July 23, 2008
DeKALB, Ill. - The Huskie football team added a victory to its 2007-08 season by capturing the Northern Illinois Resource Bank Challenge of Champions title.
The Challenge of Champions pitted all 16 Huskie teams, plus cheerleaders and Huskie interns, against one another to see which group could perform best on and off the field. Teams received points based on excelling in the NCAA CHAMPS / Life Skills five commitment areas: academic excellence, athletic excellence, personal development, career development and service.
Huskie student-athletes, cheerleaders and interns totaled over 3,300 community service hours through the Challenge, in addition to pursuing activities that will enhance their academic and professional sides.
To win the Challenge of Champions, the football team accumulated 4,205 points, thanks in part to a special strategy devised by head coach Jerry Kill. The first-year coach makes it a habit to turn everything, from strength and conditioning to drills at practice, into a competition. Kill split his team into groups of seven, and held a contest within his squad to see what group could accumulate the most Challenge of Champions points.
Junior offensive lineman Jason Onyebuagu (Indianapolis, Ind./Warren Central), who's team finished third among the football groups, said competing with his teammates pushed his group of seven to find every opportunity for points possible.
"As we got going, it turned into a real competition for points," he said. "You never want to let your team down, so you're always thinking of ways you could outdo the other guys."
What started as a game for Onyebuagu turned into a lesson, as he and other members of the football team helped serve dinner at Hope Haven, a homeless shelter in DeKalb.
"It did a lot for me, showing how good we have it over here," he said. "We get new facilities and things to take advantage of, and I appreciate those things a lot more now."
The football team earned 3,070 points from community service alone, which translates to around 1,000 total hours. The time spent on projects assisting local non-profit groups and volunteering at elementary schools put football ahead of the second-place team, men's soccer, who tallied 2,865 points.
"We have a little bit more numbers than the other teams, so we use that as a positive," Onyebuagu said. "It's fun, because every team gets into it and wants to come out on top."
Junior men's soccer player Josh Karsten agreed that the Challenge of Champions made everyone work a little harder for their community.
"We were always on the lookout for ways to earn Challenge of Champions points," Karsten said. "The team went to the Lincoln Elementary Fun Fair. It was good to put smiles on kids' faces."
Softball finished third with 2,200 points, many of which came from donating to a shoe drive and helping at a Special Olympics fundraiser.
The football team can begin the defense of its Challenge of Champions title on Aug. 25, the first day of fall semester classes.