DeKALB – Tracy Wilson can't stop smiling.
He's practically giddy.
As he sits in the Yordon Center on the campus of Northern Illinois, the safety's legs bounce in rhythm.
September can't come quick enough.
"The feeling around here is just really good," Wilson said. "We have a lot of hungry people."
How good? How hungry?
"Personally, I feel we could really make some history this year and bring back some tradition to NIU and get some fans rocking," Wilson said.
He's not the only one who feels that way.
Numerous preseason publications place the Huskies at or near the top of the Mid-American Conference, with some going as far as predicting a conference championship. Noted college football magazine writer Phil Steele says it's possible for NIU to have an undefeated season.
Expectations have been on the rise inside the Huskie program for years. Now, on the outside, those expectations have skyrocketed.
"I remember (two weeks ago strength coach Eric) Klein told us how we're ranked ahead of everyone we're going to play and we're picked as one of the few teams to maybe go undefeated. I didn't know any of that," said defensive end Sean Progar. "That just motivated me just for that day, just to finish that workout."
From all accounts, in late June and early July, the Huskies seem to be handling those expectations well at this point, going so far as to embrace them.
"I think expectations from the outside looking in are probably the highest they've been in a long time," quarterback Chandler Harnish said. "We like that. We like that extra excitement. We always believe we can win and this year, you just get a little bit different feeling.
"Cockiness? Not really. You don't really feel that. People just kind of expect to win now."
Harnish said this year's team already has a swagger that hasn't been in DeKalb in years past. It's a swagger the Huskies will likely need with seven road games on the schedule, including three contests away from home against power conference schools Iowa State, Illinois and Minnesota.
Progar said the seven road games doesn't bother him at all.
"I like being in other people's stadiums," he said. "I like beating them in their stadiums. It feels good to me. It's a challenge. I love hearing them chant against us. Let's go. That just motivates me."
Wilson found his motivation a little simpler and his expectations the same as they've always been.
"I really just want to win," Wilson said. "I want to win the MAC. That's my main goal. That would really do something for our football team."
• John Sahly is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org