Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach
Already the second-longest tenured Big Ten head coach at the age of 41, Pat Fitzgerald's 11 seasons at the helm of Northwestern have been spent building upon the tradition he helped establish as a Hall-of-Fame linebacker for the Wildcats in the mid-1990's. Characterized by his motivational skills, enthusiasm and passion for all things Northwestern, Fitzgerald has shaped Chicago's Big Ten Team into one that consistently achieves excellence in all three phases of the student-athlete experience: academics, athletics and community outreach.
Taking over as head coach in 2006 after the sudden passing of his friend and mentor, Randy Walker, Fitzgerald provided leadership and stability in a trying time and has continued Walker's legacy of producing winning football teams while preparing young men for long-term success in life.
Fitzgerald has led the Wildcats to seven bowl appearances in his 11 seasons and has guided the ’Cats to two of their three bowl wins in program history. Most recently, Chicago's Big Ten Team defeated No. 23 Pittsburgh in the 2016 New Era Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, 31-24. After a slow 1-3 start to the season, the Wildcats won six of their last nine games to finish the 2016 season with a winning record of 7-6 for the sixth time under Fitzgerald.
Assistant Coach (Linebackers)
Randy Bates has led the Northwestern linebackers for 11 seasons and has spent 36 years overall in the coaching profession. Bates assumed his current role at NU after Pat Fitzgerald was named the Wildcats' head coach in July, 2006.
Prior to arriving in Evanston, Bates spent six seasons at Louisiana Tech, serving as the team's defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2005.
Most recently, Bates help mold Anthony Walker, Jr., into one of the best linebackers and players in program history. An All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2015, Walker again earned all-conference honors as a junior before becoming the first player since 1996 to declare early for the NFL Draft.
Assistant Head Coach (Defensive Backs)
Jerry Brown, the dean of the Wildcat coaching staff, is in his 24th season with Northwestern. In January 2002, Brown was named assistant head coach. He also coaches the Wildcats' defensive secondary after serving as the defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2001.
Brown's coaching career includes stops at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. Before his return to Evanston in 1993, he served as an assistant on Jerry Burns' staff with the Minnesota Vikings, tutoring wide receivers in 1988 and 1989 and defensive backs in 1990 and 1991. The Vikings' defensive unit held opponents to the lowest passing yardage in the NFC in 1990.
Before moving to the professional ranks, Brown served eight seasons as an assistant at Cal State Fullerton. He coached the Titans' wide receivers during that time and also served as offensive coordinator for his last five seasons. Brown also coached defensive backs at Eastern Illinois for three years (1977-79) and coached at his high school alma mater, Roosevelt, in Kent, Ohio, from 1973-77. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Northwestern in 1972 under head coach Alex Agase.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Line)
Adam Cushing is in his 13th season on the Wildcat staff and his 11th as a full-time assistant. In February of 2009, he was promoted to offensive line coach after previously serving as the Wildcats' superbacks coach.
Cushing also made a name for himself on the recruiting front during his days as the Wildcats recruiting coordinator (2008-11), twice earning recognition from industry media members as one of the Big Ten's top recruiters (Rivals.com in 2007,ESPN.com in 2009).
In his first year in charge of the offensive line, Cushing molded a young group which gelled and excelled toward the end of the 2009 season. The line blocked for eventual fourth-round NFL Draft pick Mike Kafka and contributed to a record-breaking offensive performance in the 2010 Outback Bowl, where Kafka threw for a school-record 532 yards while NU broke the NCAA record for offensive plays in a game.
Veteran defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who has won 371 games as a college assistant coach and coordinator, recently concluded his ninth season with the Wildcats and his 46th college season overall. He began his Northwestern tenure Jan. 18, 2008.
Hankwitz immediately had a measurable impact in his first season in Evanston, making the Wildcats' defense the fifth-most improved unit in the nation in the 2008 campaign. After allowing 31.0 points per game in 2007, Northwestern surrendered just 20.15 in 2008 to rank 27th in the country and fourth in the Big Ten. The Wildcats also ranked in the top-30 nationally in sacks (18th), pass efficiency defense (25th) and tackles for loss (28th).
The Wildcats posted 20 defensive shutout quarters on the year and held four opponents to under 100 yards rushing -- including a school-record 4-yard performance against Ohio. In the 2008 Valero Alamo Bowl, Northwestern's defense held Missouri, which touted one of the nation's most potent offenses, to 286 yards of total offense and 17 points through four quarters of play (Missouri came into the game averaging 497.5 yards of offense per game and 43.2 ppg). The Wildcats eventually fell 30-23 in overtime to the Tigers.
Assistant Coach (Superbacks)
In February of 2009, Bob Heffner joined Pat Fitzgerald's staff to coach the Wildcats' superbacks (NU's hybrid position for its tight ends, h-backs and fullbacks), bringing with him more than 30 years of collegiate coaching experience to Evanston.
