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Visions of Poinsettias

December 23, 2013
Tight end Kevin Tennenbaum works on his laptop while waiting for the team’s flight at the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

Tight end Kevin Tennenbaum works on his laptop while waiting
for the team’s flight at the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

Early wake-up calls and frigid temperatures for bowl trips are nothing new for the NIU football team. They’ve done it for the last six years.

However, a blizzard struck the northern Illinois area Sunday morning just as the Huskies started arriving at the Convocation Center’s parking lot – adding a degree of difficulty to the start of this year’s bowl trip.

The team’s six buses got rolling at 6:25 a.m. and headed for the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

As the Huskie caravan departed campus, however, they turned eastbound onto Lincoln Highway instead of the westward turn normally taken. Looking to take advantage of clearer roads, the buses headed south to I-88 and then west to I-39.

While the buses made their way north, the snow began to fall harder and the roads were covered in several inches of the white stuff. Hats off to the six bus drivers for navigating the challenging conditions and delivering the travel party to the airport safely.

But although the Huskies were at the airport, their plane was not. It was delayed about an hour.

The teammates spent the delay playing cards, visiting with staff members and posing for photos with fans in the terminal. Fortunately for the Huskies and the travel party, their plane had landed, the snow had stopped and the 2013 Poinsettia Bowl trip was set to begin two hours after it was scheduled to start.

Anthony Wells and Zach Anderson

Anthony Wells and Zach Anderson

The team took off and headed to San Diego. Their charter touched down at 12:45 p.m. local time and the Huskies were greeted by 67-degree temperatures and clear sunny skies – quite the contrast from the 27 degrees and cloudy skies people in DeKalb were experiencing. After deplaning, the team spent the next few minutes walking around the tarmac soaking in the sun and warmth before helping load the bags on the buses and heading to practice.

NIU worked out for about 75 minutes in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets under gorgeous blue California skies at Mesa College.

Following practice and a quick post-workout snack, the Huskies traveled to their team hotel and received a warm welcome from the Poinsettia Bowl Committee, complete with red carpet and a mariachi band. They ended their “official” portion of their evening at the Poinsettia Bowl Welcome Reception where they were treated to a turkey and beef dinner before hitting the town.

Northern Illinois will face Utah State University in the ninth annual Poinsettia Bowl at 8:30 p.m. (CST) Thursday, Dec. 26. The game is being televised by ESPN.

For more information on NIU football and Huskie athletics, visit

Welcome Huskies!