NIU's Miami natives see Orange Bowl as 'dream come true'
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Speaking to the media Friday, Northern Illinois linebacker Victor Jacques showed off one of his newest prized possessions.
The Miami native lifted up his sleeve and showed off his new tattoo on his left arm, which is a collage of the city he grew up in. Depicted is the downtown skyline, and a marlin jumping out of the ocean. At the top, there's the Orange with the crown that symbolizes the Orange Bowl.
Victor Jacques got the tattoo a couple of weeks ago, and said it took him roughly four hours. He had planned on getting the Miami collage, honoring the city where he grew up, but had a small change of plans when it was announced the Huskies were headed to Miami.
"Having to come to the Orange Bowl is a dream," Jacques said. "It was a dream come true. I decided to get a little touch of the Orange Bowl in there."
Growing up in south Florida, Jacques watched his share of University of Miami games at the old Orange Bowl Stadium, and went to Miami Dolphins games at Sun Life Stadium, where the Huskies will play Florida State on Tuesday.
He looks back to one 'Canes game where fans started throwing oranges on the field, but he couldn't figure out why. Now he knows the reason, and he realizes how important the game is to the area.
New Year's Day, Jacques will take the field as a Huskie for the final time. He's certainly not taking anything for granted.
"It's definitely an experience I will never forget. As a kid going to Hurricane games, having no idea why people were throwing oranges on the field. Now, it's happening to me," he said. "So it's quite an experience. Being able to play in front of all my friends and family is quite an experience that I'll hold forever. It just symbolizes all the hard work I put in just paying off."
Jacques is one of five NIU players from the Miami area, along with safety Demetrius Stone (Miami), linebacker Jamaal Bass (Miramar), defensive tackle Ken Bishop (Sunrise) and wide receiver Angelo Sebastiano (Coconut Creek).
Bass is another player who remembers watching the Hurricanes at the old Orange Bowl, which has since been torn down. In its place is the new Marlins Park. Both Stone and Bass have also been to Dolphins games at Sun Life.
Playing in the Orange Bowl, at a stadium five miles from the city he grew up in, is something to cherish for Bass.
"It's a dream come true basically," he said. "I never imagined us going to the Orange Bowl."
The only problem the south Florida players have is ticket requests. Players are allotted six tickets each, but players like Stone have obviously gotten a lot more ticket requests.
"I'm still trying to get as much people as I can to come here and support me," Stone said.
Playing in the Orange Bowl is a different experience for anyone on NIU's roster, but even more so for players who grew up in the area and aren't able to have family members watch them every week in DeKalb.
Jacques came to Northern because he wanted to see something different. He said being so far away from home helps a lot when there are other south Florida natives on the roster.
"It was very comforting. It's a different type of bond," Jacques said. "You bond with the teammates, of course. Being able to come back home, still interact with those teammates, it's quite an experience and it's quite special."