Dec. 2, 2001
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Senior quarterback Zak Kustok (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg), who concluded his career with a record-setting senior season, was tabbed the Wildcats' 2001 Most Valuable Player at Sunday evening's Northwestern Gridiron Network Football Banquet. The event was held in front of a capacity crowd at Evanston's Omni-Orrington Hotel.
Kustok, one of two Wildcat captains, concluded his illustrious career with a school-record and Big Ten-leading 3,272 yards of total offense. Nationally, he ranks 10th in that category. A finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Kustok completed 231-of-404 (57.2 percent) passes for 2,692 yards and 20 touchdowns. On the ground, he gained 580 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
One of the evening's highlights was the presentation of the first Rashidi Wheeler Award. Named in honor of Wheeler, the Wildcats' safety that died during a conditioning drill on Aug. 3, the award will be given to a player that best represents the spirit and enthusiasm of Wheeler. Appropriately, the award went to senior linebacker Kevin Bentley (North Hills, Calif./Montclair Prep), one of Wheeler's closest friends. Bentley led the Wildcats in tackles (13.3 per game) and ranked third in the Big Ten.
Besides the Wheeler Award, head coach Randy Walker made a special presentation to running back Damien Anderson (Wilmington, Ill./Wilmington). Although Anderson's season was cut short due to a shoulder injury, he still concluded a spectacular career that saw him finish sixth on the Big Ten's all-time rushing list (4,485 yards). He is Northwestern's all-time leader in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns (38).
Other awards that were handed out included: the NGN Offensive Newcomer of the Year: wide receiver Ashton Aikens (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Country Day), the NGN Defensive Newcomer of the Year: safety Dominique Price (Jeffersontown, Ky./Dupont), the George W. Ballantine Award (given for enthusiasm and leadership): wide receiver Kunle Patrick (Brooklyn, N.Y./Poly Prep Country Day), who led Northwestern with 56 receptions, the Thomas Airth Spirit Award: linebacker Billy Silva (San Diego, Calif./St. Augustine), the Wildcats' second-leading tackler, the Carnig Minasian Citizenship Award: tight end David Farman (Austin, Texas/Westwood), the Wildcat Warrior Award (for work ethic, toughness and attitude of a warrior): center Austin King (Cincinnati, Ohio/Purcell Marian), who captured the award in 2000, and the Marcel Price Award (given to the player who best exemplifies the enthusiasm and dedication to the Wildcat program and is symbolic of Price's desire): offensive guard Jeff Roehl (Orland Park, Ill./Carl Sandburg).
Also honored was senior defensive end Napoleon Harris (Dixmoor, Ill./Thornton), the Wildcats' 2001 defensive captain.