Underdog title nothing new for NIU players

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Underdog title nothing new for NIU players

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. Amid the cacophony that is the newfound media attention that constantly surrounds the Northern Illinois Huskies, one word has found a way to break through the noise.
In almost every question asked, you'll hear it: underdog.
What else could you call the Huskies? The team is the first-ever MAC school to make the BCS, and they'll go against a No. 12 Florida State team that was in the national-title hunt for all but a few weeks this season.
Some teams would take offense to being called an underdog, but Northern Illinois hasn't been quick to point out that they finished the regular season only three spots behind the Seminoles in the BCS Standings.
No, they rather like the title of underdog it fits.
"I think this team is made up of guys who, at one point in their life, were told that they're not good enough to play here," tight end Jason Schepler said. "So people saying that we're not good enough to be here is just another day for us."
Schepler is the perfect example of NIU's I'll-show-you attitude. Coming out of Sycamore high school, just up the road from NIU's campus, Schepler says he visited every Big Ten school. Each told him he wasn't big enough, wasn't athletic enough, was downright not good enough to play at the BCS level.
NIU took him on as a walk-on and put him at a position that seems from a bygone era a blocking tight end.
Across the country, most blocking tight ends are role players, buried on the overall depth chart, only to be used in special situations. Not Schepler. He's been NIU's offensive player of the week three times, a Lowes Senior CLASS Award finalist and a second-team academic All-American.
The man Schepler blocks for, quarterback Jordan Lynch, might have had Heisman hype this season, but he too came to Northern Illinois as a nobody. Only former Huskie coach Jerry Kill offered him a scholarship out of Mount Carmel high school.
"Im a quarterback first I would say, and no one really liked me for quarterback," Lynch said. "NIU was the only school that wanted me to play quarterback. It was the only school that gave me a shot, so he Kill came down to Mount Carmel and talked to Coach Lenti and invited me to a one-day camp, and I went up there, and he saw me play quarterback, and offered me that night."
Lynch has made good on his one opportunity.
After waiting on the bench for two years, Lynch ran for an astounding 1,771 yards this season not Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton, Eric Crouch, Mike Vick nor Steve Young ever rushed for as many. It set a new single-season rushing record for a FBS quarterback, and it was done without SportsCenter cut-ins or front-page fanfare.
It wasn't until the record was set that Lynch began to be noticed nationally, and now that he is, he's hoping to parlay the stage of the Orange Bowl a game Lynch called the next-best thing to the National Championship Game into another proving ground.
"It was always my dream, play in the NFL," Lynch said. "Just like Russell Wilson, RGIII and all that, theyre doing a great job and it seems like the NFL is starting to make the switch year by year with more quarterbacks like that. That definitely gives guys like me hope that are 6-foot or under."

DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

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AP

DePaul basketball program on the rise after landing 5-star recruit Tyger Campbell

DePaul hoops received a huge boost this week as five-star recruit Tyger Campbell committed to the university.

The elite point guard recruit out of La Lumiere, will join the Class of 2018, choosing DePaul over schools like Michigan State, Illinois and Memphis.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy.

"Mainly what I like about the school is I want to help bring it back. I love Chicago; it's a great city. I want to bring the city a college back to cheer for."

Campbell also said the Blue Demons' new Wintrust Arena at McCormick Place Event Center, which is slated to open this fall, is a big draw for him.

The Blue Demons are a combined 18-45 the last two seasons and hasven't had a winning season since 2006-07 when they went 20-14 and made the NIT Quarterfinals.

The program last made the NCAA Tournament in 2003-04 during Leitao's first stint as the team's head coach.

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

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USA TODAY

Northern Illinois adds running back Fotis Kokosioulis

Northern Illinois University added it's fourth known verbal commitment today in its growing Class of 2018.

Maine South junior running back Fotis Kokosioulis (5-foot-8, 165 pounds) added an offer from the Huskies on Tuesday after making a spring practice visit, and today he gave head coach Rod Carey his verbal commitment.

"I chose NIU because it's been a school that I've liked for awhile now," Kokosioulis said moments ago. "I like the facilities at NIU, the stadium and everything else they have to offer. I also really like all the coaches at NIU. I felt that even if I got more offers I would've still chose NIU over other schools. I know that there are bigger school and programs but I feel that I just fit in well at NIU, so I committed."

Kokosioulis, who was an All-State performer for the Class 8A state champion Maine South Hawks in 2016, is now the fourth known in-state verbal commitment for Rod Carey and the Huskies and the fifth known commitment overall. Kokosioulis joins Andrew defensive end Mike DeHaan, Plainfield East defensive end Jack Sullivan and Danville tight end Julian Pearl in the NIU Huskies in-state Class of 2018.