HOF Class: 2001
Before the spread attack truly became chic, two Northwestern Wildcats were driving Big Ten defensive coordinators crazy. Aggressive defensive units overplayed and looked silly, unsure of who exactly had the ball. Did the back just run around end? Did the quarterback go the other way with the ball, or did he step back only to find a wide receiver streaking down the field all by his lonesome? The late Randy Walker began quite the resurgence at Northwestern, and the key components were Zak Kustok and Damien Anderson. Watching Kustok, who initially committed to Notre Dame after a stellar career at Carl Sandburg High School, was pure poetry. Anderson, another Illinois product, was one of the most dynamic backs in recent memory. Together they proved that heady players in innovative systems can outperform their bigger, faster and stronger opponents.
Why a tandem? Like Rice-Montana, Jordan-Pippen, Gretzky-Messier, and Spears-Federline, it’s impossible to recall one’s greatness without mentioning the other. Kustok and Anderson operated with such efficiency that it appeared as if they had been playing together their entire lives. And they did so working in a system that was entirely different from the one employed by the previous staff.
Randy Walker took over for Gary Barnett in 1999, and that season’s 3-8 record, which included a season ending four-game losing streak where the offense totaled 29 points, provided little evidence of what was to occur the following season. The Northwestern offense of 2000 was one of the scariest units in Big Ten history, averaging OVER 42 points per game.
The stats: For his career Anderson put up 38 total touchdowns. He scored four times on three separate occasions. The 2000 campaign saw Anderson score in nine consecutive contests: he was the ideal fantasy player in that he was consistent and explosive. He scored at least two touchdowns on eight separate occasions.
His best season came in 2000 when he rushed for 1914 yards and 22 scores. He also added 120 yards receiving.
Kustok left Evanston having tallied over 7000 yards from scrimmage. He tossed 20 touchdowns in 2000, and he followed it up with 19 in 2001. Kustok ran for nine scores in 2000, and then 11 the following season.
More important than the numbers, Kustok and Anderson changed college football forever, proving teams could win with a spread option offense and the phrase "Kustok Keeper" was forever ingrained in our brains.
Signature moment: No Big Ten fan will ever forget the November 14, 2000 contest that saw the Northwestern Wildcats outlast the Michigan Wolverines in what many fantasy owners will claim is the greatest game in conference history. The battle of top-twenty squads was supposed to be a shootout, yet no one could have imagined what was going to transpire on that late afternoon in Evanston, as Northwestern emerged victorious in a 54-51 classic.
Led by fantasy studs like Anthony Thomas, Drew Henson, Marquise Walker and David Terrell, the Wolverines were an unstoppable offensive unit. Our two inductees led the Wildcats, in their customary, little-engine-that-could role, and they were able to do more than just hang around in this seesaw affair.
The game appeared over after Damien Anderson dropped a certain touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, that is until Michigan’s A-Train put the ball on the ground as he was about to gain a game-clinching first down. The rest is history at Ryan Field as Kustok found Sam Simmons on a slant for the game-winning score.
Anthony Thomas went for 199-3. Drew Henson tossed for 318 yards and four scores. David Terrell went 9-117-3, and Marquise Walker went for 9-134. Yet it wasn’t enough.
Led by Kustok’s and 377 total yards from scrimmage with four scores and Anderson’s 275 yards from scrimmage with two scores, Northwestern won a game for the ages that led them to a share of the conference title.
Here are some highlights. My boy and Northwestern alum Brent sure sounds like an unbiased observer, eh?
Final thought: Recent NU history has seen its share of college fantasy football stars. Players like Brett Basanez, Darnell Autry, and even Tyrell Sutton have carried squads. However for two magical years the tandem of Kustok and Anderson was impossible to contain. Sure there have been recent gridders who posted more robust totals, but any college fantasy footballer fortunate to own one or both of these Northwestern legends will concur that these guys are very deserving of all the international accolades that accompany induction into the CFFinsider.com Hall of Fame.