2013 Poinsettia Bowl Blog

GO HUSKIES Receiver Matt Williams modeled a stylish new hat and souvenir from his Christmas Day at the San Diego Zoo.
Receiver Matt Williams modeled a stylish new hat and souvenir from his Christmas Day at the San Diego Zoo.

December 25, 2013

Day Four Photo Gallery

From Christmas at the Zoo to Pregame Prep
Huskies Fourth Full Day at Poinsettia Bowl Brings More Unforgettable Experiences

SAN DIEGO - Christmas Day dawned much like the previous two in San Diego, with brilliant sunlight and a cloudless sky lighting the view from the Marriott Marquis & Marina toward Coronado. The Huskies enjoyed a chance to "sleep in" with breakfast on Christmas morning not scheduled until 9:30 a.m.

It wasn't long after that the team boarded buses for a trip to the San Diego Zoo, one of the most famous zoos in the world. Once again a line of "redcoats" - the seemingly omnipresent group of volunteers who assist with a myriad of activities surrounding the bowl - greeted the NIU Huskies with cheers as they stepped off the buses.

Most of the Huskies quickly scattered in small groups around the massive space, and several even joined their families, who had recently arrived in town, for the trip through the different exhibits. However, a small group of NIU players were selected to enjoy a special experience along with the local and visiting media. Seniors Jimmie Ward and Jared Volk, sophomore Matt McIntosh and juniors Tommylee Lewis and Rob Sterling were escorted "backstage" where the zoo staff had arranged a special "meeting" with a cheetah.

Ward lagged behind the group as we traveled through the zoo, snapping pictures of the koalas and the rhino. "I love animals," said Ward, whose excitement at spending the day at the zoo was evident.

The cheetah meeting was very carefully orchestrated with each group set in its place. Cheetahs are very "jumpy." They are very threatened by sudden movement. The only way the cheetah - whose name was "Baca" - could come in front of people was alongside his faithful companion, a dog named Miley. Miley is a Huskie/lab mix who came to the zoo as a rescue dog. Miley and Baca are best friends and Miley's ability to interact with people calms the cheetah and lets him know it is OK to be around people.

Baca and Miley were brought out and the players were seated in one spot, where they were able to take photos as Baca - a magnificent, beautiful, powerful cat - posed at the front of the room. The players then moved, slowly, to the side, and Miley and Baca were brought to their sides. The players, cell phones in hand were just a few feet away from the cheetah, who carefully eyed the players before being escorted back alongside Miley.

Miley came back out and the players were able to pet the very special dog before rejoining their friends and teammates to explore the rest of the zoo. Check out photographer Scott Walstrom's Photo Gallery from the Huskies' day at the zoo to get a good look at what some of the players encountered before boarding buses to go back to the hotel.

Following the zoo experience, the team and coaches quickly went into "pregame" mode, the routine so familiar to a team with seven road wins under its belt. A team meeting, position meetings and a walk-through were held at the hotel before the team headed for Qualcomm Stadium to check out the field and take a team photo.

Different groups of players gathered with their friends, position groups and classmates as each player took an individual photo with Coach Carey and then the team gathered for a "bowl" team photo before heading back to their San Diego home to close out their Christmas 2013 preparing for Utah State.

On behalf of the Huskies, hope you had a wonderful and happy holiday today. GameDay is Thursday, hope you are ready!

December 24, 2013

Day Three Photo Gallery

Huskies Hit Sea World on Their Third Day in San Diego
The NIU football team enjoyed interacting with the animals of the park

SAN DIEGO - The Northern Illinois University football team enjoyed a day in the sun touring San Diego's world famous Sea World. The Huskies took in all the shows, exhibits and interacted with many of the sea creatures in the park.

Five players, seniors Matt Krempel, Ken Bishop, Joe Windsor, George Rainey and Anthony Wells got a behind-the-scenes experience with Beluga whales. The Huskie linemen were able to feed the whales, pet them and received a little peck on the cheek. It was an experience they will never forget.

Many of the tight ends and fullbacks wanted an up close and personal experience sitting in the front row of the dolphin show. They appeared after the show soaking wet and loving every bit of it. NIU quarterback Jordan Lynchand members of the offensive line headed over to the Shamu Stadium to watch the park's killer whale show. However, they were not interested in getting wet so they sat as far away from the pool as possible.

In the afternoon, the Huskies traveled to Mesa College one last time as the team turned in its final practice of 2013. As has become tradition, many of the players swapped jerseys. The offensive and defensive leaders Jimmie Ward and Lynch swapped, freshman receiver Aregeros Turnerand redshirt sophomore center Andrew Ness also orchestrated a jersey change.

