Root, root, root for the Huskies


Nathan Palmer (middle), like many student-athletes, has had to leave old rooting allegiances behind after becoming a Huskie.

By Andrew Singer

Deep in the closet of every NIU athlete, behind all the Huskie swag, is an article of clothing that represents their love for a school that doesn’t rock the Cardinal and Black.

While it may be hard to believe, student-athletes are not forbidden by coaches or university personnel from cheering for other schools.

Supporting schools other than NIU in the Mid-American Conference would more than likely be a problem, but that isn’t an issue for out-of-state football players like North Carolina native Jasmin Hopkins. The senior tailback has never made his love for rival schools North Carolina and Duke a secret.

“I just have to rep for my home state,” Hopkins said. “It’s not like I’m going to root for someone we’re playing on the schedule. It’s not like that. I like ACC, SEC schools that we don’t play, but are from where I’m from.”

It’s been relatively easy for Hopkins to keep his rooting interests since his favorite schools are so far from NIU. Nathan Palmer, however, came to NIU from nearby Elkhart, Ind. The senior wide receiver was an avid fan of Indiana University before coming to DeKalb.

A friendly rivalry with some NIU coaches forced him to drop the Hoosiers, but Palmer still has a couple schools left to choose from.

“I’ve always been a fan of the Miami football team,” Palmer said. “I cheer for the U and Notre Dame. I didn’t used to like Notre Dame, but I started cheering for them when a few of my friends started playing there.”

The only conflict Palmer has had is when the Irish played the Hurricanes in last year’s Sun Bowl. Rooting conflicts have been rare for Palmer, though, as the senior has found it pretty easy to identify as a Huskie.

While Hopkins and Palmer both said they would never root for someone on the schedule, their teammate, center Scott Wedige, unfortunately can’t say the same. For years, the Wisconsin native has been a loyal follower of the Huskies’ opponent, Wisconsin, in the Sept. 17 “Soldier Field Showdown II.”

“Going to Camp Randall [Stadium], doing the ‘Jump Around,’ it’s one of the staples of college football,” Wedige said of the Wisconsin football tradition. “Growing up with that, it was always great to go up to games with my buddies. I will always be a Badger fan, but NIU is definitely my team.”

Wedige’s only regret is he won’t be able to play against defensive end J.J. Watt, a high school friend projected by many to go in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft.

“I was looking forward to beating up on [Watt] for a little bit, but I still know a lot of other guys on the team,” Wedige said. “It should be a lot of fun going up there and hopefully getting a win for [head coach Dave Doeren].”