As Northwestern head football coach Pat Fitzgerald prepares to begin his 10th season this fall as the leader of the Wildcats, NUsports.com wanted to hear from our loyal fans to decide who has been the best of the best on the gridiron during his tenure to date.
We wanted to know who belonged on the All-Fitz Team, a compilation of the top players who have honorably donned the Purple and White since Fitzgerald's first season as the head coach of Chicago's Big Ten Team in 2006. In order to be eligible for the prestigious squad, players had to be graduates of the program who played at least one season under Fitzgerald's guidance.
You the fans decided on the All-Fitz Team! Voting opened on Thursday, July 9, with the ballot broken down by position. Voters choose a quarterback, running back, superback/tight end, three wide receivers and five offensive linemen. On the other side of the ball, you selected four defensive linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties. From the special teams units, voters chose a kicker, a punter and a special teams standout.
The All-Fitz Team was unveiled at the end of July, leading into the Big Ten Media Days on July 30 and 31 and the start of the 2015 season.
Dan Persa (2008-11)
Dan Persa stood behind center at Northwestern and steadily climbed his way up the record book throughout his career. When it was finished, the QB was the NCAA career leader in completion percentage with a mark of 72.9 percent. A 2010 All-Big Ten First Teamer, Persa also ranks sixth in Northwestern history with 5,897 yards. He was also named to multiple Player of the Year Watch Lists in 2011 before earning a 2011 All-Big Ten honorable mention selection. He was also the team's 2010 Co-MVP.
Tyrell Sutton (2005-08)
Sutton finished his career in Evanston with his name dotted throughout Northwestern's record book. He earned All-Big Ten recognition four times, including in 2005 when he was a second-team honoree. Sutton ranks second in program history in career yards (3,886) and total touchdowns (37). He ranks fourth in career rushing touchdowns with 31 and the speedster ran for 100 yards or more 16 times. Sutton, the 2006 Northwestern co-MVP, played in 40 games in an NU uniform, starting 38 of those tilts.
Zeke Markshausen (2007-09)
Markshausen etched his name in the single-season record books at Northwestern in 2009. He caught 91 passes, which stands as the second-best single-season mark in program history and had 858 receiving yards, good for 10th. Markshausen was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and was named to ESPN The Magazine's Academic All-America team.
Jeremy Ebert (2008-11)
In 52 career games, with 35 starts, Ebert vaulted up Northwestern's record book, finishing third in program history with 2,400 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. He became only the third Northwestern wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season, doing so in 2011. Ebert earned a First Team All-Big Ten selection in 2010 and was a 2011 Biletnikoff candidate. He finished the 2011 season with Second Team All-Big Ten honors and played in the NFL from 2012-14.
Eric Peterman (2005-08)
Peterman made at least one catch in 29 straight games to end his career. He ranks fifth all-time at Northwestern in receiving yards (2,011) and eighth in touchdowns (12). Peterman led the team with 869 all-purpose yards in 2007 and was a 2008 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection. He played in the NFL from 2009-10.
Superback / Tight End
Drake Dunsmore (2007-11)
Not only did Dunsmore receive consensus All-Big Ten First Team recognition in 2011, but he was named the Big Ten Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year that season. Dunsmore was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award and he finished his NU career ranked fourth all-time with 14 receiving touchdowns. He made 29 starts in his 50 career games and he was one of two true freshmen to see the field in 2007.
Doug Bartels (2008-11)
Bartels was a former walk-on who earned a scholarship in 2008 and started the final nine games of that season. He started 25 games and played in 48 total. Bartels was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and earned Academic All-District honors three times.
Ryan Keenan (2003-06)
Keenan began his Northwestern career as a right guard but switched to tackle in 2006, where he started all 12 games of the season. He was the team's 2006 strength and conditioning champion.
Ben Burkett (2008-11)
Burkett made 52 consecutive starts at center and right guard in his Northwestern career. He was selected three times to the Rimington Trophy Watch List and was a 2011 Rotary Lombardi Award candidate.
Joel Belding (2005-08)
Belding started 24 games and proved to be versatile, splitting time in 37 games between center and guard. The 2007 Northwestern offense led the Big Ten in yards.
Brandon Vitabile (2011-14)
Vitabile was a four-year starter for Northwestern and started all 50 games of his career at center. He was twice named team captain and was selected Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in both 2013 and 2014. Vitabile earned the National Football Foundation's Scholar-Athlete Award in 2014 and was a 2014 Rimington Award candidate.
Corey Wootton (2006-09)
A 2008 All-Big Ten First Team selection, Wootton made 49 starts at Northwestern, which marked a record at the time of his graduation. He ranks third in program annals with 19.5 sacks and fourth with 38 tackles for loss. Wootton intercepted four passes during his career and he was the team's most valuable player in 2008. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2010 and has been playing professionally ever since.
