After nine years on the sidelines, in the tailgate lots and in front of the television cameras, countless trips across the end zone for Huskie scores, four Mid-American Conference Championship games and bowl trips to Shreveport, Toronto, Mobile and Miami, Northern Illinois University’s husky dog mascot “Diesel” will take his well-deserved retirement following the 2013 season.
Diesel and his owner, Tom Bonnevier, who have also been to every Mid-American Conference stadium (except UMass), and to NIU road games throughout the Midwest, will be honored during Senior Day celebrations Tuesday night at Huskie Stadium prior to the Huskies’ regular season finale versus Western Michigan.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
A fan favorite with both NIU and opposing team’s fans wherever he goes, Diesel will still be welcomed at NIU games and events as the Huskies’ “mascot emeritus,” said Sean T. Frazier, NIU associate vice president and director of athletics.
“In many ways, Diesel has become the face of Huskie football over the past nine years,” Frazier said. “He’s been the constant figure on the sidelines representing NIU, whether home or away, at bowl games, spring games and more. He’s a fan favorite, the TV cameras love him and he’s a great dog. On behalf of Huskie Nation, I want to thank Tom and Diesel for everything they have done to represent Northern Illinois University.”
With Diesel stepping aside, NIU will introduce its new husky, “Mission,” Tuesday night during the first quarter of the game.
Mission is a nearly 2-year old Siberian husky donated to the university by John and Cassandra McKearn. His handlers will be members of the NIU ROTC program, and he has already been given the rank of colonel within the ROTC Battalion.
“I want to thank the McKearns for providing us with a worthy successor to Diesel, and Master Sgt. Rufus Beamon and the entire ROTC program for taking on the responsibility as Mission’s handlers,” Frazier said. “We look forward to enjoying hundreds of Huskie victories with Mission on our sidelines.”
The McKearns are NIU graduates who inherited a great love and appreciation for sports, especially football, from their fathers. In providing Mission to the university, they wanted to remember and honor their fathers, Harry Smith and Gerald McKearn, who both served in the military, and felt involving the ROTC program as handlers of the new husky was an exceptional way to do so.
With the generous contribution by the McKearns, Mission will be well cared for. He comes from a championship Siberian line of dogs from breeder Karen Street. The Huskies’ new husky has worked with trainer Lisa Monge and, more recently, the ROTC, in preparation for his debut tonight.