was in position to knock the ball out and Javiar was in position to fall on it. For us to recover, man, that was great."
Collins' linemates, though merely saw the fumble recovery as another opportunity to poke fun at the big guy.
"Yeah, I got a lot of flak for just falling on the ball like that," Collins admits. "But I just wanted to secure the ball."
"I wanted him to pick it up and start running with it," Emmerich says, jokingly. "That way, I could have stripped it out of his hands and taken it in myself."
"It wouldn't have mattered what he wanted to do," Collins says in his own defense. "I'm faster than he is, so I would have gotten into the end zone first."
While they may not agree as to who would win in a footrace, Emmerich and Collins both cite the bonds formed with fellow players as the high point of their half-decade at Northwestern.
"The highlight of my time here has just been my experiences with my teammates," Collins says. "I've grown to love all the fourth- and fifth-year seniors, and the younger guys, too."
"Looking back, I've really enjoyed my time here. I've had some great memories," Emmerich remarks. "Some of the friendships and relationships I've had here I'll take with me for the rest of my life.
"You've got 75, 85 guys you practice with every day -- it's like a big family. I'm going to miss the family atmosphere."