Hidden Heroes: Northwestern QB Mike Kafka

aaron keyCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2009

EVANSTON, IL - NOVEMBER 08:  Quarterback Mike Kafka #13 of the Northwestern Wildcats passes against of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ryan Stadium on November 8, 2008 in Evanston, Illinois  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

As I sit here in the heart of SEC country, I realize that some of us fail to see or acknowledge anything that happens outside our billion dollar conference.

There's enough hype, controversy, and tub thumpin' to give even the most diligent fans tunnel vision.By this time in the season, fans know enough about their favorite players and coaches that most courts would grant a restraining order!

The sad part about this is that, if not careful, football fans can miss out on some great football and some really great players. For real college football fans there are no excuses. On the most basic satellite, and cable packages, you can comfortably find 15 to 20 games on any given saturday.

In every game there are impact players etching their names in their school lore.

So without further ado. Here's our first Hidden Hero:

QB Mike Kafka Northwestern University

Coming out of high school, Kafka was a known commodity.

Rivals.com had him in its top 25 dual threat quarterbacks. While Superprep ranked him 50th overall at the position.

While he did start the first four games of 2006 before going down with a hamstring injury, the last two years he saw time mostly from a backup role.

Some of you may recall hearing his name last year though. Starting for an injured C.J. Bachér, Kafka absolutely shredded Minnesota, racking up a Big Ten record for most rushing yards in a game by a quarterback, with 217. He also added 143 yards and two scores through the air, hitting 12 of his 16 passes and earning Big Ten co-offensive player of the week.

This flash of brilliance gave alot of NU fans hope for this season, and the gutsy quarterback has delivered, leading the Wildcats to a 4-2 start.

Take out the heart, toughness, and leadership of Kafka, and go strictly by the numbers, you may be shocked at just how well he stacks up with the best.

Here's a look at our Hidden Hero along with three of the Heisman frontrunners:

                              att.       comp.      pct.       yds.      td     int.

Tim Tebow               84         55          65.5     777      7      2

Colt McCoy                 184        135        73.4    1410     10     6

Jimmy Clausen        148        100        67.6    1544     12     2

Mike Kafka                  208         139          66.8    1464      5       4


As you can see his stats put him firmly in the top echelon of college quarterbacks. I dare say that if he was starter at Notre Dame or Texas, this Hidden Hero would be a Superhero.

After being able to watch the Wildcats five out of their first six, it's the aforementioned heart, toughness and leadership that brought this guy to my attention.

Nowadays, many a player would have transferred after starting early in their career, only to be the backup for the next two seasons. Mike Kafka not only stayed, he has used this time wisely to learn and become the player that he is. Take this little tidbit form his player bio on NUsports.com:

Q: What is the greatest lesson in life that you have learned?
A: Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.

Definitely my kind of guy.

Anyone who watched the Purdue game got a showcase of Kafka's talent along with his grit and determination. After falling down early, the Wildcats stuck with it, clawing their way back into the game. Kafka capped off the comback with clutch throws and tough runs, including a 2 yard plunge to take the lead with 2:09 remaining.

Last week, in his worst performance to date, against a winless but undaunted Miami(Ohio) team that always plays NU tough, the senior hit a pedestrian 15-31 for 191 yards, but reminded the Redhawks he could still run, chipping in 66 yards and 2 scores.

All in all, with Kafka under center, Northwestern will be in every game it plays this season. They're 11 points away from being undefeated as it stands. Look for another bowl bid for the Wildcats this year.

And do yourself a favor, tune in this saturday as Kafka and the Wildcats face off against Michigan State. You might just find yourself wishing that this Hidden Hero was your signal caller.