As soon as the half-dozen NIU Huskies football players pushed open the side doors of Brooks Elementary School and stepped onto the cold and sunny playground, they heard a greeting worthy of Justin Bieber or One Direction.
Children quickly mobbed the Huskies, who were ready to sign autographs, answer questions and toss the pigskin around.
Brooks won the Friday visit for their outpouring of NIU Huskie Pride this week, including a 94 percent participation rate of children wearing red and black clothes Thursday.
“Playing the NIU fight song as I walked in really made my day! Each classroom I visited showed no doubt that we were in Huskie Territory,” said Adam Kiel, an NIU football alum and Intercollegiate Athletics graduate assistant for life skills and compliance. “Each classroom was also prepared for me when I came in with either a chant, a song or a game. It was a blast, and the kids loved it too!”
NIU Athletics launched the contest two weeks before Homecoming; Lincoln Elementary School was the first to win. Two more DeKalb Community Unit School District 428 schools have opportunities for victory this fall.
“It’s always easy to show our Huskie Pride on game days. We wanted to show it outside of game days,” Kiel said.
“It was a very close competition this week! The amount of NIU support and spirit was incredible,” he added. “I can honestly say it was one of my proudest moments of being an NIU alum, an NIU former student-athlete and an NIU fan.”
Brooks certainly stepped it up.
Posters hand-colored with red crayons and black crayons are taped to the front windows, the inside walls and glass display cases and on classroom doors. A bouquet of red, black and white balloons sits atop the counter in the main office. A kid-size table outside the office sports a red tablecloth underneath red Huskie paws cut from construction paper and displayed on black place mats.
On the playground, however, it was all pencils, paper and questions of “What’s your number?” and “What position do you play?”
“We are all Barbs here first, of course, but we are also Huskies. The kids love this,” Briscoe said. “We’re really grateful that NIU is willing to help us get excited about NIU. They’re on a roll.”
“This is really building a great relationship between the university and the community, and there’s no better way than through our young people,” Mayta added. “These athletes are role models.”
NIU’s football players can expect to hear more cheering at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when they take on the Eastern Michigan Eagles inside Huskie Stadium. Whether tomorrow’s roar is more deafening than this afternoon’s remains to be seen.
For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.