During Saturday’s game, a fitting saying flashed across the scoreboard, and it went a little something like this:
“The Wildcat’s true colors are red and blue, together they make purple.”
As Northwestern took on Eastern Illinois, the emphasis on patriotism was very clear.
"It's also Heroes' Day,” Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald said earlier in the week. “Hopefully the way we prepare this week really honors those that went through one of the worst tragedies in our country's history on September 11th, as well as those in the military.”
The Wildcat’s did just that – and made the weekend one that many will not soon forget, especially for LB Bryce McNaul.
“It’s a special weekend,” McNaul said enthusiastically. “Not just for the college football world, but for the whole country.”
He added, “At Northwestern we did our part, and the men and women in our services, not just in the military but here at home: police, fireman, they have got to like the game here today.”
For McNaul, and the rest of the Wildcat family – the memories of September 11th hit very close to home.
“Obviously you know Bryce McNaul's brother is in the military,” Fitzgerald said previously. “They are home and abroad defending our freedom and protecting us on a daily basis.”
McNaul’s brother, Austin McNaul, is serving in Afghanistan, but still finds a way to watch him play.
“He gets it one way or another,” McNaul said of his games. “He is a resourceful individual, he definitely watched the Boston College game and I expect to hear from him after this one.”
In Saturday’s 42-21 triumph over Eastern Illinois, McNaul gave his brother plenty to be excited about. The linebacker recorded a team high seven tackles, and a pivotal interception.
"It was a great interception by him,” Fitzgerald said of McNaul. “He had great discipline on his drop. I think Bryce is continuing to improve and get better.”
But what would McNaul’s brother think of it?
“He would be mad that I didn’t house it,” McNaul said with a laugh. “He would have expected me to take it to the house and do some wild celebration.”
He continued, “But no he would be happy about it. He will be amped up for this game next week, he will be talking about it a lot. That’s his alma mater and he wants the cats to win big.”
Winning big was something everyone in Evanston did Saturday, by patriotically honoring America’s service men and women.