NIU Florida natives prep for return home

947867.png

NIU Florida natives prep for return home

DeKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois football players each receive six tickets for family and friends to attend the Huskies Jan. 1 Orange Bowl date with Florida State.
But for members of NIUs Florida delegation, six is nowhere near enough.
Im going to need at least 30, minimum, senior linebacker Victor Jacques said. But Im shooting for 40.
The demands on running back Akeem Daniels, a junior from the Kissimmee, Fla., are similar and rising.
Ive got 20-plus so far, he said. Everybodys calling. Family, friends, familys friends. Im trying to do my best to get everybody tickets. Im asking other teammates if theyre not using them.
The Huskies roster is dotted with 11 players from the Sunshine State, some who were recruited by in-state schools but opted to migrate 1,000 miles north. As many as eight could start on Jan. 1 against the Seminoles.
I wanted to see something different, Jacques, a redshirt senior with 28 tackles in eight appearances this season, said. Coming here, I saw how it was a great program, had great facilities, was on the rise and it was kind of an easy choice.
Jacques, who was also recruited by Florida International, Central Florida and South Florida, said there were adjustments to make from the balmy and culturally distinct Miami region.
Its (was) a big transition, he said. The people are a little bit different, but for the most part the weather was the biggest thing. I finally got a winter coach and got used to it.
Jacques cant wait to play at his hometown Sun Life Stadium on Jan. 1 against the Seminoles.
Its a complete, absolute dream for me being able to play in front of all my friends and family, he said. Especially (being) my last game, its quite an experience that I will cherish for a long time.
Daniels already had a connection in DeKalb. His older brother, Kiaree, played defensive back at NIU from 2008-10. And Akeem liked the chemistry and closeness among Huskie players.
I thought that was real special, you dont get that everywhere, he said. At the end of the day I had to make the decision, but my brother being here and liking the team bonding, the team chemistry, it made it an easy decision.
Daniels been a dual threat for the Huskies with 432 rushing yards on 65 carries and nine touchdowns. Hes also caught 18 passes for 192 yards and two TDs.
And Daniels, who says he long ago adjusted to DeKalbs cold and legendary winds, has no regrets about coming north.
Three MAC championship (games) the past three years, he said. I like this place.
Other top Floridians on the Huskies include Tommylee Lewis, Riviera Beach, the No. 2 receiver with 43 catches for 478 yards and five touchdowns; linebacker Jamaal Bass, Miramar, the Huskies third-leading tackler (76); cornerback Demetrius Stone, Miami, 73 tackles; and defensive tackle Ken Bishop, Sunrise, 52 tackles.
Northern Illinois coaches started serious preparation for Florida State this week and had at least one day (Monday) to work outdoors at Huskie Stadium before moving practice to the enclosed DeKalb Recreation Center on Tuesday.
Yesterday we started the main part of our game plan and we got some time with the coaches to get some film study done, head coach Rod Carey said. Were still in the middle of what I call a four-day game-plan week. Were treating this like we build up to a normal (game).
The Huskies (12-1) will face a Florida State team (11-2) unlike any theyve faced.
Theyre good, thats an understatement, probably, Carey said. Theyre long, theyre athletic, theyre sound in what they do and well coached. They do all the things you expect an ACC (Atlantic Coast) champion to do.
But NIU counters with plenty of talent and exceptional seniors.
We have a lot of really good players on this team, he said. From Martel Moore to Perez Ashford, Sean Progar, Alan Baxter -- all of our seniors are playing their best football. Thats what makes this team.
If you look through the roster and highlight a senior, thats one of our best players.
The Huskies plan to practice in DeKalb through Thursday, then break for the holiday. Theyll return Christmas night and depart for Florida at 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 26.
Northern Illinois will practice daily in the run up to the Orange Bowl, set for a 7:30 p.m. (Central) kickoff on ESPN.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Wake-up Call: Mark Buehrle goes down in White Sox history

Watch Mark Buehrle's jersey retirement speech

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Anthony Rizzo won’t get ‘Wally Pipped’ out of Cubs leadoff spot

How a fan's kind gesture surprised Mark Buehrle on his big day

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Blackhawks 2017 NHL Draft capsules: Scouting reports and analysis

Ben Zobrist doubtful for Nationals showdown and where things stand with banged-up Cubs

White Sox upset by the call that led to ejections of Todd Frazier, Rick Renteria

Preview: Cubs battle Marlins Sunday on CSN

It sure sounds like Jimmy Butler regrets being labeled as the face of the Bulls franchise