Football: How Northwestern’s offensive line became the ‘NWO’


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

The Northwestern offensive line prepares for a play. New coach Kurt Anderson has brought a new mentality to the unit this season.

Jonah Dylan, Gameday Editor


Growing up, Kurt Anderson — by his own admission — was pretty lazy.

On Saturday mornings, he’d watch whatever was on, not wanting to get up and turn the dial on the TV. So every week after cartoons, he’d find himself watching the World Wrestling Federation. After a while, he was hooked.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when Anderson accepted a position as Northwestern’s offensive line coach. He wanted to bring his love of WWE to his new job, so he started calling the Wildcats’ offensive line the “NWO,” in this case meaning “Northwestern Wildcats Offensive Line” but clearly harkening back to the legendary wrestling stable nWo made up of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.

And Anderson found someone else who shared his passion for WWE — running backs coach Lou Ayeni.

“We both grew up on it,” Ayeni said. “For me, you grow up with it, you fall in love with it, you kind of start to be like ‘Oh, it’s fake,’ and then you fall back in love with it because it’s kind of funny. It’s kind of my escape, a little bit. I love it.”

Anderson and Ayeni room together on road trips and commonly watch SmackDown on Friday nights. As far as they know, though, there aren’t any current NU players that are as into it as they are.

Anderson, though, suspects that coach Pat Fitzgerald is a WWE fan.

“I kind of get the sense that coach Fitz — because he’s got the three boys — that he’s spent some time watching some WWF and WWE in that household,” he said. “I get the feeling that he probably knows a lot more than he’s leading on.”

The NWO nickname isn’t just a gimmick. Anderson really wants NU’s linemen to treat it as a mentality, to try to attack every game the same way Hogan, Hall and Nash attacked the world of wrestling so many years ago.

Junior guard Nik Urban watched WWE growing up, but he hasn’t been super invested in it for a while (his favorite wrestler was The Undertaker). Still, he thinks the offensive line has really changed its mentality under Anderson, specifically by following the NWO moniker.

“There’s a lot of symbolism, a lot of the things they talked about,” Anderson said. “Not apologizing for who they are, what they believed in and running roughshod over everything. And really bringing a juice and a mentality to everybody that was in that industry at that time and everybody else had to step up their game. And that’s kind of what we’ve tried to do as an offensive line.”

Anderson has recently started following WWE more and more as his kids have gotten into it. His favorite of all time is Hall, but he said he likes Braun Strowman because “he reminds me of what an offensive lineman should be.” For what it’s worth, he isn’t a fan of boxing superstar Tyson Fury’s recent foray into the WWE, which included a win over Strowman.

Anderson loves talking about this stuff, even if the offensive linemen aren’t always as into it as he is. So are there any players who watch it as much as he does?

“Not that I know of,” Urban said. “We all just laugh at him.”

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