DeKALB, Illinois – Seven members of the Northern Illinois University football team were named to one of three All Mid-American Conference teams announced by the conference office Wednesday, led by offensive lineman Nolan Potter (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington HS), who earned first team honors. The teams are selected by MAC head coaches.
Joining Potter in receiving league recognition this year were defensive tackle Devonte O’Malley (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen HS) and safety C.J. Brown (Canton, Mich./Walled Lake Western HS), who received second-team All-MAC accolades. Four Huskies – offensive guard Logan Zschernitz (Spencer, Wis./Spencer HS), running back Harrison Waylee (Johnston, Iowa/Urbandale HS), defensive end Michael Kennedy (Chicago, Ill./Mt. Carmel HS) and defensive tackle James Ester (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) – were third team selections.
“Obviously anytime you receive All-MAC recognition it’s a big deal,” said NIU head coach Thomas Hammock. “This team is voted on by the coaches in our league and they have a chance to watch everyone play. These seven players are all deserving and with six of the seven coming back, I’m excited about them and their continued development in our program.”
Potter and Zschernitz led a Huskie offensive line that ranked first in the MAC and 11th in the country in fewest sacks allowed while clearing a path for the No. 2 rushing offense in the league. A redshirt junior, Potter collected first team honors in 2022 after being named to the All-MAC second team a year ago, while Zschernitz’ repeated as a third team selection. Both Potter and Zschernitz earned the recognition despite missing time during the Huskies’ MAC schedule due to injury.
“The offensive line was a strength this season,” Hammock said. “That group performed well, led by Nolan who played well and has been a great leader. Logan is a guy we have leaned on and relied on for the last three seasons. I know they are anxious to perform even better next season.”
Brown led NIU in tackles for the second straight season with 76, including 37 solo stops, and broke up five passes to lead the Huskies. He returned an interception 29 yards at Ball State, forced a fumble versus Central Michigan and recovered one in the Vanderbilt game while making a season high 13 tackles. The third year Huskie has started 25 consecutive games and was a first team All-MAC selection a year ago.
“Once again C.J. held up the back end and finished the season leading us in tackles,” Hammock said. “He was consistent for us, and we saw him continue to improve in different aspects of his play. I’m excited to see that development continue going forward.”
O’Malley and Kennedy each earned the first All-MAC recognition of their careers after tying for the team lead in quarterback sacks with five-and-a-half each. O’Malley made a career-high 36 tackles, more than doubling his previous season best, and ranked second on the team in tackles for loss with seven while starting every game at defensive tackle. In his sixth and final season on the roster, Kennedy established new single season highs for sacks and tackles for loss (6.5) while adding 32 tackles.
The duo was joined by Ester on the 2022 All-MAC team, giving NIU three defensive linemen among the league’s top 12, the most of any team in the league. Ester, who has started 28 consecutive games for the Huskies over the last three seasons, made 28 tackles in 2022 with six tackles for loss. He tied O’Malley for the team lead in quarterback hurries, forced a pair of fumbles and intercepted a pass in the end zone at Eastern Michigan for his first career touchdown.
“We were good up front on the defensive line and there could have even been a few more players there to get recognition,” Hammock said. “I’m happy for Devonte, James and Mike. All three played good football for us and were productive. We increased our sacks and our pressures, and it was because guys elevated their play. For Mike to go out and have the type of season he had, even in situational duty, in his last year, he was impactful for us. Devonte and James are reaching their potential and it’s exciting to see what they will do next year.”
Running back Harrison Waylee rounds out the 2022 All-MAC Huskies as the third-year sophomore led NIU with a career-high 899 rushing yards on 165 carries despite missing one full game and playing through injury in the final two games of the year. Wayleee averaged 5.4 yards per carry and 81.7 rushing yards per game and totaled 1,018 all-purpose yards to lead the team. He ranked fourth on the team in receptions with 17 and led the Huskies in total offense.
“Harry [Waylee] is a guy that has really developed in our program and gotten better each year,” Hammock said. “I would have loved to have seen him healthy in all 12 games because the level he played at when healthy was as good as anyone in the league. I’m proud of him for going out there the last three games when he wasn’t at his best to help the team.”