Tyler Scott (2010-13)
Scott earned a second-team All-Big Ten nod in 2013 after receiving honorable mention status in 2012. Both years he was named Northwestern's co-MVP and he ranks sixth all-time in sacks at Northwestern with 16. Prior to the 2013 campaign, Scott was named to the preseason watch lists for several major awards, including the Nagurski, Lombardi and Hendricks awards.
Brian Arnfelt (2009-12)
Arnfelt served as an anchor on the defensive line between 2009-12. He appeared in 37 career games, making 47 tackles, including eight for a loss. He was a co-captain of the 2012 Wildcats, while earning Academic All-America second-team honors during that season. Arnfelt was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization in the NFL from 2013-14.
Jack DiNardo (2008-11)
DiNardo played in 40 games for the Wildcats, while making 22 starts during his career. The lineman recorded 73 tackles during his tenure, including 13.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Three of those sacks came during his senior season in 2011. DiNardo was also adept at blocking kicks, finishing with three during his time at Northwestern, including a pair in one game against Central Michigan in 2010.
Quentin Davie (2007-10)
Davie was a 2010 co-captain who started 39 of 49 career games for the Wildcats. He ranks tied for 10th all-time in program history with 10 sacks, and in 2010, Davie led the 'Cats with three interceptions. The linebacker was also named ESPN.com All-Bowl Team honorable mention following the Outback Bowl when he made nine tackles (2.5 TFL), a sack and a pass breakup against Auburn. Davie played in the 2011 NFLPA All-Star Game.
Nick Roach (2003-06)
Roach made 32 starts in 51 career games and was a 2006 co-captain and team MVP. He appeared in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2003. Roach finished his Northwestern career with 241 tackles (137 solo, 16 TFL) and two interceptions. He ranked third in the Big Ten in tackles per game in 2006 prior to a season-ending injury. Roach played in the NFL from 2007-14.
Chi Chi Ariguzo (2011-14)
Ariguzo was a three-time All-Big Ten honorable mention recipient for the Wildcats from 2011-14. He made 39 career starts while playing in 48 games. Ariguzo finished his collegiate career tied for 10th all-time at Northwestern with 333 tackles and tied for seventh in program history with five fumble recoveries. In May, he signed an NFL contract with the San Diego Chargers.
Sherrick McManis (2006-09)
McManis ranks seventh all-time at Northwestern with nine interceptions. His five INTs in 2009 led the Big Ten and ranked 8th nationally. He is seventh in the single-season Northwestern record book with 12 pass breakups in 2008. McManis was Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2008 and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors in 2009. He was also named the Northwestern team MVP in 2009. McManis was invited to the 2010 East-West Shrine Game and has played in the NFL since 2010.
Jordan Mabin (2008-11)
Mabin played in 51 career games, starting 49 of them, and was a co-captain of the 2011 Northwestern squad. He led the Big Ten in pass breakups in 2010 and ranks fourth in school history with 24. Mabin is tied for 12th in Northwestern history with seven interceptions. He earned Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selections in both 2010 and 2011 and has played in the NFL since 2012.
Ibraheim Campbell (2011-14)
Campbell was a mainstay in the defensive backfield at Northwestern from 2011-14. He earned three All-Big Ten recognitions, including a second-team nod following his senior season in 2014. The 2011 Freshman All-America selection finished his career ranked tied for fourth in program history with 11 interceptions and tied for fifth with 24 pass breakups. He started 45 of his 46 career games, and despite missing four games during his senior season, Campbell tied for the Big Ten lead with four forced fumbles in 2014. He was a quarterfinalist for the Lott Award in 2014 and selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Brendan Smith (2005-09)
A two-time team captain, Smith, earned All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2006 and 2008. He started 40 of his 45 career games and tied for 12th all-time at Northwestern with seven interceptions. Smith was the first Wildcat ever to play in and start three consecutive bowl games, doing so at the 2005 Sun Bowl, 2008 Alamo Bowl and 2010 Outback Bowl.
Jeff Budzien (2010-13)
Budzien holds several Northwestern records including career points (280) and field goal percentage (.872). The two-time Baaken-Andersen Big Ten Kick of the Year was a two-time All-Big Ten performer and a 2013 All-American. Twice Budzien was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award and he ranks second all-time in Wildcats history with 48 career field goals.
Slade Larscheid (2003-06)
Larsheid began his Northwestern career as a placekicker and ended it as one of the Big Ten's best punters in 2006. During his freshman season, Larsheid was 19-for-19 on extra points before becoming the first-string punter during his senior season in 2006. He led the Big Ten in punts that year and ranked fifth in the conference with 2,417 yards, good for a 37.2 yards per punt average.
Special Teams Standout
Phil Brunner (2006-08)
Brunner was the Northwestern long-snapper for three seasons. He was named to the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society in 2008 and was a CoSIDA Academic All-America selection his senior season.