Between the third and the fourth quarters of every football game, the team, support staff, band members and fans put up five fingers in memorial for the Feb. 14, 2008, victims.
The tradition, known by the team as “Five in the Sky,” was started by former NIU football coach Jerry Kill, according to Dan Stinson, technical assistant for athletics.
“It started after the school shooting,” said Alex Kube, a 2010 graduate and linebacker. “Coach Kill brought it up and all the captains agreed on it.”
DeMarcus Grady, a 2011 graduate and quarterback, said Kill wanted the team to dedicate the fourth quarter to the victims.
“I feel like if we we’re winning or losing, it was a reminder that we have more to give in the game and we can do it for those who have lost their lives,” Grady said.
Kube said the entire team wanted “Five in the Sky” to become a long lived tradition.
“I think it should be continued,” Kube said. “It’s important and represents something big.”
Grady said Kill told the team’s players they were going to start a tradition of honoring the five deaths as a sign of respect.
“It’s something that is important to all of us who were on campus when the shooting happened,” Stinson said. “I know not many are left, but it’s important to a lot of people in the community, too.”
Kube said it’s necessary for the students who lost their lives to be recognized and remembered.
“It’s important that we let them know that we are with them,” Kube said. “A lot of people see the team show their respect.”
The first time the team put their hands up was at the 2008 season opener on Aug. 30, 2008, at Minnesota, according to Stinson and Grady. Ever since, the team and its fans have come together to pay their respects to the victims at football games.