Hey everyone, welcome back to MAC Gems, the only column on the internet* that scours the web to bring you some certifiably cool MAC-themed gear available for purchase!
(* that we know of, anyway.)
This week, we bring you five NIU-related items, along with a sixth bonus item that’ll be sure to make you put your hand to your heart and announce it is indeed very neat, even if you can’t break the bank for it. In case you missed out on last week’s, we brought out a bunch of Miami University gear.
Without further ado: the items!
It took awhile for the Huskies to become the prominent program we all know today.
The Huskies are a fiercely independent program which has always done things differently. They’ve flirted with independence many times (five times in fact) and weren’t afraid to make a move they felt necessary. A couple seasons of removed from winning the conference in 1983, the Huskies left the MAC and became an independent program until 1992. They then joined the Big West Conference, where they would win 16 games over four years before returning to independence.
They rejoined the MAC in 1995, but wouldn’t field a competitive team until 2000, when head coach Joe Novak would lead NIU to seven consecutive winning seasons. Included in that streak were three straight victories against Power Five football teams (including Maryland, Iowa State and of course, Alabama), getting ranked in the AP Top 10, an appearance on College GameDay, a 10-2 season that went unrewarded with a bowl game and the graduation of 12 future NFL prospects.
The period between 2003 and 2005 really helped to launch the Huskies as we know them today. The 2004 season saw the Huskies finish 9-3, primarily thanks to the emergence of future NFL running back Garrett Wolfe, and reach their first bowl game in 21 years, placing in the Silicon Valley Classic against Troy.
The Huskies fell behind in that game 14-0 early in the first quarter, but would go on to score 31 unanswered points en route to a 34-21 victory thanks in part to two rushing touchdowns by QB Josh Haldi and a 50-yard scamper by Wolfe, which got the scoring started.
You can own this commemorative t-shirt, which confirmed that the Huskies were indeed, back, for the low, low price of $9.95 plus $4 shipping.
Continuing the theme of our previous item, we highlight some memorabilia from other bowl games the Huskies found themselves in post-Novak era under his successor, Jerry Kill.
NIU made bowl games in all three seasons under Kill’s tenure, including the 2008 Independence Bowl (17-10 loss to Louisiana Tech,) the 2009 International Bowl played in Toronto, Canada (27-3 loss to USF) and the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl (40-17 win against Fresno State.) In those seasons, the Huskies went 6-7, 7-6 and 11-3 respectively, and earned a MAC West divisional title in 2010, losing to Miami in the MAC Championship Game.
The footballs included here have autographs for the Humanitarian and International Bowls from the head coach himself. The other two, including the GoDaddy Bowl ball from the 2012 season under Dave Doeren (38-20 win against Arkansas State), do not.
These four balls are sold as one unit, and make for a wonderful addition to an office or a sports den, especially at the unreasonably good price of $80 for the unit. Even with the $22.05 expedited shipping, that’s still approximately $21 per commemorative ball. You’d be crazy to say no to a deal like this.
Okay, okay, one more bowl game-related Gem, I promise.
This one promises the autograph of former NIU tight end Shane Wimann on a team-issued backpack, complete with Boca Raton Bowl game tags.
On paper, this bowl game promised to be an exciting matchup between two Group of Five teams overlooked by the Top 25 polls. Marshall came in at 12-1 as Conference USA champions, with their only loss being a wild 67-66 overtime affair with cross-division foe Western Kentucky. The Huskies, meanwhile, were 10-2 and fresh off another MAC Championship, dispatching BGSU by a final score of 52-17.
In reality, it was a trouncing, as the Thundering Herd ran away early and ever looked back, winning by a final score of 52-23.
It was the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, which on its own, give this piece some good value. But it also has the signature of Wimann, who had a great career at NIU and went on to be a UDFA of the New England Patriots after his stay in DeKalb. As a Huskie, Wimann played in all 51 of his eligible games, finishing as the Huskies’ all-time touchdown receptions leader for tight ends (17) and overall receptions leader for tight ends (65.)
The bag can be yours for $49.99 plus $15 shipping.
Look: it’s not terribly often you find a branded women’s basketball sweater just laying around the internet, and especially not one which is so amazingly made as this one.
Everything from the Huskie hanging on the rim holding a hair dryer, to the way “Westerwinds” flies off the logo and into the ether, to the cartoony “BLOW ‘EM AWAY!” slogan just screams character. Add to it the fascinating history behind the former WIU women’s athletics nickname, and you’ve got yourself quite the conversational piece in this lovely crewneck sweater.
Now, there are a few details missing. For one, we can’t track down a manufacturer or year this would have been made. There’s also the matter of the GTE logo, which dates it somewhat, but not very well. The seller probably doesn’t have a lot of knowledge on the team, so that makes sense we don’t know the details.
But they do promise that it is in “like new” condition and appears to have never been worn, so you’re getting something which is an extremely rare find. (If you have any information about how this promotion came about, we’d love to hear from you!)
It can be yours for $28.74 or best offer with free shipping.
I’m making a guess that this hat was manufactured some time after 1968, as the Fighting Huskie wasn’t adopted until that year. Foam trucker mesh caps, coincidentally, came into popularity some time around that year, so I feel safe supposing this was created around then.
The history of the Fighting Huskie is interesting, as it wasn’t officially adopted until the 1968 season, supplanting the old intercrossing “NI” logo which the school had donned since the 1890’s. This hat is perhaps the first attempt at making the logo popular, as this seems to be a hat aimed at Huskie Club members, which would be the main fundraising arm of athletics.
The Fighting Huskie would be the school’s logo until 1988, when it was replaced by the head-on “wolf” Huskie. The modern Huskie, with eyes ever forward, wasn’t put into use until 2001.
The user admits the hat isn’t in the greatest shape (the foam is disintegrating and the front looks admittedly yellowed from age), but at a $4.99 price point and about the same amount for shipping, it’s not a terrible investment to make. Wear it and impress your friends!
BASK IN THE BEAUTY OF THIS JERSEY.
The beloved Active Heroes jersey that NIU made famous on nationally-televised weeknight #MACtion can be found on the internet, available for purchase. But this beauty, with the internet’s favorite number, is a bit more unique. (So much so, the seller upcharged it 253 percent from other jerseys which look similar.)
Isn’t it nice?
The jersey belonged to redshirt freshman Corey Thomas, who would prove to be a team leader and all-around good guy for the Huskies from 2013 to the end of his career in 2016. Thomas finished his career with 102 tackles in 38 games (31 starts) and six tackles for loss over his career, earning the Mental Toughness Award from the Chicago Chapter of the National Football Foundation in his senior season. The 2016 season saw him finish with 38 tackles, which was 20 more than the second-best interior defensive lineman, an incredible stat when taken in content.
He was part of three MAC West Division champion teams (2013-15) and the 2014 MAC Championship team as a contributor.
This wonderful one-of-a-kind clothing article can be yours for $499.99 or $46 over 12 months with $9.99 shipping.
If you have your own suggestions for themes or gems to be featured, let us know on Twitter @HustleBelt or using the tag #MACGems! We also accept showing off MAC gems which are not for sale, too!