Editor's Note: Leading up to the start of Northern Illinois spring football practice on March 22, the Daily Chronicle will be presenting readers with stories on each of the new assistant coaches. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of the Daily Chronicle to clip out our special card of each assistant.
NAME: Jay Niemann
POSITION: NIU defensive coordinator
PRIMARY RECRUITING TERRITORY: Iowa, northwestern part of Illinois and the DeKalb/local areas
When Jay Niemann was an assistant coach at Drake in the ‘90s, he knew one of his players had a bright coaching future.
The player was Drake's hardest worker. His intangibles made him a team leader. His name was Dave Doeren.
"He was just like he is now, hard-working, blue-collar guy. What you see is what you get," Niemann said of NIU’s first-year head coach. "He was very transparent, and there were never any misunderstandings about where he was coming from. He was just a lunch-pail kind of guy.
“It’s not a surprise at all that he’s gotten this far.”
It may not be a surprise, and Niemann fully embraces how the roles have changed. But looking back, he chuckles when he thinks about how different things are now.
“Right off the bat, he said, ‘You spent two years beating me up, now it’s time for me to return the favor,’ “ Niemann said. “Our relationship on the other end at Drake was very good.”
As Doeren moved on from Drake, Niemann said the two kept in touch. They called each other frequently, using that time to discuss ideas they had regarding different defensive schemes. Niemann said they helped make each other better coaches.
Niemann is happy to be working with Doeren again, but it’s not the only reason he wanted to come to NIU. He said the Huksies’ program has many things to offer. Doeren was just the “icing on the cake.”
"Certainly this is a very highly competitive program," Niemann said. "It's a program where you have a chance for a great deal of success. It's important in our line of work to know you're going to be in a place where you're supported and where the administration backs the program, and certainly that's the case here.”
Niemann may have become more of the pupil than teacher. But NIU defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen said the Huskies’ defensive coaching staff looks up to him.
"Jay is kind of the senior guy," Nielsen said. "Very knowledgeable, he controls the room, very calm. He has a direction. He knows where he wants to go."