Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Football: Cisek has fun in unheralded role

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Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports
Northwestern defensive lineman Bo Cisek takes a lightsaber from the crowd to lead the band in the fight song after the Wildcats defeat of Iowa on Oct. 27. Cisek has one of the biggest characters on the team, but he said he knows exactly where to draw the line when it’s time to be serious.

There are not many players who have as much fun with college football as Bo Cisek.

“He’s the same guy on and off the field,” junior punter Brandon Williams said. “He’s having fun in the locker room, he’s having fun on the field, he’s having fun in practice. Everywhere he goes he’s having a good time.”

The senior has an infectious upbeat personality and, despite not playing the most glamorous position, takes great pride in what he does. Cisek is listed as a defensive lineman, but his true claim to fame at Northwestern is being the punt protector the last two seasons. His main jobs are to coordinate punt coverage and call for the punt from the long snapper, but he is also by default the last line of defense on all punts.

Cisek equates being the punt protector to being a defensive lineman. He said neither position gets recognition as a skill role, but each is an important part of the team.

“We’re not always celebrated as being the best athletes on the field or having the most production, but at the same time we play a vital role and that’s what the (punt protector) is,” Cisek said. “He stands there and gets run into, but if he wasn’t there and if he wasn’t a solid guy, the punter’s getting rocked and the punt’s getting blocked.”

When the Big Ten announced its All-Big Ten teams, Cisek took to Twitter to ask why he was not named the conference’s punt protector of the year. The senior may have been joking, but he does have a case for the honor. In the two years Cisek has been punt protector, the Wildcats have punted 111 times — and none of those attempts have come close to being blocked by the opposition.

“It’s easy, we had 100 percent protection,” Cisek said in defense of his tweet. “I’m pretty sure that should be rewarded somehow. Who’s more important to the punt team (is) obviously the snapper and punter, but also the punt protector.”

After kicker Stefon Demos graduated in 2010, Coach Pat Fitzgerald asked Cisek to wear No. 1 and start a new tradition at NU: The player with the best attitude and work ethic will wear that jersey. Fitzgerald said Cisek is the perfect player to start this tradition because of his cheerful attitude and impressive work ethic.

“He’s showing up every day with an incredibly positive attitude,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s got an infectious work ethic and he’ll do anything for the team.”

Cisek does a lot of things for the Cats that go unnoticed by the fans. One of his most notable duties is to give the pregame speech to the defense before each kickoff. Despite the fact he likes to have fun, Cisek said his speeches are completely serious. He jots down notes on his phone the morning of the game and looks them over a minute or so prior to addressing his teammates.

Cisek’s dichotomous personality — serious at times, lighthearted at others — can be difficult to manage, but the senior said he has felt his way through what may be appropriate and what wouldn’t be. That knowledge of when to be loose and when to be a little bit more uptight has helped Cisek survive in college football.

“You just have to have a balance between being intense, but also having a good time and being relaxed,” Cisek said. “I think I’ve walked the line pretty well with (Fitzgerald, defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz and defensive line coach Marty Long). I guess it’s from being around everybody for a couple of years and seeing what would be okay and what would be frowned upon.”

The Gator Bowl will be Cisek’s final game at NU, but he wants to enjoy the journey instead of focusing on the ending. He said it would mean a lot to him for the Cats to break the infamous losing streak in bowl games, but NU has to put in the work to make it happen first.

“As much as I want to think about the end of it, we’re still prepping for it,” Cisek said. “I really just want to focus on the game itself and not the ending. We all want to win, especially us seniors, but we have to get there first.”

This is the second installment of The Daily’s Road to Jacksonville series leading up to the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Check back Wednesday when Alex Putterman recaps NU’s first five bowl games.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Football: Cisek has fun in unheralded role