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January 1, 2021

Mike Hankwitz

Orlando, Florida, USA

Camping World Stadium

Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern Wildcats 35, Auburn Tigers 19

MIKE HANKWITZ: I'm so proud of our guys, the way they responded, the dedication and commitment, and to have one positive test -- that isn't easy. The sacrifice they made, not being able to see their families and their dedication to winning and preparing every week through the ups and downs, I just can't say enough about them. It certainly made it a special day today, the way they responded and I'll never forget these guys.

Q. To see your players and fellow coaches and everyone respond the way they did to you reaching win 400 and getting this win and to feel that love from them what does that mean as a coach?

MIKE HANKWITZ: It means more than you can describe. You know, I mean, it's been a very emotional year, but particularly the last couple weeks. I'm still having a hard time coping with it. But it means the world to me when they show you that kind of respect. I just want them to know how much respect I have for them in return.

Q. I don't know if you'll answer this one, but where do you say this defense, this year's defense, ranks among the ones you've coached here at Northwestern?

MIKE HANKWITZ: Well, it's got a special place in my heart because of everything they went through. We've had some other defenses that were dang good, too. But this one, their ability to respond to adversity, and to keep people out of the end zone when they got down in there or we had a sudden change like responding to a 17-0 deficit at Iowa. I mean, that just doesn't happen every day, and this group was one of the best I've ever had at accepting that challenge.

Then today, [Auburn] got down there twice early and we hold them to field goals. We've always said that field goals won't beat you very often. So you've just got to rise up and respond, and they just did a phenomenal job.

Q. When you started your coaching career, how long did you imagine yourself coaching and just what's your thought as you finish up now? Did you imagine that you would be at this point in your career?

MIKE HANKWITZ: You know, when you start, you don't plan on how many years you're going to coach. You're young, you hope you get a chance to get on a good staff, and I was fortunate enough to do that and get with good people. And then made some stops along the way.

And I've been fortunate to work with some great head coaches. Obviously Coach Schembechler and Jim Young was a guy that was basically my mentor. I just admired the way he did things and the way he taught and the way he treated people. Then I got to go work with Jack Harbaugh; and Bill McCartney at Colorado; and Glen Mason at Kansas; and then R. C. Slocum; and then Gary Barnett who turned the Northwestern program around and won championships at Colorado, and then [I] went to Wisconsin.

And when I had the chance to come here, I didn't realize how fortunate I was. I had heard so much about Fitz, but when I met him, I was immediately impressed. I knew he was a special guy, and I can't say how appreciative of I am of him giving me this opportunity, because, you know, he values family. That isn't just talk; that he values it, and he makes you feel appreciated, too. Makes your efforts feel appreciated.

It will be one of my highlights in coaching, having that opportunity to come here, and we get to coach some great young men that want to get a great education, and they do well. Typically have over 3.0 GPAs because they value it and appreciate it but they also want to win at the highest level. Hopefully we've raised the bar a little and next time they can knock it down and win the Big Ten in Indianapolis. I'd like to think we helped raise the bar a little. I just feel so fortunate I was able to come here.

Q. Have you ever gotten Gatorade bath before? And today, when you woke up in the morning, when you got on the bus, anything different about your routine today as you soaked it in for the last time?

MIKE HANKWITZ: That's the first Gatorade bath I've ever had and that was the best one I've ever had.

It's been a very emotional week, and I just tried to not make it out to be anything different. I tried to prepare the same way. Go back through my game plan and my thoughts last night and look at some things. And I would run things by our defensive coaches because when we work a game plan, we work together and they have just done a phenomenal job all year, Coach Rollins' pass rush stuff; and Tim [McGarigle] has been great with runs and our change of pressures; and then Matt [McPherson] has made the major contributions in the coverage.

I've had some outstanding defenses, but we were ranked No. 1 in pass efficiency defense going into this game and I've never had that happen. In this day and age, that is hard to do, I believe, and that's a tribute to those guys and our players who are executing what we ask them to do.

So it was hard all week. But I tried not to change my routine, and just tried to keep doing the things that I've always done. Go back over my plan and look at things, and if I had a question, I'd run it by those guys.

Q. This will be the first time now you're heading into an off-season without a season to prepare for at the end. What are your plans for retirement? What would you like to do in this time?

MIKE HANKWITZ: Get rested up a little. Get some medical things taken care of. Then we're going to do some traveling. Try to catch up on seeing a lot of friends and people we've worked with. But you know, in coaching, your schedules don't always coincide. You don't have a chance to see all those people. So I'm really looking forward to that.

My teammates from my senior year in Michigan, the 1969 team, have been just amazing through the years keeping in touch with me and wishing me well and following my career, and I'm so looking in order to getting back to a game and seeing all those guys, because we've lost some of them last couple years. But I mean, I can't tell you how much it meant to me that they have kept in touch and sent me great messages and stuff. So I'm really looking forward to doing a lot of that stuff.

You know, I'll be certainly following the 'Cats, but I'm looking forward to just resting up a little bit now and catching up on a lot of things.

Q. I'm just wondering, trying to soak things in today, did you take any mental snapshots or when you think back on this, what images you'll remember from today?

MIKE HANKWITZ: From today, just our players resolve; that some way we were going to find a way to get it done and we accepted the challenge. We had some adversity early when [Auburn] got down there but they held them to field goals, and just their demeanor on the sideline; the determination they had. I felt like we were going to win this game one way or another, and I wouldn't have cared if it was 35-34. I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life, this group of young men, and the resolve they had to win this game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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