/notables/2010/12/wheaton-alumni-meet-in-nfl

Wheaton alumni meet in NFL

More news about: Wheaton (Ill.)
Studebaker and Ittersagen
Pete Ittersagen, right, was recently activated off the Tennessee practice squad, while Andy Studebaker has been a mainstay at linebacker for Kansas City.
Kansas City Chiefs photo

By Bryan Holmgren

It’s a play, not unlike the many thousand you’ll see on a typical NFL Sunday. Dexter McCluster of the Chiefs hauls in a kick and looks for an opening that isn’t there. Bodies fly, whistles blow, the ball is repositioned and both teams quickly move onto the next. In reality, an otherwise routine opening kickoff has been anything but.

With Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker paving the way for the return unit and Tennessee Titans corner Pete Ittersagen streaking down the opposite side in hot pursuit of the ball carrier, NFL history is made – even if very few people realize it.

Studebaker – a sixth round draft pick in 2008 from Wheaton College – and Ittersagen – a rookie free agent in 2009, also out of Wheaton – are unofficially the first pair of former Division III teammates to share an NFL field in 24 years.

“It’s something that neither of us takes for granted,” says Studebaker afterward. “Not a lot of guys from our level get this opportunity.”

“Obviously Andy and I have a special place in our hearts for Wheaton College, so any time we can represent our college, it’s an honor,” says Ittersagen. “The fact that we could do that today is really, really special.”

Division III players on NFL rosters make up an elite fraternity. When Ittersagen was elevated from the Tennessee practice squad on December 17, he joined a list of just seven D3 alums with a current home on an active roster.

“It was such a blessing to be activated,” said Ittersagen, who toiled on Tennessee’s practice squad for 14 weeks before getting finally his chance. “It’s been dream come true.”

Ittersagen has been through the wringer over the last year and half – released by the Jaguars, waived by the Colts, then cut twice more by Tennessee. His 4.4 speed made him an All-American corner and an elite kick returner during his Wheaton days. With Tennessee he’s just one of the guys, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Every opportunity I have on the football field, I don’t take for granted. I work my butt off and it’s a passion of mine, so –“ ... as Ittersagen visits with a reporter in the lockerroom after the game, his teammates begin to tease him, sticking imaginary tape recorders in front of his face and cutting off his answers with fake questions. By NFL standards, he’s considered a second-year player. On the Titans, he’s still one of the low men on the totem pole.

“Any time I’m out there I’m just enjoying life,” he finishes. And you can tell he means it.

That passion has been on display the past two weeks. Buried on the depth chart behind All-Pro corner Cortland Finnegan, Ittersagen’s making the most of his opportunities on special teams. In his debut against the Houston Texans, Ittersagen logged three tackles, though a week later against the Chiefs, his chances are limited.

Despite a healthy contingent of former Wheaton players on hand to watch, the so-called “Wheatie Bowl” has failed to generate much buzz. In a section of the Kansas City game notes listing some of the obscure connections between the Chiefs and Titans, the Studebaker-Ittersagen relationship is omitted entirely. The closest the two come to making any on-field contact comes deep in the third quarter after a downed punt. As Ittersagen turns back toward the Tennessee sideline, his former teammate makes an abrupt turn to cut him off. To the rest of the world, it probably looks like two rivals jawing at one another.

“We just kind of slapped each other, said hello,” laughs Ittersagen. “That was cool.”

“I wanted to bump him real quick – let him know that I was watching him,” Studebaker says. “Yeah, it was a lot of fun.”

Rewind to the first quarter, with Tennessee on the ninth play of a long, sustained march. On third-and-5, Studebaker – who sees extensive playing time as a pass rusher on throwing downs – slips around his man and pulls down quarterback Kerry Collins from behind to move the Titans out of field goal range. A sell out Arrowhead Stadium crowd erupts as Studebaker pumps his fist.

“Embrace the opportunities, embrace the experiences.” says Studebaker. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and hopefully Pete follows in that same direction.”

 Studebaker’s road has been a bit smoother, but by no means easy. Being a D-III alum in the NFL is rare, but being drafted out of a D-III college is almost unheard of. Studebaker – who was taken in the sixth round of the 2008 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles – is closing out his third season.

