DeKALB, IL (WTVO/WQRF) [NIU news release] – The NIU Football Team continues to collect the preseason accolades as the defending Mid-American Conference champion Huskies have a league-high 15 selections on Phil Steele’s 2022 Preseason MAC Team.

The Huskies had five selections to Steele’s First Team. Offensive linemen Logan Zschernitz (Spencer, Wis./Spencer HS) and Nolan Potter (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington HS) were chosen for the first team offense along with wide receiver Trayvon Rudolph (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee HS). Potter and Zschernitz started all 14 games of the 2021 season at right tackle and right guard respectively, helping pave the way for the nation’s fourth-leading rushing offense. Rudolph, NIU’s leading receiver last season with 51 receptions for 892 yards and seven touchdowns, was also put on the second team as a kick returner.

Safety C.J. Brown (Canton, Mich./Walled Lake Western HS) earned a place on the first team defense after leading the Huskies with 109 tackles. Kicker John Richardson (Orland Park, Ill./Brother Rice HS) was also a first team choice as the top placekicker in the conference. Richardson was top-10 in the nation in field goals per game with 1.69 and made over 80 percent of his field goal attempts last season.

NIU had another three selections on offense to the second team in quarterback Rocky Lombardi (Clive, Iowa/Valley HS), running back Harrison Waylee (Johnston, Iowa/Urbandale HS) and offensive tackle Marques Cox (Peoria, Ill./Peoria HS). Cornerback Jordan Gandy (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb HS) was also placed on the second team, a year after recording 10 pass breakups and 3.5 tackles for loss. Lombardi accounted for over 3,000 yards of total offense and 24 touchdowns in his first season in DeKalb. Waylee averaged 114.8 rushing yards per game in the five games he played in 2021.

Defensive Tackle James Ester (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech) is on the third team as defensive end Raishein Thomas (Racine, Wis./Washington Park), linebacker Kyle Pugh (Chicago Heights, Ill./Bloom Township HS) and safety Devin Lafayette (Brunswick, Ga./Brunswick HS) are on the fourth team. Tight End Miles Joiner (Dayton, Ohio/Butler HS) is also on the fourth team. Ester was one of three Huskies on defense to start every game of the 2021 season recording 25 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Thomas started 11 of the 14 games he played last season and was one of two Huskies to have two fumble recoveries. Both Pugh and Randolph were selected to the All-MAC Third Team in 2020.