This is the first of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
I started becoming rooted in becoming a Northern Illinois fan when I was at Wheaton North High School. There was a big pipeline that went from my high school to NIU back in the day: RB A.J. Harris, LB Bob McClearen, QB Zach Ullrich & LBall signed on as Huskies. Early on, I thought that my high school football career was progressing enough that I would be able to play at the next level. Or maybe it was just a pipe dream (I blame injuries for derailing my career). Nevertheless, NIU was just the right fit in terms of size, location and developing football program.
I decided early that the Huskies were the perfect school to be a part of because they were on the rise. I wanted to go to a school on the verge of breaking through and becoming a power. Even though that process has stalled, I can really see that picking up again with the new regime.
My earliest memory of watching NIU was way back in 2002 when they upset Wake Forest 42-41. It was one of the most dramatic and wildly entertaining games I had ever seen up to that point. Azar with the field goal to force overtime. Thomas Hammock's last hurrah before his career finished with that heart condition of his.
Originally I was a Maryland fan. There I said it, just had to get that off my chest. Why? Mostly, because they were awesome earlier this decade and I would run roughshod over all my friends with the Terps in the NCAA games. I was literally unstoppable with that team. Then Maryland came to Huskie Stadium and NIU pulled off what was arguably their greatest upset ever. I was literally shocked that had happened. The Huskies continued to upset Alabama and Iowa State and push their way into the Top 25. Even though the Huskies never made a bowl game that year, at 10-2 that would put NIU on the map after having one of the worst programs in the country in the mid-nineties.
Through the years, NIU has been a haven for running backs. Hammock, Michael Turner, Garrett Wolfe and now Chad Spann. I've always been a fan of the running game and the offensive game plan has been the focus of that for years. My first game as a student was in the Big House against Michigan and haven't looked back since. I've been through it all, even when the team failed to meet expectations. Heck, this blog started during the 2-10 season in 2007.
It's been one rush of a decade, but NIU has one of the fastest-rising football programs even to this day and I'm proud to be a Northern Illinois Huskie and write about the team on a regular basis.
So that's my story about how I became an Northern Illinois Huskies fan. What's yours?