Pat Fitzgerald introduced the concept of the Leadership Council at Northwestern prior to the 2007 season. Ten players --- at least two per class ---met with Fitzgerald on a consistent basis.
In 2008, when Fitzgerald and his staff started the Wildcat Games as a way to keep his players competing throughout the offseason, the members of the Leadership Council served as the captains for the eight-man teams. That added some cachet to their jobs.
This offseason, Fitzgerald threw a wrinkle into the Leadership Council process. Rather than throwing everyone’s name on the ballot and allowing the Wildcats to vote for whomever they pleased, he asked all interested candidates to fill out an application.
“That was a big change,” Fitzgerald said. “Not fill out a resume, but answer 7 or 8 questions on why they should belong on there. And that group of guys went on the ballot. We just said, ‘Let’s just really see who wants to do it.’ ”
More than half of the 2011 spring roster applied to be on the Council. Fitzgerald kept the contents of the questionnaires to himself, but he thought he received a new window into some of his players. Especially the ones that went long with their answers and took them in unexpected directions.
“A lot came out of that exercise,” Fitz said. “Who applied. Who didn’t apply. The answers that some guys replied with and learned more about them. Talking and opening up some dialogue with some guys who did not apply --- and why they did not apply.
“I learned a lot more about some younger guys on the team that maybe haven’t played yet, but want that kind of responsibility. That was encouraging to me. Very encouraging to me.”
This year, Fitzgerald bumped up the Leadership Council to 11 players. The redshirt freshmen are co-captaining a Wildcat Games team, which allows them to keep that at 10 eight-man teams.
If you want to read much more about the Council, point your browser to nusports.com on Wednesday for Hall of Famer Skip Myslenski’s feature. If I’m not mistaken, he talked to some of the seniors -- including one whose Achilles' tendon is healing nicely -- and they offered some intriguing insights.
Anyway, here are the Wildcats voted to the 2011 Leadership Council. The guys with the asterisks next to their name are repeat selections:
SB Drake Dunsmore
CB Jeravin Matthews*
LT Al Netter*
QB Dan Persa*
S Brian Peters*
OG Brian Mulroe
DE Quentin Williams*
WR Mike Jensen*
DL Tyler Scott (fixed)
LB Collin Ellis
OT Paul Jorgensen
I find it interesting that these 11 guys represent seven different states --- eight if you count Netter being from Northern California (Rohnert Park) and Jensen being from Southern California (Rancho Santa Fe).