NU adds nine walkons
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern's 2012 football squad will include an incoming class of nine non-scholarship student-athletes, head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced Thursday.
"Our program has a great history of walk-ons making significant contributions both on and off the field and expect the same from these nine young men," Fitzgerald said. "This year in particular we had more interest from potential walk-ons than at any time in the program's history and we know that everyone in this group will be a great fit for our football family. We look forward to welcoming them to Evanston for the start of camp."
Four of the newcomers prepped at prominent high schools in the Chicagoland area while another trio arrives at Northwestern from the state of California. The class also draws from traditional recruiting hotbeds in Texas and Ohio.
Northwestern has a longstanding tradition of walk-ons who go on to gain scholarships and prominent on-field roles for the Wildcats, with notable examples in recent years including 2011 starting running back Jacob Schmidt and former wideout Zeke Markshausen, whose 91 receptions in 2009 represented the second-best single-season total in school history.
The nine non-scholarship student-athletes joining Northwestern in 2012 are: Austin Carr (Benicia, Calif./Benicia), Zak Kucera (Chesterland, Ohio/West Geauga), Matt Micucci (Lake Zurich, Ill./Stevenson), Jack Mitchell (San Diego, Calif./Torrey Pines), Michael Odom (Naperville, Ill./Benet Academy), Sean Oliver (Plano, Texas/Plano Senior), Mike Panico (Libertyville, Ill./Carmel Catholic), Christian Salem (Santa Monica, Calif./Santa Monica) and Troy Sheppard (Joliet, Ill./Providence Catholic). Below are their complete prep bios:
6-foot-1, 195 pounds
High School Position: RB/S
High School: Versatile offensive weapon with 1,481 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns as well as 844 receiving yards and 11 TD catches as a senior in 2011 ... Accumulated over 1,000 all-purpose yards with 17 total touchdowns in eight games as a junior ... Earned first-team All-Solano County Athletic Conference (SCAC) honors as well as SCAC and team MVP recognition in 2011 ... All-time rushing and scoring leader at Benicia ... Single-game career bests include 290 yards on 33 rushing attempts and four touchdowns vs. Vanden, and 243 yards on 30 carries and four more TD's vs. American Canyon ... Also an all-conference performer in basketball ... Junior class president National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Award recipient.
Personal: Born Austin Durant Mozée Carr ... Son of Evan Carr and Janine Mozée ... Also was a finalist in California State Poetry Out Loud Competition and was a school and county champion in the event ... Won Benicia's "Best Lead Actor" award for role as the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" ... Plans to major in political science.
6-foot-2, 205 pounds
Chesterland (Ohio) West Geauga
High School Position: QB/Punter
High School: Prolific quarterback and punter at West Geauga High School, finishing fourth in school history in career passing yards (1,497), third in single-season touchdown tosses and tops in career punting, averaging 39.1 yards per punt ... Named first-team All-Chagrin Valley Conference, first-team All-Geauga County and second-team all-district as a senior ... Threw for 276 yards and three TD's on 17-of-22 passing against rival Riverside in 2011 ... Football team captain ... Academic All-Ohio team honoree ... Earned school's "Mr. Wolverine" award for class of 2012 ... Also lettered in basketball and baseball, garnering first-team All-CVC in baseball ... Class president and National Honor Society member.
Personal: Born Zachary Robert Kucera ... Son of Michael and Troy Kucera ... Plans to major in political science/pre-law studies.
5-foot-11, 190 pounds
Lake Zurich (Ill.) Stevenson
High School Position: QB/P/K
High School: Earned starting roles as punter, kicker and quarterback for 2011 season at Stevenson, leading the Patriots to a 9-3 record and a second straight appearance in IHSA Class 8A quarterfinals ... Threw for 1,600 yards with 12 TD passes and two rushing scores ... Led his team to a 24-22 upset of nationally ranked and three-time state champion Maine South in second round of 8A playoffs, completing 20-of-32 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns while kicking one field goal ... Stevenson had fallen to Maine South in state playoffs in six of previous 10 years ... Converted all 50 of his PAT attempts as a junior, including the game-winner in 24-23 victory vs. state 7A runner-up Lake Zurich ... ESPN Chicago All-Area, Chicago Tribune Honorable Mention All-State and Pioneer Press All-Lakeshore First Team honoree in 2010 ... National Honor Society member and Illinois State Scholar.
Personal: Born Matthew Paul Micucci ... Son of Dan and Susan Micucci ... Participated in numerous community outreach initiatives, including organizing two "Kicks Against Cancer" events to raise over $10000 for American Cancer Society and taking a 10-day Mission Trip to Los Angeles to contribute to soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity ... Attended same high school as New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and tennis star Andrea Jaeger ... Majoring in mechanical engineering.
