Jan. 9, 2012
It was a celebration that began on the turf at Ladd-Peebles Stadium around Midnight and continued all the way to DeKalb.
After Chandler Harnish took a knee in the Victory Formation and the clock was at zero, senior DeMarcus Grady gave first-year head coach Dave Doeren the traditional Gatorade bath and the celebration of a 38-20 victory in the GoDaddy.com Bowl began in earnest. However, it was less a celebration of a single victory, but a commemoration of an incredible season.
Families and friends made their way down to the field to take part in the merriment. They posed for photos with their sons, and took a few snap shots of their sons with their teammates. Coaches gathered their position groups together for one last photo. Eventually, the field had to be cleared and the party needed to be moved so the team headed back to the hotel.
When the Huskies returned to the team hotel at 1:15 a.m., the players were greeted by a surprise in the lobby as throngs of NIU fans were there to greet them. It began as the team entered the hotel as many fans formed a corridor from the hotel entrance to a flight of stairs that led to the second floor which provided a perfect view of the scene below. Above, fans gathered on the second and third floors cheering and chants of N-I-U, N-I-U raining down upon them
As the team meandered through their fans, some were smiling; others maintained their game face, while many were looking around in disbelief. A lot of the players even took out their cell phones and flip cams taking in the moment. The biggest roar came as linebacker Jordan Delegal and right tackle Keith Otis carried the massive GoDaddy.com Bowl trophy through the crowd and up the stairs. The two seniors paused at the midpoint of the staircase and placed the trophy on the ledge so all the fans to see.
"I've never had anything like that in my life. I was pretty impressed, shocked to be honest," said NIU center Scott Wedige. "It's special for us to go out this way, winningest class, MAC champs, back-to-back 11 win seasons, back-to-back MAC West champs. It is bitter sweet, but it's sweeter right now."
As the lobby cleared out and fans and families said their good-byes, the players continued to celebrate for it could be the last time that group would be together. They paid no mind to the early 7 a.m. wake-up call.
Five hours after the impromptu party in the lobby, the mood was a little more subdued as players started coming down from their rooms to load the buses to head to the airport.
The celebration continued when the team returned to campus around 1:45 p.m. Monday afternoon. DeKalb Fire Department trucks and university police cars led a procession of the official travel party down Lincoln Highway. The Huskies were home and they were home winners. What makes what the Huskies accomplished so special was that they began the season with a set of goals and accomplished every goal on that board. In the process, they cemented their legacy in Northern Illinois University history.