Christmas Q&A with the NIU Huskies from San Diego
Third in a Series: Tuesday, December 24

During the lead-up to both Christmas and the Poinsettia Bowl, NIUHuskies.com will be talking to the Huskies about some of their holiday favorites and sharing their answers on our Poinsettia Bowl blog.

Tuesday's question: What is your favorite family Christmas tradition?

 Drew Hare, QB, Freshman
"Going to church and opening presents together on Christmas Eve."

Mike Gegner, C, Junior
"We wake up and my youngest brothers and sister can't get up until the sun is up and we just all open presents together then my dad makes a big breakfast."

Cameron Clinton-Earl, DE, Sophomore
"Going to my aunt's house on Christmas Day with my whole family."

Ricky Connors, FB, Junior
"Eating pierogi (traditional Polish food) and fish on Christmas Eve."

Perez Ford, DE, Sophomore
"Opening gifts with my little brothers and sisters."

Ron Brown, OL, Freshman
"On Christmas Eve, all my brothers and sisters sleep in the same room in our house - usually in someone's bedroom. There are six boys and one girl."

Mathew Sims, K, Senior
"I always go under the tree and pass out the presents to everyone because I'm the youngest."

Draco Smith, TB, Freshman
"Me and my little brothers (two) always get to open one present on Christmas Eve."

Jamaal Bass, LB, Junior
"Every Christmas Eve my whole family goes to my auntie's house - her name is `Nita - and chill together."

Aregeros Turner, WR, Freshman
"Playing Taboo with my family after dinner on Christmas Day."

December 23, 2013

Day Two Recap: Second Day in San Diego Keeps Huskies on the Go
The NIU football team had a full day of activities on Monday

Day Two Photo Gallery

SAN DIEGO - Day Two in San Diego brought the busiest day of the trip for the Northern Illinois University football team. It began with an early morning conference call for NIU head coach Rod Carey, defensive coordinator Jay Niemann and offensive coordinator Bob Cole with the ESPN broadcasting crew at 7:30 a.m. PT on Monday. After finishing breakfast, NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch jumped on the phone with Dana Jacobson of CBS Sports Radio.

Following breakfast and a few team meetings, Carey headed out to the Poinsettia Bowl press conference. The Huskie head man kicked the presser off by himself as Utah State, which had just as tough of a travel day on Sunday as the Huskies, was wrapping up its practice and head coach Matt Wells was en route. Carey greeted the local media and gave them a rundown on the Huskies' 2013 season. After the Aggie head coach arrived at the press conference and spoke his piece, the two head coach posed for photos and did one-on-one interviews.

Following the press conference, Carey was off to one of San Diego's top tourist destinations, the aircraft carrier USS Midway for the Poinsettia Bowl Team Luncheon. After hanging around for about five minutes, the Huskie buses pulled into the parking lot and Carey was joined by his team. The Huskies boarded the historic vessel and started moving through the chow line before taking their seats for the luncheon in the cavernous hanger.

The Huskies and Aggies listened to local dignitaries and officials from each university, learned about the Midway, San Diego's Make A Wish, and took in highlight films of each team. Senior safety Jimmie Ward was chosen as NIU's honoree for the Poinsettia Bowl's "Wishes Come True Inspirational Player." Ward delivered an impromptu speech that drew a rousing applause from his teammates.

Following lunch the team disembarked the carrier and boarded the buses to head to Mesa College for its second practice in San Diego. As has been customary for NIU practices the last three years, the tunes were blaring at practice and the team took a five minute break. During the break, Ward took the mic and played DJ. The Huskie leader loosened up practice a bit by sending shout-outs to his teammates and coaches. The break ended and the Huskies went back to work finishing practice strong.

Following practice, Carey took six Huskies, Cameron Clinton-Earl, Michael Cotton, Akeem Daniels, Clayton Glaspar, Keith Harris Jr., and Marckie Hayes, to a hotel across town for an event with families of the San Diego Make A Wish organization and members of the Utah State football team. After opening comments from members of the Poinsettia Bowl and Make A Wish, each family told their story. It was a powerful experience for the Huskies to learn about what the kids and their families of Make A Wish are going through and what their visit meant to the young kids. The Huskies passed out hats, wristbands, footballs and gloves, which were very popular, and just spent time with the children, posing for photos and visiting with them. It was something those players will never forget.

Christmas Q&A with the NIU Huskies from San Diego
Second in a Series: Monday, December 23

During the lead-up to both Christmas and the Poinsettia Bowl, NIUHuskies.com will be talking to the Huskies about some of their holiday favorites and sharing their answers on our Poinsettia Bowl blog.

