Corey Wootton is a man who needs no introduction in Evanston, but former Chicago Bear teammate Hunter Hillenmeyer did his best anyway. Hillenmeyer introduced the Bears’ second-year defensive end as the man who (maybe) ended Brett Favre’s NFL career.
As a rookie for the Bears, Wootton was a key role player on the defensive line. He rotated in at defensive end and had a productive season. Of course, Bears fans will remember Wootton for his Monday Night football sack on Brett Favre which knocked the 11-time Pro Bowl selection out of the game, and likely ended his career.
During the lockout, Wootton—who has restricted access to NFL facilities—is returning to Northwestern for workouts. He is joined by former Wildcat teammates Corbin Bryant and Prince Kwatang.
Now a member of Chicago’s NFL team, Wootton remains very close with his alma mater, Chicago’s Big Ten team.
“Whether it’s following it on my phone or watching it on tv, whenever I get a chance, I’m always watching,” Wootton said.
During Wootton’s time with the Wildcats, the program continued to rise. This season, some of Wootton’s former teammates have the program seeking new heights. Wootton is optimistic.
“I see them doing big things,” he said. “They have a lot of guys coming back, a lot of leaders. Guys like Dan Persa who’s coming back of an injury and is working his butt off to get back; guys like Vincent Browne, Jack DiNardo, and Brian Peters as well. I expect them to do big things in the Big Ten.”
As any Wildcat fan will tell you, much of this season’s potential success lies on the shoulders of first-team all-conference quarterback Dan Persa. This offseason, Persa has worked to rehab his achillies injury, but is expected to return for camp in August.
Wootton knows first-hand that Persa’s work ethic is what makes him special.
“He’s an incredible player,” Wootton said of Persa. “He’s dealt with a little adversity this offseason and is rehabbing his butt off trying to work and get back. He’s one of the most talented players in the country and he’s a threat running the ball and throwing the ball. Teams better watch out for him.”
Wootton is doing his part to help out. He is working with some of the Wildcats’ younger defensive linemen, as well as former teammate and Nagurski watch list member Vince Browne.
After a season with the defensive line coach Rod Marinelli—a former NFL coach and defensive line specialist—Wootton has experience to pass along to the Wildcat linemen.
“It’s always good to be back, especially working with the younger d-linemen and teaching them some things and showing them the ropes,” Wootton said. “Coach Marinelli showed me a lot about defensive line play and I’m trying to show them what I learned.”
Wootton is excited about the Wildcats this season, but also very excited the program’s future under head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who was his head coach for four seasons. When Fitzgerald was given his 10-year extension in May, Wootton was thrilled.
“I was really excited because he’s a coach that has this program in the right place,” Wootton said. “Back when he was playing, it was at a point where everyone in Chicago was loving Northwestern and it was all about Northwestern. I think it’s going to get back, to that point.”
Hopes are high amongst Wildcat fans, and Wootton remains a fan. Many Northwestern fans have the ‘Cats pegged as Big Ten champions. Does Wootton see the same thing?
“I don’t want to say anything where I’ll have to put my foot in my mouth later on,” he said. “I think they’re going to be successful in the Big Ten.”