NIU’s Thomas Hammock named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year

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DeKALB, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) [NIU news release]– Northern Illinois University head coach Thomas Hammock has been named the 2021 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year and freshman running back Jay Ducker (Bellevue, Neb./Bellevue HS) was selected as the league’s Freshman of the Year, as the MAC released its 2021 Postseason Awards and All-Conference teams, as selected by MAC head coaches, Wednesday.

Freshman safety C.J. Brown (Canton, Mich./Walled Lake Western HS) led a contingent of 10 Huskies named to one of the conference’s three All-MAC teams by earning first team honors. Fellow freshman Trayvon Rudolph (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee HS) earned MAC second team honors at wide receiver and kickoff returner; he was joined on the second team by offensive linemen Nolan Potter (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Washington HS) and Brayden Patton (Elletsville, Ind./Edgewood HS).

A third offensive lineman, redshirt freshman Logan Zschernitz (Spencer, Wis./Spencer HS), was named to the All-MAC third team along with running back Clint Ratkovich (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee HS/Western Illinois), and three Huskie defenders: defensive tackle James Ester (Detroit, Mich./Cass Tech), linebacker Lance Deveaux Jr. (Pompano Beach, Fla./St. Thomas Aquinas HS) and cornerback Jordan Gandy (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb HS/South Dakota State).

Hammock led the Huskies, the second-youngest team in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), to the MAC West Division title and eight wins in 2021, including seven by one score or less. NIU opened the 2021 season with a 22-21 “Boneyard” win at Georgia Tech after scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion with 38 seconds to play. In all, NIU won four games by two points or less and another in overtime en route to an 8-4 record. The Huskies’ third-year mentor is the fourth NIU head coach to be named MAC Coach of the Year, joining a list that includes Bill Mallory (1983), Joe Novak (2002) and Rod Carey (2013).

“I view this recognition as a tremendous honor for our program,” Hammock said. “It’s a reflection of our players, it’s a reflection of our coaches, and the tremendous job that those groups have done to have the type of success we’ve had this year.”

Ducker, who leads NIU and ranks fourth in the MAC in rushing with 889 yards on 165 carries, has five 100-yard rushing games since taking over tailback duties in the seventh game of the season. He ran for 210 yards on 33 carries versus Bowling Green on October 16 to record the first 200-yard rushing game by a Huskie since 2013 and followed that with a 183-yard game at Central Michigan. Ducker is the fourth Huskie to be named the MAC Freshman of the Year, but only the second since 1985. He is the first running back to earn the honor for NIU, following quarterbacks Pete Genatempo (1984), Marshall Taylor (1985) and Marcus Childers (2017).

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