Monday's question: What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

James Spencer, TB, Junior
"A gameboy color, when I was about eight years old.I've still got it to this day."

Tyler Loos, OT, Junior
"Probably a surround sound system, my senior year of high school."

Boomer Mays, LB, Sophomore
It's a tie, between the scooter I got when I was in second or third grade, and the Madden 2004 game I got in the fifth grade. It had Michael Vick on the cover."

Rob Sterling, FB, Junior
"I remember I got a Tonka Truck set when I was about three or four years old. I was excited because it was the biggest present under the tree and I couldn't believe it was for me."

Jason Meehan, DE, Junior
"My godfather gave me a motorcycle last year. It was big-time."

Nate McNeal, DB, Senior
In the third grade, I got one of those computer that teaches you math and Spanish and stuff like that. It was like a leapfrog but not exactly. I was excited."

Brandon Mayes, DB, Freshman
o;I got my first car for Christmas when I was 17. It was a Cadillac Escalade. It was nice, but the payments were crazy so I sold it."

Juwan Brescacin, WR, Sophomore
"I got a PS4 earlier this year when it came out and my dad said that was going to be my Christmas present."

Ben Maruska, OL, Freshman
"When I was 10 or 11, I got a GameCube and it was one of the best days of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday"

Marlon Moore, CB, Sophomore
"I got a mini-motorcycle when I was about 12 years old. It was cool.

Dec. 22, 2013

Christmas Q&A with the NIU Huskies from San Diego
First in a Series from the Poinsettia Bowl: Sunday, December 22

During the lead-up to both Christmas and the SDCCU Poinsettia Bowl, NIUHuskies.com will be talking to the Huskies about some of their holiday favorites and sharing their answers on our Poinsettia Bowl blog.

Today's question: What is your Favorite Christmas Movie or TV Special?

Michael Santacaterina, LB, Junior

Matt McIntosh, QB, Sophomore
"It's a Wonderful Life. I watch it with my family every Christmas."

Joe Windsor, DE, Senior
"My mom and I watch `A Charlie Brown Christmas' every year."

Sean Evans, CB, Senior
"Home Alone"

Lincoln Howard, OT, Sophomore
"Gotta go with Arnold and `Jingle All the Way'."

Jacob Brinlee, WR, Sophomore (actually answered by Paris Logan for Brinlee)
"The Grinch" to which Brinlee said "Yep, he's right, he knows me."

Jake Heckel, TE, Freshman
"Polar Express"

Malik Mitchell, WR, Freshman
"Home Alone 2"

Blake Holder, WR, Freshman
"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Mycial Allen, S, Freshman
"The Grinch Movie"

Check back tomorrow for the next Christmas question and answer with the Huskies!

DAY ONE RECAP: Worth the Wait
Delays Don't Deter Excitement for Huskies

SAN DIEGO - Early wake up calls and frigid temperatures for bowl trips are nothing new for the Northern Illinois University football team. They've done it for the last six years. However, a blizzard struck the northern Illinois area Sunday morning, just as the Huskies started arriving at the Convocation Center's parking lot adding a degree of difficulty to the start of this year's bowl trip. The team's six buses got rolling at 6:25 a.m. and headed for the Rockford Airport.

As the Huskie caravan departed campus, they turned left onto Lincoln Hwy instead of the right it normally takes. Looking to take advantage of clearer roads, the buses headed to route 88 and then to route 39. As the buses made their way north, the snow began to fall harder and the roads were covered in several inches of snow. Hats off to the six bus drivers for navigating the challenging conditions and delivering the travel party to the airport safely.

However, the Huskies were at the airport, but their plane was not. It was delayed about an hour. The players spent the delay playing cards with each other, visiting with staff members and posing for photos with fans in the terminal. Fortunately for the Huskies and the travel party, their plane had landed, the snow had stopped and the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl trip was set to begin, two hours after it was scheduled to start.

The team took off and headed to San Diego. The team charter touched down at 12:45 local time and the Huskies were greeted by 67 degree temperatures and clear sunny skies. Quite the contrast from the 27 degrees and cloudy skies people in DeKalb were experiencing. After deplaning, the team spent the next few minutes walking around the tarmac soaking in the sun and warm temperatures before helping load the bags on the buses and heading to practice.

NIU worked out for about an hour and 15 minutes in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets under clear blue California skies at Mesa College. Following practice, and a quick post-practice snack, the Huskies traveled to their team hotel and received a warm welcome from the Poinsettia Bowl Committee complete with red carpet and a mariachi band. They ended their "official" portion of their evening at the Poinsettia Bowl Welcome Reception where they were treated to a turkey and beef dinner before hitting the town.




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