New football coach hire looks to strengthen Huskie defense

NIU’s hiring of Nick Benedetto as a co-defensive coordinator was announced March 8 by head football coach Thomas Hammock

Nick Benedetto is a co-defensive coordinator for the NIU football team.

NIU Athletics

Nick Benedetto is a co-defensive coordinator for the NIU football team.

By Noah Silver, Sports Reporter

Bend, don’t break. Defense wins championships. These mottos have been spoken for ages. Defense is an integral part of football, and having success coaching it can be difficult. This responsibility seems to have worked out well so far for newly hired NIU football coach Nick Benedetto.

Benedetto, the new co-defensive coordinator for the Huskies, has been around the block and has learned a lot in his nine years of coaching.

A native of Crystal Lake, Illinois, Benedetto graduated from the University of Sioux Falls in 2011 and is excited to be back in his home state after a decade away.

“Being able to come back to your home state is great,” Benedetto said. “Coach Hammock is a tremendous leader and it’s an honor to be a part of his staff. You don’t get to move home very often in the game of college football, and to be able to move home is a special thing for my family and I that I enjoy daily.”

Benedetto got his first job in 2010 as a graduate assistant at the Division I University of South Dakota working with safeties before moving to Grand View University as a defensive backs coach and special teams coordinator. 

After 2 years in Des Moines, Iowa, Benedetto accepted a job with West Virginia State University as a defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator. Between the 2013 and 2016 seasons, he made immense improvements to the defense and was named to the NCAA “top 30 under 30” coaches list. While Benedetto is grateful for the honor, he knows that it represents so much more than him. 

“It’s a great award,” Benedetto said. “I think anytime you get an award in the game of football it’s a team award. Obviously your name gets on it but it’s team success of why you get that opportunity.”

In 2017, Benedetto made his move to his alma mater, The University of Sioux Falls, as defensive coordinator. There, his defense ranked fourth nationally in 2019 and second in 2017.

His final coaching stop before Dekalb was as defensive coordinator position at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. There, he improved the team’s defense in nine of 12 categories and ranked first in the league in turnovers and opponents third down percentage. While some like to think he has the “magic touch,” Benedetto thinks it’s all about making sure everyone is on the same page and executing well.

“I think it’s all about the group you work with and collectively working together,” Benedetto said. “Defense is a reactionary position, and you have to be able to have rules and react in an efficient time and manner in order to be successful.”

Benedetto has now taken his first Division I FBS job, joining coach Thomas Hammock and the Huskies. Although he knows the road will be different, he is confident in this team’s abilities and the success they can find if they work hard. 

“This is a player-led team, and coach Hammock sets the tone. It filters down from him and to our players. When you turn on the film, you see that the players here at NIU give their all every play. They work hard for the team and that makes coaching so enjoyable here.”

If Benedetto’s tenure here is anything like the past decade of his coaching history, the Huskies can expect continued success for the years to come.