SYCAMORE, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — When you watch the Super Bowl a week from Sunday you might want to keep an eye out for the guy who wears number 56 for the Chiefs. He played his high school ball right here in Northern Illinois.
He Is Ben Niemann a linebacker and special teams player. He played high school football at Sycamore. There he wore number eight and he was an All-State receiver.
“We threw the ball up to him and he went and got a bunch of things and made some great plays for us,” said Sycamore coach Joe Ryan.
Niemann was part of a team that reached the State Semifinals in his senior season in 2012.
“Ben wasn’t one of those guys that you knew he was the best football player until you watched him on Friday nights,” said Ryan. “He wasn’t one of those guys that just walked through the hallways and, ‘Hey look at me.’ He was never like that. He was just a great player, a great teammate.’
Niemann wound up at Sycamore his sophomore, junior and senior seasons because his father Jay was on the coaching staff at Northern Illinois University next door in DeKalb. NIU was one of the college teams that recruited Niemann. The coaches there wanted him to play receiver as did several FCS schools, but Iowa came in late with a scholarship offer and wanted to him to play defense. Niemann had also played safety at Sycamore.
“He was a really good safety back there, coming downhill,” said Ryan. “I think that’s what Iowa saw in him to move him to outside linebacker. They saw his athleticism.”
Neimann started 40 games for the Hawkeyes and he was named Honorable Mention All-Big 10 as a senior. He went undrafted and his agent hooked him up with the Chiefs.
“I think he got a great opportunity being undrafted to be able to kind of choose the organization that he wanted to go to,” said Ryan. “I mean that was a great situation. His agent did a great job helping him with that one.”
This is Niemann’s second year with the Chiefs. He played in all 16 regular season games with one start. He has made 54 tackles including a season-high ten tackles against the Colts in week five.
Did Ryan ever imagine that one day Niemann would be an NFL player?
“No. I don’t think you look at players like that. I knew that he was a really good player. I knew he could do some things that would really help at Iowa, but after that it’s so hard.”
Come Super Bowl Sunday coach Ryan, like all of us, will be tuned into the Super Bowl, but he’ll be watching closely for #56 of the Chiefs…one of his own playing in the biggest game of all.
“It’s almost surreal,” said Ryan. “We’re going to see him on the national spotlight playing on the biggest game of football and to know that he was here, we got a chance to coach him for a short period of time, but it’s really exciting!”
Catch Super Bowl LIV Sunday, February 2 on Fox 39 in Rockford. The kickoff will be at 5:30 CT.