Illinois Names A. J. Harris, Javan Lee, Ray Smith & Brian Van
Acker 2005 Grid Captains
--- Four Northern Illinois University football seniors---tailback
A. J. Harris (Wheaton / North), linebacker Javan Lee (Michigan City,
IN), strong safety Ray Smith (Crown Point, IN / St. John Lake Central),
and center Brian Van Acker (Crystal Lake / Prairie Ridge)---were
named the Huskies 2005 quad-captains.
head coach Joe Novak made the captains announcement Monday
Its an outstanding group, Novak said about the
quartet which was selected in balloting done by their peers. At
the end of spring practice, we kept reminding the team how important
this was, that the captains were the designated representatives
of this football program and the institution both on and off the
field. In that respect, weve got some top-notch leaders.
to our captains, it is vitally important that these four individuals
step up and lead this football team. Our team goal has not changed---win
the Mid-American Conference championship. That said, this might
be one of our youngest teams, experience-wise, in recent years.
So their leadership, starting this summer and going through August
and the rest of the season, is critical for our program.
In the 104-year
history of Huskie football, this Harris-Lee-Smith-Van Acker quartet
represents the tenth time overall that Northern Illinois has boasted
quad-captains and the second year in a row. Prior to last fall when
linebacker Brian Atkinson, quarterback Josh Haldi, free safety Lionel
Hickenbottom, and offensive tackle Jake VerStraete served as NIUs
captains, the program had quad-captains in 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975,
1976, 1980, 1983, 1993, and 1994.
2005 leadership foursome features two Rotary Lombard Award candidates,
the most prolific National Collegiate Athletic Association Division
1-A single-game bowl rusher in school history, and the Mid-American
Conferences No. 2 returning pass defender.
one of the heroes of the Silicon Valley Football Classic last December.
The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder subbed for the injured Garrett Wolfe and
rushed for a team-high 120 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries
(118 yards in the second half) during Northern Illinois 34-21
win over Troy University in San Jose. A three-year letterman, Harris
gained 822 yards and four TDs on 174 attempts in 2004 and heads
into his senior campaign as the No. 6 returning ground-gainer in
the MAC. With :04.39 speed in the 40, Harris owns three career 100-yard
games and six starts. His 139-yard outing vs. Southern Illinois
marks his career best. Harris and Wolfe rank as the nations
No. 1 returning rushing duo (2,478 yards).
Named to the
preseason 2005 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list, Lee
is the top returning tackler in the Mid-Am (119 stops in 2004).
The 6-foot-2, 222-pounder made the coaches First-Team All-MAC
unit and Mid-Am West Defensive Player of the Week with a career-high
18 stops on ESPN2 and against Bowling Green State University last
autumn. Also the top active career hitman (212 tackles in 2002-04)
on the Huskie roster, Lee collected six twin-digit tackle outings
in 2004---including a 16-stop effort vs. the University of Toledo
and a 10-hit performance vs. Independence Bowl entry Iowa State
University. In the Troy game, Lee was credited with three tackles
for loss in the Silicon Valley Football Classic.
Novak, Smith plays like he has stuck his finger in an electrical
socket. The active 6-foot-2, 185-pounder makes big plays and
ranks as the No. 2 returning MAC pass defender after notching 10
pass deflections and two interceptions in 2004. Smith earned MAC
West Defensive Player of the Week honors with 14 tackles against
Southern Illinois in 2004. In last years opener at No. 22-rated
University of Maryland, Smith produced a career-high 17 stops and
two fumble-cause hits. Smith notched 16 tackles and two deflections
vs. No. 33 Toledo and added 10 hits and an interception at Iowa
State. Career-wise, Smith owns eight double-digit tackle games,
16 starts, and 181 tackles in 36 career appearances.
Van Acker anchors
the talented Northern Illinois O-line front five that blocked for
the nations No. 11 major-college rushing attack (238.2 yards-per-game
average), No. 13 scoring offense (35.1 ppg.), and No. 14 total offense
(438.8 ypg.) a year ago. The mobile 6-foot-4, 287-pounder was selected
on the preseason 2005 Rotary Lombardi Award watch list
and the 2004 coaches First-Team All-MAC unit. Van Acker started
12 times at center for the 9-3 Huskies who won a share of the Mid-Am
West Division crown for the third time in the last four seasons.
In 2004, Van Acker wound up second in team knockdown
blocks (76), finished third in NIU blocking grades (86 percent),
and posted a 415-pound bench press.
enters the 2005 campaign with five consecutive winning seasons (6-5
in 2000 and 2001, 8-4 in 2002, 10-2 in 2003, and 9-3 in 2004) and
ranked in the nations Division 1-A Top 30 for the last two
years. Novaks Huskies start the year with back-to-back contests
against Big Ten Conference opposition---September 3 in the historic
first-ever meeting at the University of Michigan and September 10
at neighborhood-rival Northwestern University. Northern Illinois
will open its 41st season in Huskie Stadium with a September 17
date against non-conference foe Tennessee Tech University.
information, please contact Mike Korcek) -NIU-