EVANSTON, Ill. -- Seniors Mike Kafka (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita) and Sherrick McManis (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) were named the Northwestern Most Valuable Players for the 2009 season at Saturday's annual Northwestern Gridiron Network football banquet.
Kafka had a 65.7 percent completion percentage in 2009, the highest in the Big Ten, and ranked 13th in the nation in completions per game with 22.7. He also led the league in fewest interceptions thrown. Despite suffering a leg injury against Penn State, Kafka started all 12 games for the Wildcats; he was selected as the second team All-Big Ten selection at quarterback by both the coaches and the media, and most recently, was tabbed a first-team All-Big Ten selection by Rivals.com.
McManis earned defensive MVP honors by leading the Wildcats with four interceptions, including one each in his first three games back from an early-season injury. McManis also led the Big Ten and ranked 14th in the nation in passes defended per game (1.2). Despite missing three games, he still was selected as a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media (second team coaches) and ESPN.com. He also earned Northwestern's 2009 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award earlier in the year.
The NGN Newcomers of the Year were redshirt freshmen Neal Deiters (Elmhurst, Ill./York) and Quentin Williams (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Central Catholic). Deiters, an offensive lineman, saw action as a backup tackle before earning a starting role in five games during the latter half of the season. Williams was a pass rusher in the defensive ends' rotation. He played in all 12 games for the Wildcats and recorded 14 tackles and one interception.
The other awards that were handed out included: The George W. Ballantine Award (given to the player who best demonstrates the enthusiasm and leadership of Ballantine): senior wide receiver Zeke Markshausen (Capron, Ill./North Boone); the Thomas Airth Spirit Award (given for inspiring teammates): senior superback Mark Woodsum (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove); the Carnig Minasian Citizenship Award (given for being an outstanding citizen on campus and with the team): senior wide receiver Andrew Brewer (Tulsa, Okla./Jenks); the Marcel Price Award (for enthusiasm and dedication to the Wildcats): senior defensive tackle Adam Hahn (Hartford, Wis./Hartford Union); the Rashidi Wheeler Award: senior wide receiver Carl Fisher (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook); the Randy Walker Warrior Award (for work ethic and toughness): senior safety Brad Phillips (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional); the Bryan Paynter "Ultimate Wildcat" Award (for confronting adversity and putting the needs of the team first): junior defensive end Corbin Bryant (Chicago, Ill./Morgan Park).
Kafka, Brendan Smith (Andover, Mass./New Hampton Prep (N.H.)), McManis, and defensive end Corey Wootton(Rutherford, N.J./Don Bosco Prep) were also honored for being the team's co-captains.
Although the awards were handed out, the Wildcats know their season is not over yet. The team will be spending the remainder of 2009 preparing to face Auburn on New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl. The game kicks off at 10 a.m. CT on ESPN and WGN Radio (720 AM).