Football: Bergin, Fisher and Gallagher get set for one final Big Ten run


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Blake Gallagher gets set to make a tackle on the opposing rusher. The senior will be a leader on the defense this fall.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Reporter


When senior linebackers Chris Bergin, Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher take the field Saturday against Maryland, they’ll line up next to each other as starters for the 18th time.

Fisher has NFL aspirations down the line and the other two hope to join him. But first, they’ve got one more season to learn from one of the best — Pat Fitzgerald.

During his time as a linebacker at Northwestern, Fitzgerald was a two-time All American and Bednarik Award winner. His play keyed the Cats’ improbable run to the Rose Bowl in 1995, where he brought down three interceptions over the course of the 35 games with the Cats, a number both Fisher and Gallagher have now reached or eclipsed.

“There’s no other teacher better out there,” Fisher said. “He’s a two-time All-American for a reason. The wisdom, the little nuggets that he has, to offer to linebackers especially is second to none. You’re never going to get that anywhere else,”

Fisher’s tutelage has paid off; his numbers at NU jump off the page. In three seasons, the senior has compiled an eye-popping 168 solo tackles and another 150 assisted. He’s also grabbed three interceptions and brought down two sacks.

When the season was initially called off, Fisher’s status was in limbo. He waited for clarity. During that time, he went home to see his mom and get his wisdom teeth taken out.

“She just told me to follow my heart,” FIsher said. “Whatever decision I made she was going to back me and be happy with it.”

Gallagher is just happy they’re all coming back. He came to camp with a new catchphrase: “Bring your own juice.”

“It’s going to be more on us than ever,” Gallagher said. “The guys going on the field, that passion and energy and everything we play with, has to go up even more.”

He’s been bringing his own juice for years: In the 39 games Gallagher has played with the Cats, he has compiled 134 solo tackles and 4 career interceptions. He’s been everywhere.

Bergin, who followed his older brother Joe to NU as a preferred walk-on in 2017, might have been the most unheralded of the bunch as a freshman. He’s grown into his game, and last year had the third most tackles of any Cats player, behind Gallagher and Fisher, with 86 over 12 games.

Maryland is in the midst of a quarterback competition heading into the season — and it’s not yet clear whether Taulia Tagovailoa or Lance LeGendre will be leading the line Saturday.

After transferring from Alabama, Tagovailoa has never lined up for the Terrapins, and LeGendre has only attempted three career passes in a Maryland uniform, connecting just once. But Gallagher said that’s not affecting how the defense has prepared.

“They’re both good athletes, good players. We just gotta go out and prepare for either one of them,” Gallagher said. “Go out and execute our plan and what we have so far. Just go out and play.”

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Twitter: @gsvirnovskiy