Created:Wednesday, October 7, 2009 11:04 p.m.CST
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Cox takes pride in blocking

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois wide receiver secures a catch during practice at Huskie Stadium. (Beck Diefenbach - bdiefenbach@daily-chronicle.com)

DeKALB – Landon Cox calls it a "go-getter" mentality.

That's go-getter as in go to the opposing defensive back, get him and render him useless while running backs Chad Spann and Me'co Brown zoom by for another long run.

And very few wide receivers block better than Cox, Northern Illinois' leader at wideout and one of the major, unsung reasons why NIU's rushing attack leads the Mid-American Conference already by a 219-yard margin.

For Cox, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound junior, blocking, in all of its forms, can be just plain fun.

"I enjoy kicking butt on offense," Cox said. "You have to have the mentality out there that [defensive backs] are out there thinking about you and your blocking and that you're always going to be aggressive."

What the offensive line has started with big holes for the fleet-footed running backs, Cox has helped finish by giving Spann and Brown a lane to run on the outside.

"It's phenomenal," wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck said. "We know Landon's guy is not going to make the play. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time Landon's guy is not going to be in the picture."

Fleck said what has made Cox into such an effective blocker, though, is how the junior has developed a diverse repertoire of blocks.

"He's 6-2, 6-3, 228 pounds, but he's probably one of our best cut blockers, which is basically made more for a littler guy like me," Fleck said. "But he has really developed into one of our best cut blockers and he's made himself that and in the last two years he was not even close."

Cox credits his offseason workouts and approach to this past summer for that improvement.

"Whether it's speed or getting more yards for the offense or blocking, I just wanted to become a better overall receiver," Cox said.

That's why this season Cox is more than a blocker who happens to play wide receiver. He already is close to eclipsing his season-best for receiving yards and he leads NIU's wideouts with 13 catches for 107 yards. Fleck said Cox is running better routes this season and catches the ball better. Plus he's getting the ball thrown his way more than ever before.

That development into a more complete wide receiver has led to Cox being named NIU's offensive player of the week, which is picked by the coaches, three times in five games.

"I think he's probably one of the most important players on our offensive football team," NIU coach Jerry Kill said. "I think they look at everybody else but Landon is a guy that's a slash wide receiver. He's physical enough to block as a tight end. He's playing on special teams. He catches the ball well."

Now Cox's improvement will be measured in little things and becoming more crisp in the things he does well, including his blocking.

"I feel like I'm coming along pretty good," he said. "There's always room for improvement. I want to continue to be humble and take constructive criticism."

Does NIU coach Rod Carey get enough credit for NIU's season?
Yes
No