Tasked with replacing current Cleveland Browns starting fullback Dan Vitale, Heffner helped turn Garrett Dickerson into an all-league superback in 2016. Dickerson started all 13 games for the Wildcats, hauling in 34 catches for 318 yards and five touchdowns, including what proved to be the game winner in a 31-24 victory over No. 23 Pittsburgh in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. He ranked second among Big Ten tight ends with five touchdown catches.
Heffner's tutelage of NU's Drake Dunsmore over his first three years on staff represented a resounding success, culminating in Dunsmore being voted the inaugural winner of the Kwalick-Clark Big Ten Tight End of the Year Award in 2011. Dunsmore, who also was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection, became NU's career leader for receiving yards by a tight end and graduated with 1,567 yards on 143 catches.
Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)
Marty Long recently wrapped up his ninth season at the helm of Northwestern's defensive line after coming to the Wildcats prior to the 2008 campaign.
Long helped mentor one of the top pass rushers in program history in Ifeadi Odenigbo, who culminated his career with a First-Team All-Big Ten selection in 2016. Odenigbo led the Big Ten with 10 sacks during his senior campaign and finished his career ranked second in program history with 23.5 career sacks. He set a single-game record with four sacks at Iowa and recorded two more sacks in a win over Michigan State to become the first player in program history with multiple sacks in back-to-back games.
In his first year at NU, Long's defensive line was Northwestern's most-improved and impressive unit. Led by first-team All-Big Ten selection Corey Wootton at defensive end, the Wildcats ranked 18th in the nation and second in the conference in sacks with 2.62 per game. As an individual, Wootton led the team both with 10.0 sacks (21st in the nation) and 16.0 tackles-for-loss (35th in the nation). NU's five regular starters all had a minimum of 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss.
Assistant Coach (Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator)
A former defensive graduate assistant for Northwestern under Randy Walker, Matt MacPherson is entering his 12th season as the Wildcats' running backs coach and his fifth as the program's recruiting coordinator.
MacPherson has helped tutor three of the most explosive running backs in program history in Justin Jackson, Tyrell Sutton and Venrick Mark. Jackson and Sutton ranks second and third in program history in career rushing yards, while Mark is fourth in school history in all-purpose yards.
Jackson burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2014 and took the Big Ten by storm, rushing for 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was NU's leading rusher in all 12 games, with six 100-yard rushing performances (all against Big Ten opponents and Notre Dame). He was only the second freshman in program history to notch over 1,000 yards on the ground. His 98.9 yards per game were the fourth-most by a Power-5 conference freshman during the 2014 regular season and were sixth-most overall in the Big Ten.
Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
Mick McCall recently concluded his ninth season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Northwestern, where he has mentored an All-Big Ten quarterback in five of the last eight years. He began his Wildcat tenure on Jan. 17, 2008.
The 2016 season saw McCall and the Wildcats take strides forward with second-year signal caller Clayton Thorson at the helm. Thorson ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 3,182 passing yards and set a new NU single-season record with 22 passing touchdowns. His 3,182 passing yards were the most by a sophomore quarterback in program history and rank fourth on the NU single-season chart. The WIldcats offense ranked fourth in the league in passing offense and fifth in total offense with 398.2 yards per game.
In addition to Thorson's breakout campaign, senior wide receiver Austin Carr became just the third player since 1990 to lead the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Carr finished the 2016 campaign with a program record 1,247 receiving yards and tied the single-season record with 12 touchdowns. His 90 catches rank third in single-season history at NU. Carr combined with junior running back Justin Jackson as the only duo in the country to lead a conference in receiving yards and rushing yards as Jackson rushed for a career-high 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns, becoming the first player in program history to eclipse 1,000-plus yards in three consecutive seasons.
Assistant Coach (Wide Receivers)
Dennis Springer recently concluded his sixth year as Northwestern's wide receivers coach after joining the program on Jan. 31, 2011. He came to NU after spending the previous three seasons at Indiana University, serving as the assistant head coach and running backs coach, as well as the Hoosiers' co-special teams coordinator.
In his sixth season leading the Wildcats' receiving corp, Springer saw senior Austin Carr post arguably the greatest season by a receiving in program history. Carr became just the third player since 1990 to lead the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns and was named a finalist for the 2016 Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's top receiver. He set a new NU single-season record with 1,247 receiving yards, tied the program mark with 12 touchdown receptions and hauled in 90 catches, the third-best mark in program history.
In his first season in Evanston, Springer oversaw the continued growth of Jeremy Ebert into one of the most prolific wide receivers in the Big Ten. Ebert's 1,025 receiving yards in 2011 represent the first 1,000-yard season by a Wildcat pass-catcher since D'Wayne Bates in 1998 and the fourth-highest single-season total in school history. Ebert, a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the media who later was drafted by the New England Patriots, ranked second in the league with 11 touchdown catches and third with 5.9 catches per game.