Jan. 31, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University football team carried its success on the field into the classroom placing a school-record six Huskies on the league's Academic All-MAC Football Team, as selected by the conference's faculty athletic representatives.
Nose guard Nabal Jefferson (Chicago, Ill./Marist), a three-time Academic All-MAC selection, headlines the list of NIU's first-team honorees which includes defensive end Alan Baxter (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove), punter Ryan Neir (Roscoe, Ill./Hononegah), tight end Jason Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore), safety Courtney Stephen (Brampton, Ont., Canada/Turner/Fenton/Wilfrid Laurier Univ.) and fullback Rob Sterling (Lansing, Ill./T.F. South), while defensive end Jason Meehan (St. Louis, Mo./Webster Groves) garnered honorable mention accolades.
"These guys have demonstrated how good they are in the classroom, and they are great representatives of our team and how well we have performed as a whole academically," said NIU head coach Rod Carey. "Success in the classroom and success on the field go hand-in-hand in our program. We saw the success on the field with our team winning our second straight MAC championship and going to the Orange Bowl, and the six Academic All-MAC selections are another example of our success in the classroom.
"These players are as competitive on the field as they are in the classroom and it shows when you look at their play on the field, and it shows in the grades they've earned to win honors like this."
Northern Illinois led the nation with three Academic All-Americans in 2012, as named by the College Sports Information Directors of America. All three of those players, Baxter, Jefferson and Schepler, along with Capital One Academic All-District selection Sterling were named to the MAC Academic squad.
Jefferson, a 2012 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete award winner and second-team Capital One Academic All-American, posted a 3.69 grade point average in accountancy. He was sixth on the team in tackles with 58 stops, including 24 solo tackles, starting all 14 games for the Huskies in 2012. Jefferson recorded a career-high nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss in NIU's victory over Kent State in the 2012 MAC Championship game.
A first-team Capital One Academic All-American, Baxter carries a 3.63 GPA in finance. He led the Huskies and ranked second in the conference and 32nd nationally in sacks with 9.5 on the season and was a first-team All-MAC selection by league coaches in 2012. Schepler, a second-team Capital One Academic All-America selection, was the Huskies' top blocker tallying a team-high 60 pancake blocks. An electrical engineering major with a 3.87 GPA, he started every game at tight end in 2012.
Neir, a 2011 Academic All-MAC selection, boasts a team-high 4.0 GPA while pursuing his master's degree in business administration. He averaged 38.1 yards on 51 punts, placing 24 inside the 20-yard line, and hit a career-long 55-yard punt against Kent State in the MAC title game. Stephen, who played predominantly on special teams, made 13 tackles and intercepted a pass in 10 games. Sterling saw action in all 14 games for the Huskies, making three starts at fullback. An accountancy major with a 3.66 GPA, the true sophomore helped NIU average 469.6 yards of total offense which ranked 20th in the nation and led the conference.
Academic All-MAC accolades go to MAC student-athletes who have excelled in athletics and academics. To qualify, a student-athlete must have at least a 3.20 cumulative GPA and have participated in at least 50 percent of the contests for that particular sport. First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award.
Meehan, a sophomore defensive end, was named to the honorable mention list after recording 19 tackles and forcing a fumble in 13 games for the Huskies in 2012. A business major, he maintains a 3.22 GPA.
The Academic All-MAC selections caps off an historic year for the NIU football program as the Huskies won a school-record 12 games, captured their second-straight MAC championship and became the first league school to earn a Bowl Championship Series berth in 2012.