Five members of Northern Illinois 2012 football senior class have earned membership in the 2013 NFF Hampshire Honor Society from the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, marking the most Huskies ever named to the prestigious list in a single year.
Northern Illinois seniors Alan Baxter (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Buffalo Grove HS), Nabal Jefferson (Chicago, Ill./Marist HS), Ryan Neir (Roscoe, Ill./Hononegah HS), Jason Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore HS) and Courtney Stephen (Brampton, Ontario/Turner Fenton) all completed their collegiate careers with cumulative grade point averages of 3.2 or above while serving as starters or important reserves for the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl participant Huskies.
On the field, the five were part of senior class that won a school-record 41 games, played in four consecutive bowl games and three Mid-American Conference Championship contests, winning the title in each of the last two seasons.
With five Hampshire Honor Society members, NIU tied for third among all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, behind Brigham Young (seven honorees) and Nebraska (six). Army also had five players named to the Hampshire Honor Society in 2013.
Among MAC schools, Western Michigan (three) and Kent State (two) had multiple honorees as NIU accounted for five of the league’s 16 players named to the list. In all, a record 703 players from 259 schools across all divisions of college football qualified for and were nominated for membership.
Baxter, Jefferson and Schepler previously made NIU history when they were named Capital One Academic All-Americans by the College Sports Information Directors of America, giving Northern Illinois three Academic All-Americans in the same season for the first time in school history.
Baxter, only the second first team Academic All-American in school history, is a finance major with a 3.61 GPA who led NIU and ranked fourth in the MAC in quarterback sacks from his defensive end spot. He was signed to a free agent contract by the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
Schepler and Jefferson collected second team Capital One Academic All-America accolades as NIU led the country in number of Academic All-Americans in 2013.
Schepler, a tight end who came back from two knee injuries to serve as the top blocker on the Huskie team last year, graduated in December with a 3.86 GPA in electrical engineering. A two-year starter for NIU at noseguard, Jefferson was named one of 15 NFF Scholar-Athletes in December, and received one of 15 $18,000 scholarships. The accountancy major with a 3.78 GPA also received an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship worth $7,500 for 2013.
Neir served as the Huskies’ starting punter for two seasons and averaged 36.8 yards per punt. Only nine of his 113 punts were returned during his NIU career.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in finance with a 3.93 GPA, Neir carried a 4.0 while pursuing his master’s in business administration. Stephen played on nearly every Huskie special teams unit and saw spot duty at safety for the Huskies. The Brampton, Ontario, Canada native owns a 3.78 GPA in psychology.
A year ago, three Huskies were named to the Hampshire Honor Society.
Each year, the initiative capitalizes on the NFF’s National Scholar-Athlete program, greatly expanding the number of scholar-athletes the NFF can recognize each year. The program further strengthens the organization’s leadership role in encouraging academic performance by the student-athletes who play football at the more than 700 college and universities with football programs nationwide. The initiative has honored 4,081 student-athletes since its inception in 2007.