John Tranchitella is an exception to a rule. That rule being that linebackers can't hang with wide receivers, cornerbacks and running backs as kick returners.
But the senior linebacker did exactly that during Northern Illinois' 41-7 victory against Western Illinois on Saturday at Huskie Stadium. Tranchitella, who can get some momentum going with his 6-foot-1, 236 pound frame, returned the opening kickoff 43 yards and finished the game with 63 kick return yards.
Daily Chronicle sports reporter John Sahly caught up with Tranchitella after Saturday's game to talk about his new duty for the Huskies. The following is an edited transcript.
John Sahly: Given the history behind this series, how does it feel to get that monkey off NIU's back?
John Tranchitella: It feels really good. They came here and the last couple of times and beat us. Now, we came through here pretty big.
JS: Was that history brought up throughout the week?
JT: Yeah. Every day it was brought up by a coach or a player. You know, we kind of got sick of hearing it.
JS: The last week or so of camp, you started returning kicks. Whose idea was that?
JT: You know what? I really don't know. I don't know if it was coach 'Tuke (linebackers coach Tom Matukewicz or [wide receivers] coach [P.J.] Fleck. It was one of them that put me on it.
JS: What was your reaction to it?
JT: At first, I thought they were kidding. But then I went in the [special teams] meeting and they put me back there. So they had me practicing returning kicks and catching it.
JS: How are you liking it?
JT: I love it. It's what I used to do in high school.
JS: Were you surprised to see a kick come your way?
JT: Not at all. I saw last week [Wisconsin] didn't kick to me at all. Any team that sees a linebacker at kick returner they're going to right to him.
JS: Can you describe that first return and what you saw?
JT: I don't remember hearing anything because Tommy Davis, the other returner, he's got the Me-You call and he called him but I didn't hear him. So I just took it. I don't even remember. I just took it and started running. Everyone was pretty excited and everybody's been talking about it all week and last week. They've been telling me good job.
JS: How is this defense starting to come together?
JT: Good. We're starting to come together and I think we're going to have a pretty good season. I think we're going to be better than we were last season on defense.