Created:Friday, August 28, 2009 11:16 p.m.CDT

Progar takes giant leap forward

Northern Illinois defensive end Sean Progar has high expectations for the season. (Rob Winner –

DeKALB – Not often can a player be called a pain in the rear and it's considered a good thing.

In Sean Progar's case, it was a great thing – a sign of respect from the Northern Illinois coaches.

Once he was placed on the scout team last year as a freshman, Progar never took it as an insult and didn't stop working, trying to prove to the coaches that he belonged. If you're looking for two major reasons why the redshirt freshman defensive end will play a role this season, those would be it.

"Some guys go down and service the work team," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "He didn't go down to service it. He came down to whip it.

"He was a pain in the butt last year on the work team, so you knew he was going to be a player."

Progar walked-on to NIU as a freshman but was placed on scholarship after being named the defensive work (scout) team's player of the year.

"That's the attitude I've had since I came here," Progar said. "I'm ready to come up on the radar and I'm just here to help the team out."

Progar, who went by Progar-Jackson last season but said that's only because it's the name listed on his birth certificate, which he had to turn a copy of in to NIU when he signed up, is a part of the young contingent on the defensive line that includes true freshman defensive end Alan Baxter, redshirt freshman nose guard Brian Lawson and sophomore defensive tackle Adam Coleman.

All of them are trying to help offset the loss of defensive end Larry English, and Progar is no exception to that. He's increased his bench press to about 370 pounds and doesn't show signs of staying at that number for very long as his strength and athleticism helped him get into the backfield quicker throughout fall camp.

"He's a guy that we're counting on very heavily to be a player for us," Kill said. "He has to step up, there's no question about that."

To do that, Progar said the key for him is to play within himself and not try to be the all-everything defensive end he was at Glenbrook South High School, where he ended his career with 40 sacks and 12 forced fumbles.

"You're not going to make every play," he said. "You've got your job to do every play. It's not like high school where you do make every play. You've got to accept that and do your job. I want to do my job so [someone] can make the tackle."

If Progar can do that, he'll be a pain to opposing teams this time around.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?