6-foot-3, 205 pounds
San Diego (Calif.) Torrey Pines
High School Position: WR/DB
High School: Multi-dimensional performer for Torrey Pines, catching 11 passes with a 19.9-yard per catch average in 2011 while also handling kicking duties, with 38 punts (37.4-yard average) and 24-of-24 success rate on PAT's ... Also played defense, intercepting two passes in 2010, including one for a 51-yard TD return ... Hit 90 of his 104 kickoffs for touchbacks over junior and senior seasons ... Kicked a career-ong 48-yard field goal as a sophomore ... Second-team All-Palomar League in 2011 and honorable mention in 2010 ... Chosen to play in Alex Spanos San Diego County All-Star football game ... 2012 Torrey Pines High School Athlete of the Year ... Team posted a 10-2 mark in junior season ... Also a letterwinner in baseball ... National Honor Society member and San Diego Union-Tribune All-Academic team honoree in football and baseball.
Personal: Born John Stewart Mitchell ... Son of Trey and Sarah Mitchell ... Born in Washington, D.C. before relocating to San Diego ... Attended same high school as former NFL safety John Lynch ... Majoring in economics.
6-foot, 195 pounds
Naperville (Ill.) Benet Academy
High School Position: LB/SB
High School: Three-year letterwinner for Benet Academy, compiling 461 rushing yards and 215 receiving yards on offense and 22 tackles on defense ... Also averaged 31.5 yards per kick return for his career and graded out at 94 percent on blocking assignments ... Named a Daily Herald Player to Watch and three times was his team's offensive player of the week honoree ... Recipient of team's 2011 Iron Man Award, setting all-time fitness record in the process ... Also a letterwinner in basketball ... Honor roll student and National Achievement Scholarship semifinalist.
Personal: Born Michael Thomas Odom ... Son of David and Kimberly Odom ... Mother is a Northwestern graduate ... Youth teammates with fellow incoming NU freshman Malin Jones ... Attended same high school as Northwestern basketball point guard Dave Sobolewski ... Plans to major in broadcast journalism.
5-foot-11, 175 pounds
Plano (Texas) Plano Senior
High School Position: WR/DB
High School: Competed for four years at Plano Senior, recording 17 tackles, three pass deflections and one fumble recovery that he returned 51 yards for a touchdown in his senior season ... Earned honorable mention all-district honors ... Also ran the 100-meter dash in track ... Honor roll student.
Personal: Born Sean Anthony Oliver ... Son of Shawn and Kyle Oliver ... Competed for speech and debate teams in high school, winning first place at Harvard Debate Tournament, receiving state honors and earning national qualifier status ... Plans to major in political science.
5-foot-8, 175 pounds
Libertyville (Ill.) Carmel Catholic
High School Position: RB/DB
High School: Three-year letterwinner at Carmel Catholic, rushing for 1,610 yards and 32 touchdowns on 210 career carries ... Also scored four receiving TD's and three as a kick returner, catching 21 passes for 255 yards in his career ... Garnered All-East Suburban Catholic Conference honors as well as all-area and all-state recognition ... Chosen to Semper Fi Bowl all-star game ... Named team's Most Valuable Back ... Helped Carmel Catholic win two conference championships ... Also lettered in wrestling ... Honor roll student.
Personal: Born Michael Anthony Panico ... Son of Deanna and Anthony Panico ... Competed against fellow NU freshman running back Malin Jones of Joliet Catholic ... Major is undecided.
6-foot-3, 190 pounds
Santa Monica (Calif.) Santa Monica
High School Position: QB
High School: Compiled 1,798 yards and 19 touchdowns passing and two rushing scores in his career as a four-year letterwinner at Santa Monica ... Earned All-Ocean League recognition ... Threw six total touchdown passes in team's first two playoff games, leading the Vikings to their first state semifinal appearance in 10 years ... Also named a National Football Foundation Hall of Fame Student-Athlete ... National Merit Commended student and valedictorian candidate.
Personal: Born Christian Salem ... Son of George and Susan Salem ... Major is undecided.
5-foot-10, 170 pounds
Joliet (Ill.) Providence Catholic
High School Position: DB/WR
High School: Four-year letterwinner at Providence Catholic, recording 55 tackles and eight interceptions, with one INT returned for touchdown ... As a receiver, caught nine passes for 126 yards ... Also notched three career blocked field goals ... Named a Marine Corps Distinguished Athlete and an all-state selection by Rivals ... Southtown Star and Joliet Herald All-Area as well as Chicago Tribune All-Metro ... Team defensive MVP and academic all-state honoree ... Also a four-year letterwinner as a sprinter for track team, setting school records for 55 and 100-meter events ... Placed 10th in the state in 100-meter dash ... Helped track team win sectional and conference championships ... Team captain in both sports ... National Honor Society member and Illinois State Scholar.
Personal: Born Troy C. Sheppard ... Son of Larry and Andrea Sheppard ... Father played with Boston Breakers and Chicago Blitz of USFL ... Played alongside current Wildcats Pat Ward and Tim Hanrahan at Providence Catholic ... Plans to major in biology.