Football: “Monday Night Football” features three former Northwestern teammates


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Justin Jackson stiff-arms a Penn State defender in 2017. The former Northwestern running back has been a critical part of the Los Angeles Chargers’ offense in 2020.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor


Northwestern may not be starting its football season until later this month, but the presence of several familiar faces in Monday’s game between the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints brought a distinct taste of Ryan Field to NU fans.

Three former Wildcats — New Orleans wide receiver Austin Carr, Los Angeles defensive end Joe Gaziano and Los Angeles running back Justin Jackson — appeared on their respective teams’ 53-man rosters in New Orleans’ 30-27 overtime win. The trio were teammates on the 2016 NU squad that went 7-6 and knocked off Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl. Carr and Jackson are currently the only active Cats in the league who play offensive skill positions.

The unique purple constellation came together late Monday afternoon, when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chargers had activated Gaziano from its practice squad. ESPN’s Field Yates reported that the Saints had done likewise with Carr shortly thereafter. The two former teammates joined Jackson, a regular in Los Angeles’ lineup since starting running back Austin Ekeler went down with a hamstring injury on Oct. 4, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Jackson had a prominent role for the Chargers, rushing for a career-high 71 yards on 15 carries. His performance in the Big Easy represented his highest rushing total in any competitive football game since Dec. 29, 2017, when his 157 yards on 32 carries garnered him Music City Bowl MVP honors in NU’s 24-23 win over Kentucky. Reflecting his roots, Jackson drew more Google search interest in Chicago the day of the game than in any other metropolitan area in the United States, including both Los Angeles and New Orleans.

Carr, seeing his first NFL action in nearly a calendar year, played two snaps on special teams. Gaziano, though on the Chargers’ roster, was declared inactive before the game and is still waiting to make his professional debut.

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