Rocky Lombardi starting fresh at NIU, already making an impact

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DEKALB, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)– One of the things that has held back NIU’s football program in recent seasons has been the lack of a big-time playmaker at quarterback. The Huskies might have one this season in transfer QB Rocky Lombardi.

Lombardi has the tools that you’d want in a quarterback. For starters, he’s a great all-around athlete. In high school near Des Moines, Iowa he excelled in four sports. As a wrestler he finished second in the state as a senior.

“From a wrestling standpoint the mentality has helped me just through my football career in general,” said Lombardi. “Wrestling is a really tough sport, and it takes a lot of mental toughness to get through not only the season, but also practices day-to-day.”

Lombardi was rated by ESPN as the 12th best dual-threat quarterback in the nation coming out of high school. He wound up at Michigan State. There he started nine games and passed for almost 2,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had a huge game against Michigan when he passed for 323 yards and three touchdowns, and another huge game against Rutgers when he again passed for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns. But his inconsistent play cost him his starting job, so he entered the transfer portal. That’s how NIU landed a Big Ten quarterback.

His athleticism has never been questioned. His ability to be a pocket passer has been questioned. Lombardi believes he’s made strides at that.

“I’ve definitely improved over the past couple years. You watch tape of me as a freshman and as a senior and just in my throwing motion overall I’ve improved, gotten a lot more fluid, more accurate over the years. People can say what they want. I’m just going to show up and work.”

The NIU players have embraced Lombardi. They voted him one of the team’s captains.

“(He’s) A great person. A great leader,” said NIU center Brayden Patton. “The guys listen to him. He’s that type of leader where he’s going to say something, and I’m going to listen to him.”

NIU cornerback Jordan Gandy feels the same way about Lombardi. “He’s already done a great job of coming in and really just putting his stamp on everybody and being positive.”

No one is happier to have Lombardi in NIU black and red then NIU head coach Thomas Hammock is. “He’s had a chance to show his work ethic, his commitment, his leadership skills. That’s the thing that’s been the most impressive. He’s a grown man. He commands respect.”

NIU will kickoff its season this Saturday evening at Georgia Tech.

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