MESA, Ariz. – The conservative, yet physical, style of play that is seen in the Big Ten Conference is often termed as “Three yards and a cloud of dust.” While this philosophy does not bode well in the fast and high frequency play of the Arena Football League, two Arizona Rattlers football players attribute their honed offensive and defensive skills to playing collegiately in the Big Ten.
WR KERRY REED and DL ANTTAJ HAWTHORNE are no strangers to the physical play of the Big Ten.
“Playing in the Big Ten was awesome,” recounted Reed. “The guys just seemed to be bigger and stronger.”
The 6’2”, 205 lb. Rattlers receiver joined the Michigan State Spartans in 2005 after showcasing his talents at Coffeyville Community College. Reed finished his career with the Spartans catching 95 passes for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honors in his 2006 senior campaign.
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Reed found it difficult to adjust to life in Big Ten country.
“The biggest difference was the weather,” said Reed. “Playing such physical football in tough weather conditions can really take its toll.”
Unlike Reed, Anttaj Hawthorne was no stranger to the four seasons when he first arrived in Madison, Wisconsin in 2001. The Connecticut native and high school All-American stayed in a cooler football climate because of the recruiting connection he developed with the Badgers.
“Wisconsin had a good track record with the high schools in Connecticut at the time,” said Hawthorne. “My defensive line coach at Wisconsin, John Palermo, was a straight shooter during the process. He had already recruited a player from my high school who had success at Wisconsin – I wanted the same thing.”
Participating in his third year of play in the Arena Football League, all with the Arizona Rattlers, Hawthorne has collected seven tackles for loss and six sacks in 2011. The 6’3”, 310 lb. defensive lineman attributes his success on the field to his playing days at his alma mater.
“The Big Ten is known for traditional, smash mouth football,” said Hawthorne. “Every week, you line up and find out who is going to be the better team.”
Hawthorne finished his career at Wisconsin with 201 tackles, 42 of them for loss. He collected 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. The statistics helped Hawthorne put together a great football resume to play professionally with the Oakland Raiders in 2005-2006.
Yet, outside of his statistical output, Hawthorne still looks back to some fond memories of being a Badger.
“A lot of games stick out in my mind, but one of the best memories was beating [third-ranked] Ohio State 17-10 in 2003,” said Hawthorne, who collected two sacks in the victory. “They had been undefeated, so the students rushed the field after the win.”
Hawthorne and Reed approached all of their Big Ten games with the same aggressive mind-set, just as they do as Rattlers.
“Once you hit the field,” Hawthorne said. “Every game is a rivalry.”
By Paul Zukauskus