Sept. 25, 2013
There is a tradition of academic excellence in Northern Illinois Athletics with student-athletes excelling in the classroom and on the field. Because of that tradition, the Huskies adopted the tagline “Developing Champions in the Classroom, in Competition and in Life.” For the NIU football program, the exploits of senior safety Dominique Ware are well documented.
Ware, as Huskie fans might remember, was featured in a video last summer, entitled “Alpha Dogs,” alongside former Academic All-Americans Alan Baxter and Nabal Jefferson, chronicling the trios’ internships in the business world. In it, Baxter and Ware discussed their internships and how the three of them, roommates, pushed each other during their morning workouts before heading into their respective offices.
This past summer was no different for Ware, there was, however, a massive change in his routine.
The year prior, Ware began his summer workouts at 6 a.m., before heading to his internship at investment managing corporation Invesco, but the Bolingbrook, Ill. native upped the ante in 2013.
With help from NIU Director of Sports Performance Brad Ohrt, Ware began his summer workouts at 5 a.m., giving him all the time he needed to maximize his summer workouts before taking the train to downtown Chicago for his internship at DTZ Corporate Real Estate firm.
“Dom was in every day and he didn’t miss a beat, 5 a.m. we started workouts,” said Ohrt. “I think when we originally talked about it, it was more like, let’s see how this goes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and if you need a day where you don’t get up that early, I live in town here, I’ll come in on Saturdays for extra work and get some things done around here. I’d lift him on a Saturday if he needed to.”
While some would choose to listen to the latter half of what Coach Ohrt said, opting for a day off in the week, Ware was relentless in pursuit to get better this summer.
“He never missed a beat,” said Ohrt. “Every morning, 5 a.m. he was here, we knocked out the workout, and he’d get on the train and head to Chicago. It’s difficult to train at 5 a.m. It’s a heck of a lot better when you’ve got a teammate that’s in there with you training, he had to do what he had to do for his internship, but he didn’t miss anything here all summer long either.”
While Ohrt saw Ware’s dedication before the sunrise, Ware’s commitment to the team and his future didn’t go unnoticed amongst the coaching staff, most notably defensive coordinator Jay Niemann, also Ware’s position coach.
“He goes above and beyond what the normal college student-athlete would do. All college student-athletes work hard because of the amount of time they put into their sport,” said Niemann. “But when you couple in the internships that he had and the work responsibilities he had this summer on top of that, and think about the hours and the time that he’s put in, I have a lot of respect for a guy who’d be willing to put that amount of time, energy and effort into preparing himself for life after football. He’s done a great job with that and that’s just who he is.”
“He’s a great kid, he’s a hard worker, “Ohrt added. “He could have found a way out of things and could have used the internship as a crutch, and could have missed something, but that’s just not him. That’s not how he does it, he knocked it all out and did a great job.”
As an old idiom goes, nothing worth having in life comes easy and Ware admitted that this summer was not the easiest for him.
“This summer was more challenging than (last summer), commuting from DeKalb (to Chicago) everyday so I had to work out something with Coach Ohrt and workout at five in the morning. So I’d wake up at 4:30, get here at five, work out for about an hour or an hour-and-a-half and hit the train in Elburn at 6:21 a.m.”
As for his internship, Ware said it was different from the one he had in 2012
“The internship this past summer was not really technical or anything I learned from education, it was more dealing with people,” Ware explained. “I met a lot of different people; sat in on client meetings, just interacting with people is the main difference with this internship.
“It gave me great experience,” continued Ware. “What I want to get into is dealing and working with projects. So meeting deadlines and scheduling time throughout the day to get certain projects and tasks done is really going to help me in the future.”
Ware also used that hard work and ambition with resources on hand at Northern Illinois, reaching out to Dennis Barsema to try and build his network for life after football.
“I interviewed a couple CIOs, thanks to the help of Mr. Barsema who is a great resource for me. I met a few CEOs this summer and I’m going to keep building relationships with them and using social media to keep linked in with them.”
Before his summer began, Ware graduated from NIU with a degree in business administration. As such, the redshirt senior began graduate school this fall, working towards a master’s degree from the College of Business in management information systems.
Even though Ware is beginning his work towards a master’s degree, he feels confident about the upcoming challenge.
“I knew grad school was going to be challenging, I’m taking four night classes so I don’t have class during the day except for Mondays and Wednesdays. I go to practice from 2-6 p.m., yhen shoot over to class from 6:30-9 p.m. The workload is about the same, it’s just about balancing your time.”
According to Niemann, it’s that preparedness on the field that makes Ware one of the leaders of the defensive backfield.
“(Dominique) does a great job as a leader first and foremost because he always knows what he’s doing,” said Niemann. “He’s very assignment sound and a very intelligent football player. He’s a very successful person and I think that carries onto the football field. He naturally gains respect from the guys that play with him because of the way he carries himself, how he prepares and how he plays ultimately.”
Through two games this season, Ware has six tackles, including four last week in the Huskies 45-35 victory over Idaho. In his career, the senior has made 38 appearances with 58 career tackles, including an appearance in the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl.
“We’re real pleased with Dom and he’s done a real nice job in a role for us in our nickel package,” Niemann continued. “He comes into the game as a safety and we move Jimmie Ward to the nickel back. He gets a lot of work in that package at safety and on special teams.”
In the defensive backfield, Ware is confident in the secondary group’s ability, led by Ward who leads the Huskies in tackles with 22.
“We’re solid, three deep almost,” said Ware. “I feel like anybody can get in and play. We all know the system, we’ve all been in it for a few years so we all just learn the game playing it throughout the week and putting in film study. It allows us to go out on Saturdays and just play.”
It’s an answer like that that personifies what a special player Ware is to the Huskie football team. For some players, the game of football can be like riding a bicycle through a stampede of buffaloes - moving so fast that if you don’t react quickly, something bad might happen.
But the game is just that simple to Ware - “just play.” Through his hard work on the field, in the classroom and in business, Ware’s knack for being prepared has led to his success in all three aspects, vital components for all student-athletes. With all the resources available on campus, Ware took advantage of everything at his disposal to make the most of his opportunities. With plenty more chances for success on the horizon, Ware will be ready when those moments arise.