By Dieter Kurtenbach
Like many Miami natives, Northern Illinois middle linebacker Victor Jacques is proud of his hometown. You can tell, because he wears his pride on his sleeve.
Scratch that, his pride is actually under that sleeve.
Jacques was so excited about NIU making the 2012 Orange Bowl that he finally went out an purchased something he had been thinking about getting for three years, a shoulder-to-elbow tattoo on his left bicep, depicting the Miami skyline, the Biscayne Bay and the Miami-Dade county logo.
And shining down on this indelible city, in lieu of the sun on this partly cloudy and perhaps partly-hairy sky is an Orange Bowl logo.
It was a bit an impulse purchase Jacques was inked three weeks ago, after the announcement was made that the Huskies would be playing in his hometown. The redshirt senior had been debating whether to get a tattoo of Miami for years, and the Orange Bowl berth was the perfect milestone to commemorate.
The tattoo is ornately designed, what with the a giant marlin jumping out of the water and the Rickenbacker Causeway and the Orange Bowl logo, one error could have turned South Beach into South Dakota.
But this wasn't Jacques' first go-around. In fact, the tattoo was Jacques' third, all done at Spider Tattooz outside of DeKalb, in Sycamore, Illinois.
"It wasn't hard to find someone to get the logo right, but I had to get the money right. It's not cheap." Jacques joked. "I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do it definitely had to do with Miami but it all came together. The Orange Bowl just topped it off. It was the icing on the cake."
Or the ink on the arm.
It took four hours for Spider, the parlor's proprietor, to finish Jacques' tattoo and more three weeks before it fully healed.
Jacques didn't make an annoucement when the bandages came off upon landing in South Florida. Some teammates noticed the new art underneath the cuff Jacques' No. 40 jersey. Others didn't even know he got a new tattoo. NIU coach Rod Carey didn't notice the tattoo until overhearing Jacques being interviewed for this article.
The Columbus High School graduate's hometown pride is clearly displayed, but that pride didn't swell until he left Miami to go to DeKalb. Jacques spurned offers to both stay in Miami and in Florida, instead opting to venture north and go to NIU, and he maintains it's the best decision he's ever made.
The differences are stark "there's not many cornfields down here," Jacques quipped but those differences made him value both where he came from and where he is now.
So when those places intersected on Dec. 2, Jacques was overwhelmed.
"I was smiling from ear to ear," Jacques said. "It was hard to control. It was damn-near almost emotional at times... It's a dream. Growing up here in Miami, watching the Orange Bowl, it's always been the dream. Now that I'm able to play in it, it's something that really sits well.. The emotions are still going. Coming here, it's picking right back up."
That energy has been endearing to the Huskies. NIU defensive coordinator Jay Neimann knows what kind of player Jacques is, he calls him a bell-cow middle linebacker in that case, he's likely the first cow to go from Miami to Dekalb but he's also the force that creates the bonds of chemistry on the NIU defense.
"He's just a real treat," Neimann added.
That affable personality might have backfired on Jacques though. Now that he is back, he's being hit up by friends and family for tickets to the game. All-in-all Jacques is hunting for upwards of 100 tickets for the New Year's Day affair. He'd buy them secondary market tickets are going for less than 10 on some websites but after dishing out for the tattoo, cash is a bit tight.