For Northern Illinois University, the GoDaddy.com Bowl represents its fourth straight postseason bowl appearance. Still, for the team and its alumni and fans, the trip to Mobile, Ala. has provided new and exciting experiences they will remember for years to come.
On Wednesday, Jan. 4, the bowl hosted a southern-style shrimp boil at Ladd Peebles Stadium to welcome the coaches and players, administration, both conference commissioners and their support staff, local and national media representatives, local and national corporate sponsors, Mobile city officials, and invited guests.
After practice, Northern Illinois football players delivered more than just toy stuffed animals to young people at the USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital Thursday, Jan. 5. They delivered smiles. Huskie players visited with patients at the hospital, signing autographs and handing out GoDaddy.com and Victor E. Huskie stuffed toys.
That night, NIU players and coaches participated in the GoDaddy.com Bowl team night, which featured hypnotist Thom Kaz, who entertained the team with his unique blend of comedy and hypnosis.
“Each trip gets better and better,” cornerback Rashaan Melvin said. “As a team, to come together as a family, it’s more and more fun. The camaraderie we enjoy as a team is tremendous.”
Friday, Jan. 6, Mobile’s mayor hosted the bowl luncheon at the Mobile Convention Center. Eight time NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Carter was the keynote speaker at the event. During the banquet, Jeffery Yordon was honored by the bowl as a “Champion of Life.” The award is given to individuals who have achieved great success through dedication and hard work. These extraordinary individuals have overcome many obstacles and have given a great deal back to the community and country.
Friday night both the NIU Foundation and Huskie Athletic Scholarship Fund (HASF) hosted social events for Huskie fans that made the trip south to Mobile. Between 50 and 60 people attended the NIU Foundation Welcome Reception at Felix’s Fish Camp, located in nearby Spanish Fort, Ala. Just about three miles away, the HASF reception at the Royal Scam was enjoyed my even more Huskie supporters.
On Saturday, NIU’s football team, traveling party and invited guests enjoyed a lunch in the Aircraft Pavillion at Battleship Memorial Park, home of the famous World War II battleship, the U.S.S. Alabama. An estimated crowd of more than 500 people attended the function.
The players and fans then toured the Alabama and other equipment at the park. The U.S.S. Alabama was commissioned in August, 1942, and earned nine battle stars on the Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal. Bob Feller, an All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, served 34 months aboard the ship as a Chief Petty Officer in charge of one of the 40mm gun mounts before returning to baseball and concluding his hall-of-fame career. In addition to the Alabama, the Huskies took a tour of the submarine U.S.S. Drum and posed in front of 24 assorted warplanes and helicopters including the A-12 Blackbird, F-18, F-14, F-15 and F-16.
Saturday night, Huskie fans were among thousands of people that showed up for the Mardi Gras parade in downtown Mobile, a nod to the city’s heritage as home of the oldest annual Carnival celebration in America, having begun in 1703. Sixteen Mardi Gras societies were represented with floats and throws for the crowd. Several local high school marching bands joined the Huskie marching band and cheerleaders, along with those from Arkansas State.
Following the parade, the party moved to Water Street and the South Plaza for team pep rallies and a fireworks display over the Mobile River, followed by a street party with live music and refreshments.
Alumni groups from both participating teams were given the opportunity to play in a golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course at Magnolia Grove on Sunday morning, Jan. 8.
The GoDaddy.com Bowl will be played at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. The Alumni Association will host a pregame reception at the stadium, beginning at 5:30 p.m.