DeKALB – They had no idea until a team meeting minutes before taking the field for the first time Saturday against Kent State.
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren stood in front of his players, delivering the usual pregame message. He went over keys. Then came the surprise.
"The last statement was, 'We've got a new tradition we're going to start here at NIU for home games,' " senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller said. "And he just held up at that black jersey."
The Huskies wore black jerseys – complete with red stripes down the sides – for the first time in about two decades during Saturday's 40-10 win against the Golden Flash. It was a motivational ploy. Schiller said it was successful.
"We were already jacked up about this game because we knew what it meant to us and we knew what we needed to accomplish," Schiller said. "But I've been here for five years, and that's been the talk for the past five years, is getting black jerseys. So when coach Doeren held up that black jersey, we were jacked up."
After the game, Doeren said he hadn't thought about whether he'll continue that tradition and wear black jerseys when his team plays Western Michigan next Saturday at Huskie Stadium. Schiller had.
After waiting five years, the senior said he's hoping the black uniforms don't go away. But he also didn't want to make too big of a deal out of them.
"I didn't want it to be like, 'So now we're going to play good because we've got black jerseys,' " Schiller said. "I wanted to play good in an orange jersey. It didn't matter. We just wanted to go out there and play.
"But that was definitely an extra incentive for us to go out there and play well."
McCareins inducted: Former NIU star receiver Justin McCareins admitted it's been a long time since he's thought about college football. Those within the Huskies athletics department certainly didn't forget him.
McCareins, NIU's leader in career receptions (204), receiving yards (2,991) and receiving touchdowns (29), was inducted into the Northern Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday and announced during halftime Saturday. He was one of six inductees.
"It feels good to be remembered and recognized," said McCareins, who played at NIU from 1997-2000 before having an eight-year NFL career with the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets.
"I haven't really thought about college football for a long while. Being retired from the NFL for a couple years, you kind of move on to different things and think about different things, and you kind of try to detach yourself from the game. But to be remembered, it feels great, and I will never forget this weekend."
McCareins played at NIU as the Huskies began developing their reputation for running the football. This season's offense passes more than in recent years.
Naturally, McCareins said he liked the change.
"It looks like night and day from when I was there," he said. "If we could run the ball, we were going to run it all game. But now they mix it up. You'll see the quarterback running around, making plays with his feet and looking for receivers. It's exciting to watch, and I really appreciate how the coaches run this team."