DeKALB, Ill. – Northern Illinois University Head Football Coach Thomas Hammock announced the signing of 22 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for 2021 on Wednesday, National Signing Day for college football programs across the country.

“Obviously, it’s a great day to be a Huskie, and we’re certainly excited about this class,” Hammock said. “We were able to add some pieces to the puzzle that will allow us to continue to develop the depth and talent of our program. This class has athleticism, is filled with very competitive players and a lot of guys that played multiple sports. These are high academic achieving young men that are going to represent the university well. That’s a big part of what we’re look for, guys that will do the right thing on and off the field.”

The Huskies’ 22-man all freshman class hails from 11 different states and Canada, topped by the five Illinois products who elected to remain in the region and play for NIU.  NIU signed three players from Georgia and two each from Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa.  In addition to adding to its Midwest base with one player each from Michigan and Indiana, NIU will welcome players from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas in 2021. Defensive back Cyrus McGarrell comes to NIU from Windsor, Ontario, Canada after playing his senior season of football at Clearwater Academy International in Florida.

Hammock said the Huskies are able to cast a wide net due to the relationships his coaching staff has developed across the country.

“We have a lot of connections and prior relationships in different areas among our staff, and they’ve done a phenomenal job,” Hammock said. “We have a process in recruiting. We’re not a mass offer operation, this year we [only] offered 91 guys to sign this class. For us, it’s about relationships. We are going to spend the necessary amount of time with the student-athletes we’re recruiting and their families where they feel comfortable with us.”

Without the ability to see student-athletes in person or to have them on campus beginning in March due to the pandemic, having those prior relationships was more important than ever, Hammock said.

“This was a different year for a lot of different reasons for recruiting,” Hammock said. “I think we got lucky in that we were able to get over 300 kids and families on campus back in January, as we worked ahead in the recruiting process for 2021. We were able to take advantage of those weekends and it paid dividends when things got shut down. We were able to continue to develop relationships and that gave us a chance to add to our class slowly but surely. I think it all came together nicely.”

NIU signed 12 defensive and 10 offensive players, with the defensive group split evenly among linebackers, defensive backs – specifically cornerbacks – and defensive linemen. The Huskies added four offensive linemen, two wide receivers and two running backs as well as one quarterback and one tight end.

“Roster management is something that we look at daily,” Hammock said. “We want to have balance and depth throughout the program. We’re going to attack the areas we need to improve on. The way the class fell out this year with what we took last year fit us perfectly.”

Four members of the 2021 signing class – quarterback Ethan Hampton (Elburn, Ill./Aurora Christian HS), tight end Blake Kosin (Daviburg, Mich./Clarkston HS), offensive lineman Pete Nygra (North Indianapolis, Ind./Brownsburg HS) and McGarrell – are slated to enroll at NIU in January and join the team for the offseason workout program and 2021 spring practices.