Illinois Names Atkinson, Haldi, Hickenbottom & Verstraete 2004
--- With apologies to Marvel Comics and four-color genius Stan Lee,
it does fit the latest profile for Northern Illinois University
football. The Fantastic Four for 2004. Yes, the Huskies have new
quad-captains for next fall.
The 2004 team
captains include senior linebacker Brian Atkinson (Chicago / Fenger),
senior quarterback Josh Haldi (Madison, OH), senior strong safety
Lionel Hickenbottom (Dolton / Chicago Robeson), and senior offensive
tackle Jake VerStraete (Atkinson / Geneseo J. D. Darnall), Northern
Illinois head coach Joe Novak announced Tuesday (April 20).
is a fantastic group of seniors, Novak said. All four
have played a lot of football here and know exactly what our program
is about. They know our team goals and what we need to do to get
there. We have a lot of work to do this summer and during August
two-a-days. They have been picked by their peers. Its a solid
group who has shown us great leadership on and off the football
field. These four young men are tremendous ambassadors for Huskie
In the 103-year
history of Northern Illinois football, this quartet represents the
ninth time the Huskies have boasted quad-captains----starting in
1970, plus 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1993, 1994, and now 2004.
The last NIU quad-captains were Sean Allgood, Gerald Nickelberry,
Chris ONeal, and Vaurice Patterson under then coach Charlie
Sadler. The 2004 captains balloting was done last week and
announced to the team Friday (April 16).
6-foot-1, 223-pound Atkinson made the big move from Sam
linebacker to Mike this spring. A preseason Rotary Lombardi
Award candidate with :04.60 speed in the 40, No. 38 won First-Team
All-Mid-American Conference honors last fall and joined a select
group of Northern Illinois elite All-MAC backers such as Bob Gregolunas
(1975), Frank Lewandoski (1977, 1979), Mike Terna (1980), and Larry
Williams (2000, 2002). Atkinson, the programs No. 1 active
tackler (209 career stops), was a Second-Team All-MAC choice as
a soph. He was nicknamed The Beast by his teammates.
Haldi, a 6-foot-2,
205-pounder, can become the first quarterback in school history
to throw for 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Often overlooked
the last two years due to the presence of All-America tailback Michael
The Burner Turner, Haldi stands 18-6 as a starter and
already set the Northern Illinois single-season records in passing
attempts (336), completions (199), yardage (2,544) and touchdowns
(25) as a junior. An Academic All-America candidate with a 3.92
cumulative grade point average in accountancy, No. 10 ranked 26th
in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division 1-A passing
efficiency (142.02 rating) in 2003 and 27th (132.98 rating) in 2002.
known on campus as Boogie---also moved in spring practice
from free safety to strong safety. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound senior-to-be
came back from a season-ending knee injury in 2002 to register 107
total tackles, six deflections, and two pas interceptions last autumn.
As a sophomore in 2001, No. 9 demonstrated his potential with a
career-best 17 tackles vs. No. 31-ranked Illinois and 14 stops vs.
Wake Forest. In the 2002 opener vs. Wake Forest, he was sidelined
for the year on the sixth play of the game. Hickenbottom owns 21
career starts and 198 tackles. In his free time, Boogie
does his thing as a DJ on The Northern Star internet radio.
311-pounds, VerStraete is not your average offensive tackle, particularly
when you blocked for an All-America TB such as Turner the
Burner. On the field, No. 66 is a returning First-Team All-Mid-Am
type and on the 2004 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. Novak has
compared VerStraete to former Northern Illinois All-America OT Ryan
Diem---now with the National Football League Indianapolis Colts.
In 2003, VerStraete started 12 times at RT and finished fourth in
team knockdown blocks (39). In the classroom, the engineering major
with a cumulative 3.36 gpa ranks as another Huskie Academic All-America
candidate this season.
opens the 2004 season at the University of Maryland (September 4)
and begins its five-game home schedule against arch-rival Southern
Illinois University (September 11) on Brigham Field at Huskie Stadium.
information, please contact Mike Korcek) -NIU-