In what P.J. Fleck called a difficult decision, the wide receivers coach has left Northern Illinois to take the same position at Rutgers.
"It's a chance to prove myself away from Northern Illinois and set myself for the future," the 29-year-old Fleck said. "I need to make a move like this to become a head coach one day."
Fleck interviewed with Rutgers last week and is on the New Jersey campus now, getting ready to take a position he's excited about with a Big East Conference team that finished this past season 9-4 and won the St. Petersburg Bowl over Central Florida.
"They've got a young group of receivers, talented but young," Fleck said. "It's a challenge to leave my close-knit ties and uproot and go further myself and learn more and grow more and challenge myself more.
"I think that's a chance I've got to be willing to take, and working for a BCS program and [coach] Greg Schiano. That's one of the main reasons. He works his staff hard and I want to get better and learn and grow."
Fleck called the decision to leave his alma mater and the area he grew up in a tough choice.
After graduating from Kaneland in 1999, he played wide receiver for the Huskies from 1999-01 and 2003, earning first-team All-MAC honors in 2003. He played for the San Francisco 49ers and then was a graduate assistant for Ohio State before coming back to DeKalb as NIU's wide receivers coach in 2007 under Joe Novak.
When Jerry Kill came to coach the Huskies in Dec. 2007 after Novak retired, Fleck became the recruiting coordinator, a position he will not have at Rutgers.
Fleck credited Kill with allowing him to focus on going through the process of interviewing for the Rutgers job.
"Coach Kill has been first class through this whole ordeal," Fleck said. "First class. I wish every coach in the country would handle this situation like coach Kill has. He wants what's best for me. He wants me to grow. He is the right guy for Northern Illinois to continue to win a championship and Northern Illinois is in unbelievable hands."
The hardest part of leaving NIU, Fleck said, was telling his group of wide receivers.
"The guys took it hard. I took it hard," Fleck said. "I told them that you have to understand that when you have a family, you have to do what's best for your family. Sometimes it's going to hurt someone else and this is that time. ... It was probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to do."
No official replacement for Fleck has been announced. Tight ends coach Brian Anderson could be an option as he served as Southern Illinois' wide receivers coach under Kill.