(MCT) — MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Chargers linebacker Larry English was one of the first to call and congratulate players of his alma mater for being selected to play in the Orange Bowl against Florida State.
“He had just come off the field in San Diego and heard about it and called,” NIU athletic director Jeff Compher said Thursday. “So I thought that was really cool. He said: ‘You know, I am just so proud of my (college football) program.’
“I said, ‘Larry, you helped put us here. Guys like you allowed this to happen.’ So it is a really good connection with the NFL that we have.”
English was a first-round draft pick (16th overall) of the Chargers in 2009, and now several members of this year’s NIU team also hope to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. Being the first team from the Mid-American Conference to play in a BCS bowl will enhance NIU’s exposure.
“No doubt … you’re going against the best (in Florida State),” NIU coach Rod Carey said. “Here you go. The scouts are going to be looking at all of our games, but the first game they are going to want to see is the top-level competition.”
Senior defensive ends Sean Progar and Alan Baxter, as well as wide receiver Martel Moore, have garnered the most attention from NFL scouts.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us seniors,” Progar said. “Obviously they’re an ACC powerhouse. We’re going to get a chance to go up against those guys who we’re going to be compared to once we get to the NFL. It’s going to be an opportunity for us to show what we can do.”
Scouts from the Bengals, Seahawks and Bears have been among the NFL teams already evaluating the Huskies’ talent.
The 6-foot-2, 254-pound Progar has 81/2 sacks this season and 10 tackles for loss. The Glenbrook South product also has an interception.
“(Florida State) has some good offensive linemen. So they are going to have a lot of scouts looking at them and a lot of scouts looking at us,” Progar said. “The more scouts at the game, the more opportunity. (The Seminoles) are definitely NFL-type offensive linemen. So it will be a good show for me and my teammates.”
Baxter is a little smaller (6-0, 240) but every bit as productive with 91/2 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss.
“I can do many different things, that’s basically my thing,” said Baxter, a Buffalo Grove alum.
Moore has 71 catches for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.
“This (Orange Bowl) is a good way to put my name out there,” Moore said. “(Florida State has) great corners. I know if I do what I have been doing all season, I will have my opportunity to get (to the NFL).”
All-American quarterback Jordan Lynch will be back for his senior year, but he also looks at the Orange Bowl as an opportunity to bolster his gaudy stats against top-level opponent.
“Growing up, that was always my dream, playing in the NFL,” Lynch said. “Just like Russell Wilson. (Robert Griffin III) … they’re doing a great job. It seems like the NFL is starting to make the switch year by year with more quarterbacks like that. It definitely gives guys like me hope that are 6-foot or shorter. It’s definitely a great opportunity.”