Lots of purple, football pads, loud music, stretching, and hard work…this is what I saw when I attended a WIU football practice last week. Seeing all the players get focused for practice got me pumped for last Saturday’s game.
On Saturday, the Leathernecks played against Big Ten team Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois. Although they didn’t come away with a win, it was still a special game. Bob Nielson, WIU’s head football coach explained to me at a practice last week how the WIU football team has never taken the field in the Chicago area, which is home for many of the WIU football players.
“I think this game is really special. I know none of our players have had the opportunity during their careers here at Western Illinois to play in the Chicago area. So to have an opportunity to go back home and play in your home city and represent Western Illinois against an outstanding University and outstanding program, Northwestern, is a special opportunity, and one they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives,” said Nielson.
I asked Nielson if they prepare for Big Ten teams differently than other games; he explained that their preparation is generally the same for all of their games. “We prepare every week the same to a certain extent, no matter who we’re playing. Playing in Wisconsin was different because of the 80,000 fans. Obviously you are going to get a bigger crowd at a Big Ten game, so there are some things you do differently to prepare for those games than you do for games in our league,” said Nielson.
Nielson explained that the Leathernecks have an exciting season ahead of them. “We’re a young team that’s getting better. We want to get better every week, (we want to) improve. We’ve got a schedule that includes these games like Northwestern and games against five or six of the top twenty-five (teams) in the country and FCS. So the opportunity to play that kind of competition and that kind of schedule, week in and week out, is certainly very exciting,” said Nielson.
Jvaughn Williams, a wide receiver on the football team and one of my good friends at WIU, has shown me, over the past couple of years, all the dedication that goes into being on the team. He lives and breathes football. I’ve gained so much respect for the team by seeing what all that the players put into it. Since Nielson became the head football in December 2012, there has been nothing but progress in the WIU football program. I have no doubt that the Leathernecks will keep growing and improving. I have witnessed their dedication both on and off the field. Win or lose, I will always support and cheer on our Leathernecks. Up next, they travel to Southern Illinois to take on the Salukis this Saturday. Then, it’s Homecoming at WIU on October 4 when the Leathernecks play North Dakota State University.
Read more about the Leathernecks and their schedule at http://www.goleathernecks.com/schedule.aspx?path=football.