Former NIU football players and coaches were part of a reception at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach. It was a 'who's who' of NIU football all in one room, former players and coaches sharing hugs and smiles, all fired up about seeing their alma mater in the Orange Bowl.
"Just waiting for the opportunity to see the team on a big stage like this, and I'm real excited," says former receiver Justin McCareins. "It's been great. I think they deserve all the credit they've been getting."
Jake Coffman adds, "I've bumped into a few of the players I used to play with,and they deserve everything they have, and so does this university."
Former head coach Joe Novak, who got the Huskies on the winning path a dozen years ago, was also at the reception. "This is awesome!" he told Sports Director Scott Leber. "Of course everyone is so excited. Such a positive thing, and it's a great thing for the university."
"It's just a surreal experience," former player Earl Upton says. "Graduating from NIU and seeing the players here in the Orange Bowl is something I would have never imagined."
And while it has been years since this group has put on an NIU uniform, they have laid a strong foundation for these NIU Huskies.
"Since 2000, you see the program building, and its ... you know, I see Coach Novak here, and he was such a great part of this."
And when asked if the Huskies have a legitimate shot to win a game where they are two touchdown underdogs, former player Ken Muszyski replies, "Huskies have a shot in every game. Don't ever put them down, they'll come back."