Like Ittersagen, Studebaker spent time on a practice squad. He was working with the Eagles late in the 2008 season when the struggling Chiefs snapped him up, looking for some extra depth at linebacker.

That offseason Kansas City fired almost its entire coaching staff and also turned over much of its front office. Typically, a total housecleaning in an organization means bad news for the holdovers, but not for Studebaker. He has survived and even thrived in two years under new coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli.

With the Chiefs in rebuilding mode and the organization focused on developing youth, Studebaker has gotten some long looks from the Chiefs brass. He’s made the most of just about every opportunity. In his first and only career start during the 2009 season, Studebaker intercepted two passes and recorded five tackles against the defending champion Steelers. A few weeks later, he scored his first touchdown, falling on a blocked punt in the endzone against Cleveland.

In November 2010, Pioli awarded Studebaker a new contract, making him the first Chief to receive an extension from the new management.

“I really love playing here, we love the community here, love the team here, love the organization. After you battle and battle for two years, three years in the league, it’s nice to have a small amount of security.”

Studebaker’s success has been a lift for Ittersagen, too. Good friends in college, they’ve grown even closer during the past two years, sharing their struggles and successes against some of the best competition in the world.

“He did the whole draft process and NFL thing a year before I did, so he’s always been a big instrument for me in helping me,” says Ittersagen.

“We keep in touch, probably once every couple of weeks I’ll call him and see how things are going,” Studebaker adds. “Sometimes last year when he was a rookie and grinding, he could call and ask questions. It’s amazing to see his progress. “

After the Chiefs’ 34-14 victory over the Titans, Studebaker makes a bee-line, not for Ittersagen, but for the team photographer. He’s been planning this all week. The former teammates, turned enemies, turned friends pose near midfield with the towering stadium walls as a backdrop.

It’s a perfect keepsake for the two of them, but Studebaker is thinking big picture – literally.

“We’re going to get this framed and everything for the program, for the coaches at Wheaton.”

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
Video Video Box Score Recap
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
Video Box Score
Final
Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Union 28, Hobart 23
Video
Final
at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
Video Box Score
Final
at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
Video Box Score
Final
SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
Video Box Score
Final
Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
Box Score
Final
Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
Video Box Score
Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
Video Box Score Video
Final
at Albion 31, Alma 28
Video Box Score
Final
at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
Video Box Score
Final
Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
Video Box Score
Final
at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
Box Score
Final
Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
Video Box Score
Final
at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
Video Box Score
Final
Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
Video
Final
at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
RPI 30, at Alfred 15
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Curry 46, Nichols 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
Video Box Score
Final
Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
Box Score
Final
at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Trine 50, Hope 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
Video Box Score
Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
Video Box Score
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
Video Video Box Score
Final
Tufts 21, at Williams 13
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
Video Box Score
Final
MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
Video Box Score
Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
Video Video Box Score Photos
Final
John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
Video Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
Video
Final
Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
Video Box Score
Final
at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
Video Box Score
Final
Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
Video Box Score
Final
Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
Video Box Score Live stats Audio Audio
Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
Video Box Score
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
Video Box Score
Final
Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
Video Box Score
Final
Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
Video
Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
Video Box Score
Final
at Loras 44, Coe 38
Video Box Score
Final
Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
Video
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
Video Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
Box Score Photos
Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
Video Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
Box Score
Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
Video Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
Box Score Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
Video Box Score Live stats Audio
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
Video Box Score
Final
at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
Video Box Score
Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
Video Box Score
Final
Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
Video
Final
at Castleton 17, Dean 14
Video Box Score
Final
N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
Video Box Score
Final
at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
Box Score
Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
Video Box Score
Final
Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
Video Box Score
Final
at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
Video Box Score
Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
Video Video Box Score Recap
Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
Video Box Score Recap
Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
Video Box Score Video
Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
Video Video Box Score Recap
Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
Video Box Score
Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
Video Box Score
Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
Video Box Score Recap
Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
Video Box Score Live stats Audio Audio
Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
Video Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
Video Box Score
Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
Video Box Score
Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
Video Box Score Photos
Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
Video Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
Video Box Score Photos
Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
Video Box Score Recap
Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
Video Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
Video Box Score
Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
Video Box Score