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VOTE: Who was the best Northwestern cornerback over the last 25 years?

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


OFFENSE: QB Dan Persa l RB Justin Jackson l WR D'Wayne Bates l TE Drake Dunsmore l T Zach Strief l G Ryan Padgett l C Rob Johnson

DEFENSE: DE Corey Wootton l DT Matt Rice l MLB Pat Fitzgerald l OLB Napoleon Harris

Once upon a time, cornerback was one of Northwestern's perpetual weaknesses. Not anymore.

These five players are big reasons why.

It takes a special player to be a cornerback, out on an island on the edge of the defense. It takes speed and athleticism, sure, but it also takes instincts, timing, ball skills and, most importantly, a short memory, to put those plays where you get beat behind you.

We've picked out five of the best cornerbacks to vie for the title of best cornerback over the last 25 years. Interestingly, two of them were the last additions to their recruiting class whose only Power Five offer was from Northwestern. One of them committed to another Big Ten school first. One of them started out as a wide receiver at NU.

But they all ended up at corner.

Read about the careers of each of our candidates below, and then vote for the player you think has been the best on the WildcatReport Football Board. You'll find the link at the end of this story.

CHRIS MARTIN (1992-95)

Reason he deserves it: Martin was the best corner on the best scoring defense in the nation in 1995, when he was a first-team All-Big Ten pick and came up with nine turnovers.

The skinny: Coaches thought about playing Martin on offense when he arrived from Tampa, Fla., and he even caught a pass in 1992. But he found a home at cornerback, where he became a three-year starter and one of the best cover men to ever wear Purple.

Martin was not only a lock-down corner for the Wildcats, but he also had a nose for the football and a penchant for big plays.

He led NU and ranked second in the Big Ten in 1995 with five interceptions. One that left an indelible impression in the minds of all NU fans: his 76-yard pick-6 in the season finale against Purdue that clinched the Wildcats' first Big Ten title since 1936. Martin led the Big Ten with 111 interception return yards in 1995.

But Martin's takeaways were not limited to the air. He also had four fumble recoveries that season, a mark that is still tied for the most in a single season in Northwestern history.

Martin was a first-team All-Big Ten selection for the Wildcats Rose Bowl team in 1995. His six interceptions is tied for fourth all-time at NU.

He played one game in the NFL for the Chicago Bears in 1996.

Chris Martin Key Statistics
Tackles TFL FR INT

Best Season (1995)





* Led team and second-most in Big Ten


Reason he deserves it: Blackmon's hands were where opponent passes went to die: no one in Northwestern history broke up more passes.

The skinny: Blackmon set the Northwestern record with 17 PBUs as a junior in 1999. He then broke that record the following season, when he racked up 22 for the 2000 Big Ten co-champions. Both of those records still stand.

Over his career in Evanston, Blackmon broke up 48 passes, tied for the most in school history.

But Blackmon did more than just knock passes down. He could also pick them off.

He is one of 13 Wildcats in history to intercept two passes in one game. He led Northwestern with two interceptions in 1999 -- one of them as a pick-6 -- and then again with five pickoffs in 2000, which is tied for the fifth-most in school history. Blackmon also ranks fifth on Northwestern's all-time list with 10 INTs in his career.

Blackmon was a seventh-round draft choice of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2001 NFL Draft. He played two seasons in the NFL.

Harold Blackmon Key Statistics
Tackles PBU INT





Best Year (2000)




* Tied for most all-time at Northwestern


Reason he deserves it: Maybe the greatest diamond-in-the-rough recruit of all time, McManis went from a special teams standout to a first-team All-Big Ten corner to an NFL career.

The skinny: When Northwestern offered McManis in late January of 2006, he was so far under the radar that he wasn't even in the Rivals database. His other offers were from Illinois State, Western Illinois and Eastern Illinois.

But McManis made an impact right off the bat, earning Freshman All-Big Ten honors, as well as five straight NU special teams player of the week awards, in 2006. McManis averaged 21.0 yards on kick returns, including six of more than 30 yards. By the end of the year he was the starting cornerback and going one-on-one with Ohio State star Ted Ginn Jr.

In 2007, he returned kicks and started at cornerback, finishing third on the team with 75 tackles. He dropped kick return duties in 2008 and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick at cornerback after recording 12 PBUs and two picks.

McManis capped his career in 2009 by being named a captain, a first-team All-Big Ten corner and the team's defensive MVP. He had a career-best five interceptions to lead the Big Ten that season, including an acrobatic, game-winning pick against Illinois. He finished his career with nine INTs, ninth-most all-time at NU, and 30 PBUs, fifth-most.

McManis was a fifth-round draft choice of the Houston Texans in the 2010 NFL Draft. He currently plays for the Chicago Bears and is in his 11th season in the league.

Sherrick McManis Key Statistics
Tackles PBU INT





Best Year (2009)




* Most in the Big Ten


Reason he deserves it: A rare four-year starter, VanHoose broke up as many passes as anyone in NU history.

The skinny: VanHoose, a one-time Indiana commitment, redshirted his first year at Northwestern, but after that he was a mainstay, starting a total of 45 games for the Wildcats.

He started 10 of 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2012 as the Wildcats won 10 games and the Gator Bowl. He made the Big Ten All-Freshman team after tying for the team lead with three interceptions.

VanHoose started all 12 games in 2013, leading the team with eight PBUs and finishing sixth with 61 tackles. In 2014, VanHoose was a second-team All-Big Ten pick and ranked second in the Big Ten with 1.2 passes defensed per game. He also blocked three kicks that season, including a PAT he returned for two points in a win over Notre Dame.

Finally, as a senior in 2015, VanHoose was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree and Sports Illustrated honorable mention All-American. He finished second on the team with three INTs and notched 41 tackles for a defense that allowed the fewest passing touchdowns in the nation and carried the Wildcats to another 10-win campaign.

Nick VanHoose Key Statistics
Tackles PBU INT





Best Year (2015)




* Tied for most all-time at Northwestern


Reason he deserves it: Another overlooked recruit, Hartage was a three-year starting cornerback and a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2018.

The skinny: Hartage was a Georgia Southern commitment when head coach Pat Fitzgerald called him on Super Bowl Sunday, three days before signing day, to offer him a scholarship. Hartage called back to commit during halftime.

Hartage played as a true freshman in 2015 on special teams and as a reserve corner. Then, he started 38 games over the next three seasons.

He started all 13 games as a sophomore in 2016 and led NU with five interceptions, second-most in the Big Ten, and nine PBUs. He again started all 13 games in 2017, when he racked up 57 tackles and three interceptions.

Finally, as a senior in 2018, Hartage was a first-team all-conference selection after tallying 51 tackles, a career-high 15 PBU and two INTs as the Wildcats won the Big Ten West.

Hartage is tied for fifth all-time at Northwestern with 10 interceptions, and sixth with 29 PBUs. He played with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and was waived by the New York Giants on Sunday.

Montre Hartage Key Statistics
Tackles PBU INT





Best Year (2016)




* Led team and second-most in Big Ten


Go to our Football Board to cast your vote. You can vote for any of the five CBs listed on our ballot, or you can vote for "Other" and identify your write-in candidate in your reply the message.

Hurry! The poll will close on Monday at noon.