Hickenbottom becomes number 8

By Steve Brown

After attending a mini-camp with the Cleveland Browns April 29 to May 1, NIU free safety Lionel Hickenbottom can be added to the list of seven Huskie free agents signed with NFL teams.

“Eight’s pretty good from one class,” NIU football coach Joe Novak said. “I think that speaks to the quality of our team and those individuals.”

Wide receiver Dan Sheldon, who attended a mini-camp over the weekend for the Arizona Cardinals, thought his chances looked good at winning the Cardinals punt returner spot.

“It was a confidence booster,” Sheldon said of the weekend training. “It really helped me to realize that I think I can compete at this level.”

Sheldon was forced to learn the new offense the Cardinals are incorporating for next season and spent much of his time off the field in a hotel room studying the playbook.

“It was like going into a foreign country and having to learn a new language in just a few days,” Sheldon said. “But that’s what rookie camp will be all about, learning the new offense.”

Other seniors signed to teams include tight end Brad Cieslak and cornerback Rob Lee with the Buffalo Bills. Linebacker Brian Atkinson was picked up by the Tennessee Titans.

Quarterback Josh Haldi signed with the Cincinnati Bengals shortly after the NFL draft and participated in a mini-camp over the weekend.

Offensive linemen Jake VerStraete and Matt McGhghy signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears, respectively.