Blog Archive

Entry #1 - 12/30/09
Entry #2 - 12/31/09
Entry #3 - 1/2/10

International Bowl Blog

Check in daily (or more!) with Assistant Director of Media Relations Joe Summins, who is traveling with the Northern Illinois football team to Toronto for the International Bowl, where the Huskies will battle the University of South Florida, Jan. 2 at 11 a.m.

Jan. 3, 2010

Joe Summins | Assistant Director of Media Relations | 2:51 p.m. CST

Almost 12 hours after the end of the 2010 International Bowl, the NIU buses returned the 2009 Huskie football team to campus officially closing out Northern Illinois' five-day excursion to Toronto, Canada. When the team departed Rockford Airport Tuesday afternoon, you could feel the excitement and anticipation for what lay ahead. While the trip and the season didn't end the way the Huskies had preferred, when you look at all this team accomplished this season it's pretty remarkable.

The Huskies posted their eighth winning season of the decade, appeared in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history as a major college program and defeated a Big Ten opponent for the first time since 1988 as the Huskies beat Purdue. The members of the NIU football also got something they didn't expect, an experience of a lifetime, the opportunity to travel abroad.

When we look back on this season, it's with one eye towards the future. This year's team was a young squad.  Thirty-six players on this year's roster are new to the team, while another 19 have never played a down for Northern Illinois before this year. Those 55 players make up half of NIU's roster. So, while Huskie nation is disappointed in the outcome of the International Bowl, it is excited for the future.

On one final note, NIU says farewell to 17 seniors who have given their all to Northern Illinois University and represented the university well during their careers at NIU. One behalf of Huskie fans everywhere, thank you guys so much for all you've done.

Jan. 2, 2010
Donna Turner | Associate Athletic Director Communications | 11:45 a.m. EST

It's finally here; game day. The team arrived at the Rogers Centre at 9:30 this morning and is on the field getting into their pregame routine. A group of Huskie fans are in the restaurant overlooking the field cheering on the team as they warm up on the field.

This week has been an amazing experience. From taking in a different culture to connecting with our Canadian alums, it has given our team more than they could have imagined.  The team has "played" and enjoyed the city when it has been time to play, but worked and been focused when it has come to practice and preparation.  Since last night, the Huskies have been "locked in."

Huskie fans are filing into their seats, the Huskie Marching Band has been playing almost constantly while I have not heard anything from the USF band yet. By the way, don't know what the weather is back in Chicago and DeKalb but today is BY FAR the coldest day we have seen in Toronto.  According to the weather update on my computer, it is a bitter cold 1 degree Fahrenheit here today. Maybe it is a good thing the roof is closed after all.

Media who have made the trip to follow the Huskies include Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune and John Sahly and Jon Styf of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.  In addition, the Daily Herald has arranged for coverage of the game so in addition to, check out those newspapers' sites for the best coverage of today's contest.

Jan. 1, 2010

Joe Summins | Assistant Director of Media Relations | 7:07 p.m. EST

Happy New Year!

While most Americans were at home watching the Tournament of Roses Parade and settling in for a nice long day of watching the New Year's Day bowls, the Huskies went through their final preparations for the 2010 International Bowl. The team held its walk-thru at the Rogers Centre Friday morning before heading to the Kick-Off Luncheon.

The players from South Florida and Northern Illinois listened to both head coaches and keynote speaker, Chuck Ealey. Ealey was a quarterback at Toledo from 1969-71 and went undefeated during his collegiate career, winning 35-straight games. He was recruited by another MAC school, Miami (OH) which was coached by Bo Schembechler at the time. A member of Schembechler's staff was present in the audience. Former NIU head coach Joe Novak was a first-year graduate assistant under the legendary head coach and remembers Ealey and considers him the best player to ever play football in the Mid-American Conference.

After lunch, the team boarded the busses and headed over to the CN Tower and took the elevator ride up the tallest structure in North America. It was unbelievable. There was a glass floor and windows in the elevator doors giving you the opportunity to appreciate the 15 mph ride up the tower. The highlight of the visit was the glass floor on the look-out level.

Many of the Huskies were a little apprehensive to walk out on the glass floor, however, the guys mustered up the fortitude to step out and look down at the Earth 1,122 feet below them. Despite the fact that it could support 14 full-size elephants, many players expressed concern when a little girl started jumping up and down on the floor. When her father saw the effect it was having on the guys, he told his daughter, "Stop jumping up and down. You're scaring the athletes." Props go out to Jason Onyebuagu who has afraid of heights. He got on the elevator and headed up the tower and conquered his fear.

After touring the CN Tower, the Huskies walked over to the Rogers Centre for the final item on their International Bowl itinerary before switching over to game mode¬; the team photo. Now, this photo was supposed to be taken on the first day of summer camp at media day. However, it was washed out and we weren't able to get it taken that day. So, on the next to last day of the season the 2009 NIU Football team photo was finally taken. Scott Walstrom of NIU Media Services did a great job setting up the photo.

Now, after four days in Toronto and all the special events completed, the Huskies' focus is now on the reason they came to Canada in the first place, the game.

Dec. 31, 2009

Joe Summins | Assistant Director of Media Relations | 1:41 a.m. EST

Where to begin. First let me apologize for the lateness of this blog.

Today was probably the busiest day for the Huskies since their arrival in Toronto. After its second workout at the Rogers Centre which went for about an hour and 20 minutes, the NIU football team was visited by a few special guests. Former NIU head football coach Joe Novak made the trek to Canada to catch the Huskies in the International Bowl. He spoke to the team along with four of his former players and Canadian natives Donnavan Carter, Garett Sutherland, Patrick Stephen and Orlando Bowen.

