Ivanic puts name in Huskie history

By Dan Moran

Two days after the NIU Huskies escaped a meeting with a Big Ten team with something more than a loss, Jerry Pettibone faced the weekly Huskie Club luncheon with a newspaper in his hand.

Pettibone held the sports page up for the gathering, proudly extolling the virtues of an oversized picture capturing the joy of the Huskies earning a 16-16 tie with the Northwestern Wildcats.

“I want this up in our offices,” said Pettibone, who hailed the picture as a great moment in Huskie history.

And so, the name of the player who kicked a field goal with six seconds left to secure the tie is forever etched in NIU trivia questions. But—quick—name that kicker.

No, not Eric Nelson—he kicked last year, and remains today as the second-string kicker and punter. And it isn’t Nils Kloster, although an infamous Chicago sportscaster with a face made for radio told his audience Kloster was the Man of the Hour.

It was John Ivanic. The last name rhymes with I can kick, but end it with a ‘c’. Some newspapers neglected to do so.

e is a red-shirt freshman from the Quad Cities. Former Huskie recruiting coordinator Sam Sample plucked Ivanic from Rock Island’s Alleman High School almost as an afterthought. And last Saturday, Ivanic found himself in a situation rivaling an IBM “You Make the Call” commercial.

Pettibone told the Huskie Club about an exchange he and Ivanic had as time wore down with NIU behind 16-13.

“John came up to me on the sideline,” Pettibone said, “and he said, ‘Coach?,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, John?’ He said, ‘Coach, you know what this reminds me of? That Iowa-Michigan game two years ago where that Rob Houghtlin came in to tie the game. He kicked it right down the middle. That’s what I’m going to do.’ And I said, ‘O.K., John.'”

Ivanic began the year as a member of the Huskies’ revolving placekicking unit. He, Nelson and Kloster, along with Garo Emerzian, all saw time in one capacity or another in NIU’s opening loss to Lamar. But Ivanic stood out, kicking two field goals and an extra point.

One week later, Ivanic duplicated the feat in a 34-14 win over Western Michigan. Pettibone was asked who “that kid” was who kicked the two field goals. As part of his explanation, Pettibone was required to provide a spelling.

Then came Northwestern, and this time Ivanic joined the Huskie boss at the post-game press conference. The young kicker appeared calm for someone who had just played out a gridiron drama. He would tell a reporter later his moment in Huskie history would have been sweeter if the team had won. “After all, it’s a team game,” he said.