Big Ten Icons: Otto Graham

Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf obviously had his Northwestern football team in mind when he spotted a strong-armed freshman throwing feathery-soft spirals in an NU  fraternity football league in the fall of 1940. Waldorf suggested the youngster might want to give the Wildcat varsity a try the following season. He did, and football’s gain was something of a loss for basketball, baseball and music. Otto Everett Graham Jr. was Waldorf’s discovery. Few athletes have ever been as accomplished, not to mention as versatile. Graham would win eight varsity letters in three sports at Northwestern and make All-America in football and basketball. He won a total of eight championships in the two sports as a professional and is a member of the College and Pro Football halls of fame.

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Big Ten Icons: Dave Winfield

Dave Winfield had never played a down of college football at the University of Minnesota, but the Minnesota Vikings thought they knew an athlete when they saw one. They drafted Winfield in 1973, envisioning a pass-catching, stretch-the-field tight end. They also knew that signing Winfield might involve outbidding the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the Utah Stars of the rival ABA, who had seen enough of him on the basketball court to believe Winfield had a future at forward in the pro game. Winfield was a complementary player for the Gophers’ 1972 Big Ten champions, but Bill Musselman, his coach at Minnesota, called him “the best 6-6 rebounder I’ve ever had.”

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Big Ten Icons: John Cappelletti

Penn State being Penn State, it was inevitable that some of the records John Cappelletti set in his two remarkably productive seasons as the Nittany Lions’ starting tailback would fall as the assembly line kept churning out newer models. But the proud Italian kid from suburban Philadelphia remains the only Heisman Trophy winner in Penn State history.

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Big Ten Icons: Steve Alford

Steve Alford may well have been the quintessential Indiana basketball player. He grew up in New Castle, a town that reveres the game, and learned it from his father, Sam Alford, a Hall of Fame high school coach at New Castle Chrysler. Under his father’s tutelage, Alford developed the fundamental skills, the shooting touch, the court sense and the toughness that constitute the preferred style of play in the land where basketball is king. A two-time all-state selection, Alford was the state’s leading scorer as a senior with 37.7 points per game and won the coveted title of Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1983.

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Big Ten Icons: Jack Nicklaus

He played only two years of varsity golf at Ohio State, but during that time, Jack Nicklaus offered enticing hints of what he eventually would become: the greatest player in the history of his game. During one stretch of his storied amateur career, Nicklaus entered 30 tournaments and won 29 of them, including the 1961 Big Ten (by 16 shots) and NCAA championships for the Buckeyes. He was the first player to win the NCAA individual championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year, a feat later matched by Phil Mickelson (1990), Tiger Woods (1996) and Ryan Moore (2004).

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The Next Level: Joe Girardi and Nick Swisher

Life is good when you are the defending World Series champion. BTN spent some time with current Yankees skipper Joe Girardi and Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher to find out how competing in the Big Ten helped shape their careers as competitors. Watch now as Girardi talks about his time as a Northwestern Wildcat and Swisher recalls his days in Columbus as a Buckeye.

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