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Best in 25 Years Series: Padgett is Northwestern's top guard

Ryan Padgett
Ryan Padgett

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.

BEST IN 25 YEARS SERIES: QB Dan Persa l RB Justin Jackson l WR D'Wayne Bates l TE Drake Dunsmore l OT Zach Strief

Dr. Ryan Padgett was in the headlines recently for his harrowing experience battling COVID-19.

Now, he's back on our front page for a much more enjoyable reason: Padgett is the fans' choice as the best Northwestern guard over the last 25 years.

Padgett, a three-plus-year starter for Northwestern from 1992-95, won 48.1% of the vote to capture the title. His teammate, Justin Chabot, and Jeff Roehl were next with 18.5% apiece, and Brian Mulroe captured 11.1%. Just 3.7% of voters cast their ballots for other candidates.

Padgett was a captain of the 1995 Rose Bowl team and one of six Wildcats who were named first-team All-Big Ten that season.

He took over the starting job during the 1992 season as a redshirt freshman in head coach Gary Barnett's first year in Evanston. Three years later, the Wildcats were in Pasadena.

Padgett was a key member of a punishing, physical Northwestern offensive line in 1995 that cleared the way for Darnell Autry to run for a then-school record 1,785 yards and 17 touchdowns and earn himself a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. (He finished fourth.)

The vote for best guard was relatively close, with all four candidates earning double-digit percentages of the ballots. Padgett's quarterback, Steve Schnur, said that he had a difficult time choosing between the two guards who helped protect him during the '95 season.

“I wish i could vote for both Padgett and Chabot,” he tweeted. “Both were All Big 10 and we’re absolute monsters. Chabot played multiple O-line positions when needed. Padgett anchored the best O-line in conference in 95. Both played through a bunch of injuries too. Warriors.”

BALLOT: Who was Northwestern's best guard over the last 25 years?

We couldn’t agree more.

Padgett is the second member of the 1995 Rose Bowl team to earn the Best in 25 Years designation, joining wide receiver D'Wayne Bates.

Now an emergency medical specialist at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash., Padgett was on the front lines when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the United States. He contracted the virus in March and was put on a ventilator and placed in intensive care. He almost lost his life.

Padgett's frightening experience got quite a bit of attention from media outlets from coast-to-coast and made him a bit of a celebrity — uncharted waters for a former offensive lineman. He and his wife were guests on the Ellen Show in May and told their story.