DeKALB – Jamaal Bass is just glad to have everything behind him.
It wasn’t a normal offseason for Bass, the Northern Illinois sophomore linebacker who was a mostly-regular part of the defense last year and who plans to be a big part of what the Huskies’ defensive unit does in 2012.
Instead of just thinking about football and academics, Bass had to make trips to Lucas County, Ohio, facing assault charges after hitting members of the Toledo band as NIU ran on the field before the Huskies’ 63-60 win Nov. 1 at the Glass Bowl.
Bass pleaded no contest to a lesser included offense of assault, a first-degree misdemeanor assault charge, on July 16. That plea was accepted, and Bass was found guilty, receiving a year of probation.
“All that I went through, I think it really defined me, as who I really am. I’m a hard-working person,” Bass told the Daily Chronicle after Friday’s practice. “I think the situation helped mold me into who I am today.”
Bass was suspended for three games after the incident, returning for the Huskies’ victories in the MAC Championship Game and GoDaddy.com Bowl. He also participated in spring practice.
He faces 120 hours of community service after his guilty plea, and will have to submit to random urinalysis. The court also ordered Bass to pay restitution of $889.45 to Toledo band member Carolyn Hiner, who reportedly was injured as a result of the incident, and ordered Bass to speak to young people about what is required from a football player.
Bass won’t face further suspension, and is ready to focus on the future. He said he feels blessed to have everything behind him, and said the incident and everything after it helped him become a better person.
When the incident happened in Toledo, Bass said he had a feeling it might blow up into something big. Originally suspended for one game, he was suspended two more games when NIU found out two band members Bass ran into suffered concussions.
“That was a real big blow for me,” Bass said.
With the incident behind him, Bass enters his second season as a starting outside linebacker. In 2011, Bass finished the season with 62 tackles and five tackles for loss.
Both Bass and NIU coach Dave Doeren said the linebacker’s play has been “night and day” from last season, with the Huskies’ second-year coach saying he’s gotten more of a feel for the position and isn’t overthinking. Doeren said the practices before the bowl game and spring practice put Bass ahead.
Doeren thought Bass did a good job of handling everything following the Toledo incident.
“I know he’s glad to have it behind him and move on. Just kind of have a clean slate as far as all the stuff and just think forward instead of backwards as far as the events that took place, and I thought he handled it really well,” Doeren said. “It was a tough situation for him, and he’s excited to be in a new year and new season.”