DeKALB – Victor Jacques waited four years to finally earn a starting spot for Northern Illinois.
For roughly a month, the spot Jacques finally earned in 2012 was taken away, as he sat while recovering from a knee injury.
Saturday, Jacques was finally back on the field for NIU’s 35-23 win at Ball State and registered seven tackles.
“You really appreciate the game once you’re out of it,” Jacques said after Wednesday’s practice. “So, I was just happy to be back playing and able to do my part.”
Jacques’ knee injury, which he suffered during fall camp, was just the latest turn in the Miami native’s collegiate career. He came to NIU as a fullback, but after his freshman season, when he redshirted, former Huskies coach Jerry Kill decided he would be better off at linebacker – a position he had never played before. Not even in high school.
“That was a long ways away, when I was 205 [pounds], trying to block people 260,” Jacques said. “It wasn’t working out too good, so I found a different route.”
Jacques, who stands at 5-11 and 228 pounds, has played the middle and outside linebacker positions during his NIU career. Last fall, he competed for an outside linebacker spot, which eventually went to Jamaal Bass, before being put back in the middle.
Playing middle linebacker is where Jacques feels more comfortable. It just comes easier to him.
“I can expect what’s coming,” Jacques said. “I can read my keys and see hints of the O-line or the width of the back or the depth of the back. That helped me out a lot.”
In Saturday’s win, Michael Santacaterina spent some time spelling Jacques in the middle.
Santacaterina will replace Jacques depending on the situation, as well as how fresh the coaching staff wants Jacques to be. NIU coach Dave Doeren said linebackers coach Kevin Kane didn’t want Jacques to have too many plays in a row in his first game back Saturday.
“Santa understands the pass game really well, so when we get into those scenarios, we will use him at times but we will rotate,” Doeren said. “You’ll see Tyrone (Clark) at times playing in the middle and in our dime packages. Jamaal will get in our nickel, and it just depends what we’re doing.”
After four years of working, sitting out four weeks after earning a starting spot was tough for Jacques. No matter how many plays he’s out on the field for, he’s glad to be contributing once again.
“You can work hours and hours for one moment and lose it all in a split second,” Jacques said. “So, that was a little frustrating. God puts hurdles in your life for a reason to see how you approach it and how you get over it, so it was a learning experience. That’s for sure.”
Ashford out Saturday: Senior wide receiver Perez Ashford suffered a sprained ankle during NIU’s Week 5 win against Central Michigan, and missed the Ball State game. Doeren said Ashford is feeling better but won’t play against Buffalo.
“He’s doing good,” Doeren said. “He’s getting better.”
Redshirt freshman Angelo Sebastiano took Ashford’s place as the team’s punt returner Saturday.
Sophomore safety Dechane Durante left in the second half of Saturday’s win with an injury, and Doeren wouldn’t comment on his situation. Demetrius Stone, who had been starting at cornerback, took Durante’s place against Ball State, and was taking first-team reps during Wednesday’s practice.
True freshman Marlon Moore took Stone’s place at corner in NIU’s Week 6 win, and was in the same spot Wednesday.