The school year and the athletic year have come to a close at Northern Illinois University. Many of the achievements were highlighted Tuesday night at Franchesco’s in Rockford.
15 coaches from NIU were there along with Director of Athletics Sean Frazier and other representatives from the university. They met with alumni and boosters as part of NIU’s annual Huskie Summer circuit. As always there was a lot of interest in the football program and even more so than usual this year with new head coach Thomas Hammock on board and some other exciting news for the football program.
It was in January when Hammock was introduced as the Huskies head coach. Sean Frazier was convinced then that he had the right man for the job and Frazier is even more convinced of that now after observing Hammock the last five months.
“I love his energy,” said Frazier. “He’s authentic. He is who he says he is and that’s just so refreshing. But I really do appreciate his sense of passion to lead NIU football. He’s been infectious. You watch him. You just want to hug him!”
Hammock’s energy does seem to be contagious. He inherited a talented core of returning players, and he’s been supplementing them with recruits and transfers. The most notable one is quarterback Ross Bowers. He transferred from the University of California. He’ll compete with returning starter Marcus Childers for the starting quarterback job.
“He’s an excellent thrower of the football,” said Hammock. “He has good touch with accuracy, and he just opens things up in the passing game.”
The other exciting news was the recent announcement that NIU, for the first time in football, has scheduled a game against Notre Dame. That game won’t be played until 2024 but it’s already having an impact on recruiting.
“The recruits are really excited about it,” said Hammock. “We recruit a lot of kids in the Midwest. Everybody knows who Notre Dame is. We’re certainly excited to have that opportunity. I said, ‘That will be your senior year right when it’s time to play those guys,’ so the class of 2020 is certainly excited about it.”
“It’s something that a lot of our supporters, our donors, NIU fans wanted to see,” said Frazier. “Notre Dame is iconic and I think taking a look at our program what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve done I think it was just a natural progression.”
This year’s schedule isn’t too shabby either. The Huskies non-conference opponents include Utah, Nebraska and Vanderbilt.