Scoring in the community

By Matt Stacionis

Rushing for 1,000 yards in the Mid-American Conference is tough. Entertaining grade school children for two hours may be even tougher.

Michael Turner and other members of the NIU football team were thrown that challenge, among others, when they participated in two different elementary school fun fairs on Friday and Saturday.

“They were excited,” Turner said. “A couple of the kids go to the games just to see us out there, which means that we’re doing more than just playing football and going to school.”

Team members feel that going out into the community and repaying for the support they once received helps show how pleased they were to play in front of large crowds this year.

“It gives a community a better understanding of what kind of people that we really are,” said NIU receiver Scott Battas. “It helps our relationship with the people who supported us. It helps them understand how appreciative we are to have people in the stands.”

The team already has made trips to boys homes and hospitals in the surrounding communities.

“We’ve been doing things like this,” said NIU football coach Joe Novak. “Through Tammy Campbell, we’re trying to do more thinks like this. I think it’s good for the kids.”

Charitable cause: Former NIU football player Leon Moody, who played his last season in 1997 and was nearly killed in a fatal car accident, will be the feature of another football charitable cause.

The team will hold a lift-a-thon for their former teammate in order to raise money for his medical bills.

“Leon has a very heavy personal debt,” Novak said. “You don’t spend that much time with each other to not get close. It’s something that we should do.”

Moody was pronounced dead at the scene but was revived and now has several medical bills. The driver who struck him didn’t have insurance, leaving Moody in serious financial problems.

The team also will do a spring clean up in which they will rent themselves out for service later in the year.

Novak said that people also can make donations for Moody by calling the football office at 753-1825.

Combine: Both Ryan Diem and Justin McCareins were pleased with their NFL combine performance over the weekend, according to coach Novak.

Diem ran a 5.08 in the 40 and McCareins finished high among receivers with a 4.40. Both players also may have significantly improved their draft status with the testing.

“I just saw Ryan, and he was thrilled with what he did,” Novak said. “He said he got a lot of good interests. With Justin, I heard he ran extremely well. He ran better than the big-name receivers. I heard it was extremely positive.”

Da Bears: Even though there has been some talks of the Chicago Bears relocating their training camp to DeKalb, Novak doesn’t foresee it happening. He said that NIU does not have the necessary resources to accommodate the Bears’ needs. With upgrades, however, he feels the team could come in the near future.

“I’m not sure we have the faculties to facilitate them,” Novak said.