NIU in Miami: Nabal Jefferson Reflects on His Career
MIAMI- For Nabal Jefferson, this trip to Miami for the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl is a culmination of a career that has seen Northern Illinois University earn four bowl trips. Each trip has brought its share of unique experiences.
His bowl journey started his freshman year with a trip north of the border to Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the International Bowl, followed by a trip out West to Boise, Idaho for the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl. Last season Northern Illinois ventured south to the Gulf Coast for the GoDaddy.com Bowl. In each city, the Huskies were greeted warmly, treated like royalty and appreciated everything those cities had to offer.
While every bowl game offers a unique experience, the Discover Orange Bowl is next level. As the team charter circled over the city of Miami as it prepared to land, you could feel the excitement from the players as they looked out the window. When the plane touched down and taxied into position, it hit Jefferson and the Huskies that this trip would be different.
“When I saw the palm trees from the plane, I started thinking, we’re about to play in a BCS,” Jefferson said. “When we landed and saw all the orange jackets, it was definitely unbelievable. It’s a bit different from our previous bowl games.”
When the plane stopped, Jefferson and his teammates were greeted by members of the Discover Orange Bowl Committee donned in their distinct orange jackets. As he passed through the receiving tunnel, Jefferson’s eyes were drawn to NIU’s team busses. On the sides of each bus is a photo of the team taking the field, with Jefferson in the center of the picture coincidently. Then, when the team departed for practice with a police escort, the real fun began.
“I know the busses blew me away,” he said. “The way things are handled here, with the police escort, is awesome. Shutting down one of the busiest highways in the city and seeing all the traffic we’ve caused by doing that, is impressive.”
When the team hit the practice field at Barry University at 1:15 p.m. ET, you couldn’t tell the team had been traveling since 5:30 a.m. CT. Revitalized by the brilliant sun, warmer temperatures and rejoining some of their Florida teammates that were down here since Christmas, the Huskies turned in one of its best practices of the season.
“The guys who are from Florida were glad to be here,” Jefferson said. “When we came and met them here, it was like a family reunion. We realize that we’re in a BCS game. It was like the first day of camp, when guys are happy, moving around and energetic. It’s a great experience to be here in the different weather.”
When Jefferson and the Huskies returned from practice, the last event of the day on the docket was the players’ welcome reception in the gift suite. While the others players opted to hit the town, Jefferson, a 2012 NFF Scholar-Athlete, stayed in to save his strength for day two which included a visit with his family here in Miami.