Westerkamp Easily Has ‘Play of the Day’ Again


Video: Jordan Westerkamp’s Behind-the-Back Catch

Video: Westerkamp Describes another Masterpiece

By Randy York

Life, especially in football, can be stranger than fiction.  While driving to Memorial Stadium Saturday morning, I had my radio tuned into something I can never get enough of – the Huskers Sports Network.  The conversation was about Jordan Westerkamp and how he was once interviewed and never once asked about The Catch … you know the one I mean … the Hail Mary Catch that took the air out of Northwestern and sent the Wildcats home on an airplane before they could catch their own breath.

The humor in the Westerkamp discussion had a point: Who would ever ask Jordan what his most memorable catch was when most of the country already knows?  Well, guess what?  That little discussion had an ironic twist to it Saturday.  Mike Babcock and I were talking in the press box when we watched Westerkamp pull another football rabbit out of a hat with a behind-the-back catch that simply defies imagination.

We looked at each and instantly, almost in unison, called it an unbelievable catch.

Not just any catch, a spectacular one. While officials were seeking to confirm what their eyes were telling them, I mentioned the radio discussion to Mike.

We agreed the odds would be prohibitive to make another catch that could fit into the same elite category. 

Saturday’s Catch More Remarkable than Hail Mary

“I think that’s a more remarkable catch than the Hail Mary, don’t you?” I asked Babcock.

“I think it is,” Mike said.

“I’ve never seen a catch like that ever, have you?” I asked Babcock.

“No, I never have either,” he said.

We both shook our heads, knowing that Westerkamp’s eyes locked in on the Hail Mary last year while his soft hands finished the work in a perfectly timed jump in Memorial Stadium’s South end zone.

This time, we couldn’t believe what we’d just seen … a behind-the-back butt catch that required even softer hands and incredible equilibrium.

In his press conference, Bo Pelini joined the crowd, saying he’s never seen anything like Westerkamp’s catch Saturday.  Defensive coordinator John Papuchis called it “the greatest catch I’ve ever seen in my life.”

ESPN’s Saturday night/Sunday morning college football analyst team joined the chorus, labeling Westerkamp’s catch/balancing act as “easily the play of the day” in college football.

And yes, such accolades came his way less than one year after Westerkamp’s “once in a lifetime” Hail Mary catch.  The 16-yard perfectly juggled reception, we also should point out, was just one of seven catches in a 125-yard day for the Illinois native.

Within minutes of the astonishing catch, Mike and I were shown how Westerkamp reached behind his back to use his behind to trap the ball and secure it at the same time.

Hail Varsity magazine publisher Aaron Babcock froze the photo he’d just shot and shared it via social media in the same amount of time it takes to visit the rest room.

In other words, Hail Varsity, the magazine, had something in the same elite category with Hail Mary, Westerkamp’s middle name for the past year.

Maybe someone will come up with a new name for next Saturday morning’s pregame drive time.  Since the kickoff against McNeese State will be nearly four hours before the season-opening kick against Florida Atlantic, Matt Davison has plenty of time to come up with a gem.  In the meantime, I’m going to butt out of this one.

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