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Best in 25 Years Series: Jackson is Northwestern's top RB

It's been 25 years since Northwestern's magical run to the Rose Bowl in 1995 revitalized the program. WildcatReport is celebrating that Silver Anniversary by finding out who's been the best player during that span at each position.


Just as he did on the field, Justin Jackson ran away from the competition.

In a WildcatReport poll, Northwestern's all-time leading rusher easily outran his competitors to claim the title of best Northwestern running back over the last 25 years.

Jackson, who played from 2014-17, received 67.9% of the ballots cast, more than three times the number of runner-up Darnell Autry (1994-96), who finished second with 22.3%. Damien Anderson (1998-01) was a distant third with 6.3%, while Tyrell Sutton (2005-08) finished last with 1.8%. There were only two votes for write-in candidates.

We figured that this vote would have all the drama of a North Korean election, and we were right. Jackson has a hammer lock on virtually all of Northwestern's career rushing marks, including attempts (1,142), rushing yards (5,440), rushing touchdowns (41), all-purpose yards (6,298) and total touchdowns (42).

Justin Jackson's Key Statistics
No. Yds. Avg. TDs











* Most all-time at Northwestern

BALLOT: Who was Northwestern's top running back over the last 25 years?

More than numbers, though, Jackson was a complete back. As a runner, he could "make you miss in a phone booth," as his head coach, Pat Fitzgerald liked to say. But he was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield and made himself into an effective blocker in pass protection.

In a testament to his durability and strength, he became the second Big Ten back in history to rush for over 1,000 yards in all four of his seasons. The only other guy to do it: Wisconsin 1999 Heisman winner Ron Dayne.

Jackson earned his "The Ballcarrier" nickname early in his career for how often Ryan Field PA announcer Gary Ross repeated the phrase, "Justin Jackson the ballcarrier" during games. Northwestern's offense often struggled during Jackson's career, but play-in, play-out, game-in, game-out, the Wildcats could depend on Jackson.

A fan favorite off the field, Jackson was gracious, well spoken and relentlessly good-natured. He managed to retain a bit of a boy-next-door quality even after he became a star.

Autry, the Sports Illustrated cover boy of Northwestern's back-to-back Big Ten title teams of 1995-96, provided the only real competition, as fans appreciated the numbers he piled up in just three years before leaving early to turn pro.

But in the end, Jackson dominated the poll as much as he did the gridiron.

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