Bowen, who spoke last, gave NIU an impassioned speech before teaching them a chant he and his teammates did back in the day. After, the current and former Huskies joined in singing the Huskie fight song. I got a chance to visit with Bowen and Stephen after yesterday's practice. They took a lot of pride in not only having NIU in their homeland, but in the success the Huskies have enjoyed this decade. I'll have a feature story on the two tomorrow at

After practice, a group of Huskies headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame to take in the national pastime of Canada. They got see some of the history of the sport, as well as one of the most famous trophies in sport, the Stanley Cup. After touring the hall of fame, the players headed off to dinner before celebrating New Year's Eve in Toronto.

Brian Lawson | Defensive Tackle | 5:30 p.m. EST

Brian Lawson's second cousin on his mother's side is a sports legend in Toronto. On Saturday, Lawson will try and a name for himself in the same arena.

I have a ton of emotions coming into this 2010 International Bowl, mostly excitement because this is my first game back after an injury that cost me most of my season that  was cut short due to a bizarre injury I suffered to my left hand during practice before the Toledo game. I was very angry that I was sidelined for the rest of the season, but I didn't let it get me completely down. I worked very hard with my doctors to be ready for the post-season. I do have a bit of a chip on my shoulder but you have to in order to play this game.

Unlike anyone else in this upcoming game I also have a large amount of nerves that have nothing to do with football. I have a big name to live up to in the city of Toronto, a name that will be looking down on me the whole game, Joe Carter. Joe happens to be my cousin and even though I was only three when he hit his walk-off home run to win the World Series it still had a big impact on my life.

Growing up, all I knew was baseball. So the fact that whenever the Blue Jays came to Chicago I got to hang out with the White Sox and the members of the Blue Jays was really cool. Even though my athletic career is taking a different path then my cousin Joe, I still fill the need to prove myself not only to Joe and the rest of my family but also to the rest of the world.

Dec. 30, 2009

Chandler Harnish | Quarterback | 6:47 p.m. EST

Chandler Harnish is playing in his second consecutive bowl game and he's enjoying every minute of the experience. It has allowed him to grow not only as a player, but as a person.

After being in Toronto for over 24 hours, I have come to realize how great of a city it really is.  There were rumors of it being an unbelievable place to be, especially during the holiday season, and it has been just that.  The night life is great and there are plenty of things to do.  It is pretty cold up here, but what's new? We experience weather like that every day in DeKalb, so that's not much of a problem to our team.

On the other hand, the football aspect of the trip has also gone well.  We had our first practice session and meetings this afternoon of the 29th, and it went very well.  Practice was crisp, and we were able to get a lot of things done on both sides of the ball including special teams.  The Rogers Centre, where the game is being played, is absolutely huge. First walking into the dome, it feels like the field is huge but really it's just a normal field with an exceptionally large ceiling and massive seating all the way around.  A really cool first experience!

I have come to realize that this game is a very significant game for NIU because this is the first time that the football team has played in back to back bowl games as a Division I-A school. I am very proud to be a part of this bowl game and everything that it has to offer.  Playing in the post-season is definitely a blessing because as a player you get the chance to experience a different area, become a better football, and get to know your teammates and coaches on a more personal level. 

Hope everything is well back home with all you NIU fans!  Go Huskies!

Jason Onyebuagu | Offensive Lineman | 6:41 p.m. EST

NIU offensive lineman Jason Onyebuagu is one of the rare Huskies to play in three bowl games during his career at NIU and he's come to the realization that his career at Northern Illinois is coming to a close. He is treasuring the last week he gets to spend in Cardinal and Black.

Now that we have spent a full day in Toronto, saw the city and practiced at the stadium, it has really hit me that this is my last game as a Huskie.  I am excited about the opportunity to play in the International Bowl, but the best part of it all is being with my teammates for one more game.

This is a special opportunity for me and my fellow seniors.  This is another chapter to our story that we have been writing for the last four years.
Over the years, we have been through so much on and off the field as brothers that it makes this trip to Toronto that much better.  I can even remember back to our first bowl game. The Poinsettia Bowl was an amazing trip. The San Diego Zoo was a great experience. That was the bowl game that started my career. So I feel like the trip to Toronto is a great way to leave the NIU program and finish my NIU career.

As seniors, we definitely want to get this bowl victory and our eighth win.  We have been fortunate to go to three bowl games in four years.  Cory Hanson and I were talking the other day and realized that not many college football players get to experience three bowl games during their career.  I think that was why we made it important to go out and have a good first practice in the Rogers Centre.  Every day we get closer and closer to it being our last time to put the pads on and go out and fight for each other as teammates.

Joe Summins | Assistant Director of Media Relations | 11:38 a.m. EST

Today marks the Huskies' first full day in Toronto. The Huskies just finished breakfast and are heading into meeting before departing for their 2 p.m. practice at the Rogers Centre.

The team spent much of yesterday travelling to the International Bowl's host city, arriving at the team hotel around 4 p.m. local time. After a brief team meeting, the guys were given the opportunity to explore the city. I was just downstairs hanging out by the team's headquarters talking to some of the guys about what they did last night and what they thought of the city. You'll have to check back later today to see what they had to say, but the general concensus was the players are very happy with Tornto has to offer.

I also heard last night that a few Huskies found their way into an establishment featuring a karaoke machine. Two players, who will remain nameless, turned in a stirring rendition of Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline.

Check back a little later today and you can hear from senior offensive linemen Jason Onyebuagu and quarterback Chandler Harnish. The two are each going to have a post later this afternoon. Don't forget to check the Question of the Day to see how the Huskies spent last night in Toronto.