DeKALB, Ill. - After introducing 31 new Huskies Wednesday on National Signing Day, NIU Head Coach Dave Doeren announced Thursday that two familiar names will return to the Northern Illinois coaching staff in 2012.
P.J. Fleck, a Kaneland, Ill. product who played and coached at Northern Illinois before spending the last two seasons at Rutgers, will return to his alma mater as offensive coordinator. Mike Uremovich, a native of New Lenox, Ill. who spent the past seven years as head coach at the University of St. Francis in Joliet and previously worked as a graduate assistant at NIU for former head coach Joe Novak, joins the staff as running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
Doeren said that bringing Fleck back home to Northern Illinois was an easy decision.
"When I found out [former offensive coordinator] Matt Canada was leaving, the first person who came to mind was P.J.," Doeren said. "We spoke at length about why this is the right place for him. It was very evident to me that he bleeds NIU, and he would have tremendous pride and passion working not just for me, but for the university to help continue what we started last year, and really what he started here as a player.His recruiting abilities and passing game expertise, working alongside Coach Carey as our run game coordinator, will be a great combination for our offense.It's great to have P.J., Tracie and their son Carter back at Northern Illinois, and I know Huskie fans are going to be thrilled."
Fleck, who played wide receiver for the Huskies from 1999-2003 and spent three seasons on the NIU coaching staff from 2007-2009, welcomed the opportunity to become an offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois and to be a member of Doeren's staff.
"I am really excited to be back home and to re-join the Huskie Family," Fleck said."One of the big reasons why I came back was Dave Doeren.He contacted me about the position and it immediately sparked my interest. It gives me a chance to continue to develop myself as a coach.Responsibility equals growth, and he's given me an enormous amount of responsibility.It's a great challenge and I can't wait to get started."
As a player at Northern Illinois, Fleck helped build the Huskies' winning tradition.As a senior in 2003, he led the Huskies with 77 catches for 1,028 yards and six touchdowns, a reception total that still ranks second on the school's single-season list.He was a first team All Mid-American Conference selection in 2003 while helping NIU to a 7-0 start that included upset victories over Maryland and Alabama.He still owns the school record for career punt returns, is second in punt return yards, third in career catches and fourth in receiving yards. Following his NIU playing career, he spent two seasons in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers before retiring as a player and beginning his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State in 2006.
As a member of the NIU coaching staff, Fleck helped the Huskies to a pair of bowl games in 2008 and 2009.In addition to his duties as wide receivers coach, he served as recruiting coordinator in 2009.One of his NIU pupils, Britt Davis, went on to play in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and is in Indianapolis as a member of the New England Patriots' practice squad. The Sugar Grove native is no stranger to Northern Illinois' tradition.
"The great thing about Northern Illinois is that the tradition has been built," he said."Now we have to continue to take strides in the right direction to continue to make the tradition strong. We want to continue to develop our student-athletes on a daily basis and that is what Dave is all about.I respect so much what they did last year. He had a tremendous football team coming in, but NIU has had a lot of good football teams come through here in the past. Getting that MAC Championship trophy says a lot about his leadership here at NIU."
Uremovich was a part of the Huskies' tradition in the early years of this century as well as he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant on Novak's staff in 2001 and 2002 for teams that each won MAC West Division titles.Three years later, Uremovich took over as head coach of the NAIA University of St. Francis team.In 2011, he led the Saints to their most successful season in school history as USF won a school-record 10 games and claimed their first win over an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team when they defeated Georgia State.The Saints advanced to the NAIA Playoffs for the first time in 24 years and captured their first playoff victory. USF also posted seven-win seasons in 2008 and 2010 as the program was built under Uremovich.
Doeren was happy to bring a coach with Uremovich's coaching experience, ties to NIU and relationships with local high schools, to his staff.
"I have had my eye on Mike since I interviewed him last year," Doeren said."He's a guy that has worked his way up in the profession. He has coached every position on offense and every unit on special teams so he brings a lot of experience. He's a guy that has built and run his own program and turned it in to a winning program. He brings a great sense of pride about being a Division I coach here, and we want to welcome Mike, his wife, Katie, and their children, Ella, Mikey and Drew to the Huskie family."
Uremovich, who attended Providence Catholic High School, believes his experience as a head coach in the state for the last seven years can benefit the Huskies.
"Being a head coach in the state of Illinois for the past seven years has allowed me to build great relationships with high school coaches," he said. "We had 60 players from Illinois on our roster from St. Francis and I think I have a great relationship with high school coaches throughout the state.
"I had a great experience working with Coach Novak here as a graduate assistant, and the opportunity to come back as a coach on Dave's staff is something I'm really excited about," Uremovich continued. "I've gotten to know Dave over the course of the last year and have a great respect for him and how he's run his football program. When the opportunity arose for me to come and be a part of it here, I jumped at the chance."
Doeren has now filled all three open spots on his coaching staff as Fleck and Uremovich join former NFL wide receiver and NIU player Frisman Jackson, who was most recently an assistant coach at Akron, as the newest staff members.
"When I had a chance to hire three new coaches this year, I hired three guys that have NIU ties," Doeren said. "That was important to me, not just to find the right coaches but to find three coaches that want to be here and want to be a part of this community and this university. They have an understanding of Northern Illinois, how we operate and what we're looking for."
Doeren said that in addition to Fleck's role as offensive coordinator and Uremovich working with running backs and as special teams coordinator, that Jackson would coach the Huskie wide receivers with veteran Bob Cole returning to a familiar role working with quarterbacks.Rod Carey will continue to coach the NIU offensive line and has added responsibilities as run game coordinator. Joe Tripodi will now coach the NIU tight ends and fullbacks after Kevin Kane's move to the defensive side of the ball as linebackers' coach. Kane will also work with the Huskies' kickers, punters and snappers.
"Coach Cole has coached quarterbacks for more than 20 years and played the position, so I know he is excited about working with that group," Doeren said."I recruited Coach Kane as a linebacker, he started for me as a linebacker and I trained him as a linebacker coach.The year he spent on offense will make him an even better defensive coach.I know he is excited about moving over to the defensive side of the ball."