Northern Illinois University will celebrate our nation’s heroes Wednesday, Nov. 13, before and during the football game between the NIU Huskies (9-0, 5-0) and Ball State (9-1, 6-0) with a multitude of special activities honoring active and veteran members of the military, firefighters, police and first responders.
Kickoff for the Mid-American Conference West Division Showdown is at 7 p.m. at Huskie Stadium and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
Fans will want to be in their seats well before kickoff, though, for a very special rendition of the national anthem performed by Chicago Blackhawks’ national anthem singer Jim Cornelison. Cornelison, renowned for his stirring renditions of the anthem which never fail to inspire, is making a special appearance at Huskie Stadium to show his support for the local heroes who will be honored during the game.
During the anthem, veterans groups from the DeKalb area will be on the field with their military flags and those flags will be displayed in the south end zone of Huskie Stadium during the game. The NIU ROTC will unfurl a giant flag on the field during the national anthem.
“I am so happy that our fans, our team and our university are coming together to celebrate the true heroes in our country during this game on Wednesday,” said Sean T. Frazier, NIU associate vice president and director of Athletics. “As the son and brother of U.S. Army veterans and police officers, it’s very personal to me to be able to show our gratitude to these groups throughout our event. I look forward to seeing our fans throughout the area, our university community and especially our students at Huskie Stadium for a great night of college football, and a great opportunity to show appreciation to our heroes.
“This is a very important night for our program,” Frazier added. “It gives us a chance on a national stage to again showcase our body of work.”
The Heroes Game coin flip will have star power on Wednesday night, beginning with NIU’s honorary captain for the game, Albert Riippi. An 87-year old veteran of World War II who is also a former Huskie football letterwinner (1944), Riippi is a DeKalb native who spent much of his post-military life as a firefighter in DeKalb. He will be joined at midfield by NIU President Doug Baker, who is being inaugurated Wednesday afternoon, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and State Rep. Bob Pritchard.
The auction for the special patriotic jerseys to be worn by the Huskie football team during Wednesday night’s game is going on now through Nov. 19. The jerseys feature stars on one shoulder, stripes on another, and the word “HEROES” across the back. The Huskies’ helmet decals will have stars and stripes inside the NIU logo. Proceeds from the jersey auction are going to benefit Active Heroes, a charity that supports current and former members of the military and their families.
In-game honors during the game include an appearance by NIU fan favorite and Marine Corps veteran Jake Coffman as the Huskie Legend.
Coffman, who walked on to the NIU team after serving two tours of duty in the Middle East where he rose to the rank of corporal, was a two-year starter at defensive end for the Huskies, who ranked second in the MAC in quarterback sacks and tackle for loss as a senior. He was a finalist for the 2010 Senior CLASS Award and was named to the ESPN.com All-Bowl team for 2010 after collecting three sacks and four-and-a-half tackles for loss in NIU’s 40-17 win over Fresno State in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho.
In the second quarter, members of the DeKalb Fire Department, which has sold more than 400 tickets to the game in partnership with NIU, will honor U.S. Army Specialist Charles “Chaz” Ligon, 22, who was gravely wounded in an IED explosion while on patrol in Afghanistan. As part of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Warrior Program, Ligon will be presented with a new pickup truck purchased by the DeKalb Firefighters Local Union 1236 through the sale of more than 4,000 T-shirts.
At halftime, members of the NIU Military Student Services organization and NIU Veterans Club as well as the DeKalb Fire Department, will form the halftime tunnel which the Huskies will run through on their way back onto the field.
Prior to the game, local police and fire departments will have a display of vehicles on the East Side of Huskie Stadium. In addition, the Illinois National Guard will be on the stadium’s East Side with several Humvees and a rock wall for climbing. On the West Side, come on in to the heated tent to purchase food and drink, listen to music by Back Country Roads and visit with friends prior to heading into Huskie Stadium. The tent will open at 4:30 p.m.
In honor of the Heroes Game, any person with a military ID can purchase a ticket to see NIU and Ball State play the biggest game of the season in the Mid-American Conference this year, for just $1. Tickets can be purchased during the week at the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center, or at the stadium on game day.
NIU is also offering its MAC Two-Pack, which provides a ticket to Wednesday night’s game versus Ball State AND a ticket to the NIU-Western Michigan game Tuesday, Nov. 26, for just $24. Fans can enjoy the Heroes Game and be on hand for Senior Night when all-star quarterback Jordan Lynch and his 16 senior teammates will play their final home game at NIU. The MAC Two-Pack is available for purchase at the NIU Athletics Ticket Office in the Convocation Center between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, or by calling 815-753-PACK (7225).