Written by: John Nee '93
When the 2016-17 College Football Bowl matchups were announced this past Sunday, there were a great number of former Mustangs who were excited to see where their respective teams would be travelling. You’d be hard-pressed to find another school in the State of Illinois where so many of their former players will be participating in this year’s bowl season. In all, six former Mustang football standouts will be preparing with their teams to play in a bowl game.
Former running back and defensive back Brandon Williams ’16 will be preparing to play in the AutoNation Cure Bowl with Arkansas State. Williams fought through several injuries in his days as a Mustang, including two shoulder surgeries. As a senior, he contributed on both sides of the ball for St. Rita splitting time at running back and defensive back.
First team all-MAC defensive lineman Pat O’Connor ’12 will be travelling to play in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl with Eastern Michigan. O’Connor was a two-time all-CCL Blue selection as a defensive lineman for the Mustangs leading St. Rita to back-to-back state semi-final appearances in 2010 and 2011.
Punter Nick Goldsmith ’14 will be traveling to New York City to play in the Pinstripe Bowl with The University of Pittsburgh. Goldsmith was a three-sport standout while at St. Rita and a Wendy’s High School Heisman finalist. He was an all-Catholic Leaue goalkeeper for the soccer team and an all-CCL Blue performer on the baseball field where he helped to lead the Mustangs to a second place finish in Class 4A in 2014. He was also a standout punter for the Mustang football team.
Pitt will be playing the Northwestern Wildcats and graduate assistant coach Mike Kafka ’05. Kafka, a former standout quarterback and outfielder for the Mustangs, also had a stellar career at Northwestern where he set several records in the 2010 Outback Bowl versus Auburn. Kafka also spent several years as a backup quarterback in the NFL with the Eagles, Buccaneers, Bengals, Patriots, and Vikings among others.
Assistant coach Martin Hopkins ’09 and the Iowa Hawkeyes will be playing in the Outback Bowl. Hopkins was a standout linebacker for the Mustangs garnering all-conference honors in both his junior and senior seasons. He was also a member of the Mustangs 2006 State Championship team as a sophomore.
Undefeated Western Michigan and assistant coach Dan Collins ’10 will be traveling to Dallas to play in the Cotton Bowl. Collins, a two-time letter-winner for the Mustangs at fullback, went to Western Michigan where he was a team manager. He then worked his way up as a graduate assistant and now as full-time defensive backs coach for the Broncos.