NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Naval Station Great Lakes (NSGL) Sailors welcomed the Northwestern University Wildcats football team and head coach to NSGL for a morning practice Aug. 22.
Among those who met the four Northwestern buses that contained more than 100 football players and coaches were Capt. Randy Lynch, NSGL commanding officer, Cmdr. Robert Sullivan, NSGL executive officer, and Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Leon Walker, NSGL command master chief.
The team practiced on Constitution Field, which features a regulation FieldTurf football field. The team left its training camp in Kenosha, Wis., on Monday morning and practiced at NSGL until noon, followed by lunch with Sailors before returning to Evanston that evening.
"It was a pleasure hosting the Wildcats and Coach [Pat] Fitzgerald here at Naval Station Great Lakes, and since this was their second year, I think we have started a tradition," said Lynch. "It was also very rewarding to host his players for lunch after the practice where they were able to eat and converse with numerous Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen and Marines. Definitely a great day at the Naval Station."
"It's an honor and a privilege for us to be here, to be around our great Navy, those who are out there preparing to defend our country," said Northwestern University Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald.
The lunch is the players' favorite part, according to Fitzgerald. It is a "good chance to spend time one-on-one and have quality time with their peers," said the coach.
"For the second consecutive year, Coach Fitzgerald and his stellar team of collegiate players, honored us," said Sullivan. "They took the time out of their busy work-up schedule to give us a brief glimpse of their talents as they scrimmaged on Constitution Field. The joy of watching these powerful players was only topped by the opportunity to sit and lunch with them, a time to share backgrounds, laughter, and goals. It was a great day."
"You may not know this, but this isn't the first time Northwestern has visited here," Lynch noted during his remarks at the lunch. "Yes, they visited here a year ago this month for a practice, but the first time Northwestern visited here, they played our very own Great Lakes Bluejackets in 1918."
During World Wars I and II, the Great Lakes Bluejackets football team played an intercollegiate schedule, including many games against Northwestern. The station football team was national champion in 1918, defeating a Marine Corps team in the Rose Bowl. The Bluejackets defeated University of Notre Dame in 1943.
"It was a pleasure seeing the Northwestern football team here again, for the second year in a row," said Walker. "I'm hoping we can continue this for years to come, they're now part of our history as was the Great Lakes football team. The players enjoyed themselves and so did we. We shared a lot of our own background... where we come from, what we do in the Navy, etc. It would be really nice for them to actually play a game here."
Since 1995, Northwestern has experienced its most successful stretch of football in school history. In that time, the Wildcats have posted 10 seasons with six or more victories. Since 2000, the Wildcats have won six or more games eight times.
Lynch thanked Fitzgerald for being the moderator for a roundtable discussion earlier this year that saluted five former Sailor-athletes who played for Great Lakes during World War II.
For photos and a video about Northwestern's visit, visit NSGL's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NavalStationGreatLakes or Northwestern's Web site at www.NUsports.com.
For more news from Commander, Navy Region Midwest/Naval Station Great Lakes, visit www.navy.mil/local/midwest/.