Monday, June 20, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Northwestern

For many years I shot the end zone camera for the Iowa Football team. That provided many different spots - inside scoreboards, within aisles, in little sheds - but no place provided so many different, and unique spots over the years than Northwestern.

My first trip in 1989 the end zone shot was something new to conference members. Some schools hadn't put much thought into a suitable location, but it didn't appear to be too tough for the Wildcats to come up with something. Attendance was low, and we could set up anywhere in the south end zone stands as there were few fans in the area. The angle wasn't great, but it was the best we could do.

Within the next few years Northwestern gave us the roof of Welsh-Ryan Arena, where they played basketball, yet we were quite a distance from the stadium, it was stable. But in 1995 we had to battle the zero degree temperatures and howling winds as a snowstorm hit the morning of the game, giving way to sunny, clear and cold skies.

As Northwestern improved their facilities, the view from the basketball arena became blocked and a scaffolding was placed upon their locker rooms in the north end zone. The scaffold wasn't much, and we questioned the safety of it. But one thing it didn't do is protect me from the rain.

Prior to a game in the late 90s, along with the Iowa Football equipment staff, we decided to build a hut using a tarp. Rain had been in the forecast, and the equipment staff knew of my frustration with the lack of a secure shooting location. So there I stood, inside a blue tarp, attached to the scaffold with zip ties while the Northwestern student was being rained on. It was one of the last games of the year at Ryan Field, and I was told that impromptu hut is still sitting in a facility closet on the Evanston campus.

Then a few years later, it was a sunny day on Chicago's North Side. And a little tradition that former Iowa placekicker and I had started took on a different light on this Saturday afternoon. Nate Kaeding had used me as his focal point to aim at when kicking field goals and extra points. Every game in his career he would look for me in the end zone and I would give him a thumbs up. At Ryan Field, the scaffolding was located within 20 yards off the back line of the end zone, and field goals kicked in either pre-game or during the game would land near our spot. But on this day I could tell Nate had a different goal in mine. Not only was he aiming to make all of his attempts, but he wanted to hit the spot that he continuously aims for.

So as he trotted onto the field for an extra point attempt I was ready to give him the thumbs up. He located me, reciprocated my thumbs up and lined up for the one point attempt. I had a feeling something would happen so after I hit the record button, I "locked" my camera down. The snap, hold, kick ... and I took one step to the side and caught his extra point attempt. Of course I had to throw the ball back, but Nate and I had accomplished something that couldn't happen just anywhere.

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