SYCAMORE – Aiden Anderson, 5, may be one of Northern Illinois University football’s smallest fans, but he is also one of their biggest rooters.
“He has been to every NIU home football game since he was born,” his mother, Tia Anderson, said.
Aiden was one of hundreds of NIU fans who attended a Huskie-themed Tuesday on the Town in downtown Sycamore on June 10. NIU athletes, cheerleaders and the Victor E. Huskie mascot signed autographs, posed for pictures and hosted activities.
Although it’s been five months since their historic trip to the Orange Bowl, the NIU football team was arguably the biggest draw.
Like many others, 10-year-old Cody Kelley of Sycamore said he was going to hang his autographed poster on his bedroom wall.
“We are big NIU fans,” said Chris Collins, an NIU alum, as he watched his children, Lucas, 7, and Kira, 6, get their poster autographed. “I try to go to one game a year with my father-in-law.”
Collins fondly remembers the last time the Huskies generated this much excitement – 2003, the year he graduated. That year’s team boasted Heisman Trophy candidate running back Michael “The Burner” Turner, who went on to a Pro Bowl career in the NFL.
This year’s team, which kicks off its 2013 season on Aug. 31 against Iowa, boasts another Heisman candidate in quarterback Jordan Lynch.
“We have to stay hungry and keep working hard,” Lynch said, moments before signing Aiden’s T-shirt. Winning back-to-back Mid-American Conference titles and earning a trip to the Orange Bowl, “raised the bar” for 2013, he said.
“There’s always room for improvement,” junior cornerback Marckie Hayes agreed.
Growing up in Sycamore, Hayes said it was always his dream to play for the Huskies. “I bleed red and black,” he said.
Among the fans who turned out to see him last week was his grandmother, Judy Schrock of Sycamore, who was a member of the Huskies marching band in the 1960s. “It’s been kind of fun to get back,” she said.