NIU football running back coach looks for number one for position

Eddie Faulkner knows what it’s like to play in the shadow of another great athlete.

During his four years in the Wisconsin backfield, the Huskie running backs coach had to share time with a robust Badger legend.

“I backed up Ron Dayne for all four years of [of my college career],” Faulkner said.

The NIU football team currently has a vacancy in its backfield, with talented player Chad Spann now vying for the attention of NFL scouts.

Cameron Bell, Jasmin Hopkins and junior-college transfer Jamal Womble will be a part of a heavy competition to carry the rock in NIU’s backfield.

“Hopefully, by having some good players [at this position], we’ll foster some competition within the group,” Faulkner said. “That only makes everyone better, and that’s what any coach wants.”

Bell has taken to heart everything Faulkner has told him. There appears to be a connection between the two.

“For me, it’s a guy that you learn from,” Bell said. “It’s a guy that has lived it and has applied it, not only just on the football field, but in everyday life because he can teach you something.”

Bell sees Faulkner as a perfect fit, as Bell fought for playing time last season, yet didn’t see the field until the latter half of NIU’s season.

“I don’t think there’s any better coach for me in my college career,” Bell said.

Even though there’s a Wisconsin link between NIU head coach Dave Doeren and Faulkner, it’s nothing more than a coincidence. Other former Badgers put a good word in for Faulkner to Doeren.

“I didn’t know coach Doeren,” Faulkner said. “The connection came through [former Wisconsin head coach Barry] Alvarez and some other guys that I know from my time there, who gave a reference on my behalf.”

Once spring practice concludes, the Huskies will have their number one running back listed on their depth chart. But despite how they’ll be arranged on paper, that order won’t preclude other backs from receiving handoffs from quarterback Chandler Harnish.

“I think this day in age of Division I football, you need a couple [running backs],” Faulkner said. “You need more than one. There’s not just one guy. They need help carrying the load, whoever that person is.”

Faulkner reminds the Huskie running backs that they’re following in the footsteps of some talented backs, including Garrett Wolfe, Michael Turner and most recently, Spann.

“There is tradition here,” Faulkner said. “What I talk to them constantly about is upholding that tradition.”