Football was in the air once again on the campus of Northern Illinois University as the NIU football team turned in the first of 24 preseason practices at Huskie Stadium Monday afternoon.
The two-time defending Mid-American Conference champions began their pursuit of a third title under partly cloudy skies, cool temperatures and passing showers, typical football weather. It was a crisp practice as guys bounced from drill to drill, something that first-year NIU head coach Rod Carey took notice of.
“I was pleased with the tempo,” Carey said. “We have a lot of things to clean up, like anybody, but it was a pretty good day.”
The Huskies worked out for 23 five-minute periods in helmets and shorts, with the offense donning black jerseys and the defense wearing white. It’s the first of four acclimatizing workouts before putting on the pads Friday.
NIU saw 29 Huskies take the practice field for the first time and a couple of them made good first impressions.
Freshman defensive back Brandon Mayes of Aurora Christian scored an interception in seven-on-seven drills, while Alpharetta, Ga. native Malik Mitchell made an incredible one-handed catch during the freshmen practice session in the final period. It’s those types of performances that will push the veterans in camp and Carey believes the competition will only make the team better.
“We’ve got a lot of competition going on and that’s the name of the game,” he said. “Before you can be what you want to be as a team, you’ve got to be what you want to be as an individual. Competition is a good thing, because it pushes you to be good everywhere.”
Monday’s practice wasn’t just the first NIU’s freshmen. It was the first preseason camp as head coach for Carey. While he is entering his third year at NIU, has already coached a game, the 2013 Orange Bowl, and run his first spring practice, this is his first preseason camp. Carey knows he has good people around him to help in this process.
“It’s different for me, there’s no doubt,” Carey said. “But it’s the same for everyone else. When you got good people around you, it’s a lot easier. I’ve got a lot of good people around me.”
The Huskies return to the practice field today with Practice No. 2 scheduled for 3:05 p.m. at Huskie Stadium.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.