MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – When Northern Illinois wide receiver Tommylee Lewis found out the Huskies were going to the Orange Bowl, he called Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary, his teammate at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Lewis said O’Leary didn’t believe the Seminoles would be facing the Huskies at Sun Life Stadium on New Year’s Day.
“He thought I was playing around. I called him right before the announcement,” Lewis said after Sunday’s practice at Barry University in Miami Shores. “He was like ‘No you’re not serious,’ like that. Once they announced it I called him again. He was just like ‘That’s crazy.’ ”
Lewis said he speaks to O’Leary via phone or text roughly every other day. Lewis got to talk to O’Leary, who has 19 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns this season, at a breakfast function during bowl week.
He expects to see him during pregame warmup and chat with O’Leary for a little bit before the two square off.
“It’s going to be fun, exciting,” Lewis said. “He’s excited, I’m excited. It’s going to be fun.”
NIU’s south Florida natives come from high school teams that feature multiple Division I players. Naturally, there’s a decent chance players such as Lewis will see a former teammate somewhere on the Huskies’ schedule.
Lewis is one of six Huskies who will play against a high school teammate that plays for Florida State. Linebacker Jamaal Bass played with Seminoles defensive back Owen Harris at Miramar High School in the Miami area. Huskies safety Jimmie Ward was a teammate of Florida State defensive end Chris Casher at Davidson High in Mobile, Ala.
Two NIU true freshmen in the process of redshirting, wide receiver Charlie Miller and defensive back Charles Ivory, played on the same squad as FSU offensive lineman Brian Stork in Vero Beach, Fla.
NIU redshirt freshman wideout Angelo Sebastiano, who handles the Huskies punt return duties, was a high school teammate of three Seminoles – defensive back Colton Woodall, punter Dillon Kidd and long snapper Dax Dellenbach, at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek, Fla.
Sebastiano will have Dellenbach running right at him on punt returns tonight. Dellenbach’s father, Jeff, also coached Sebastiano in high school, so the NIU freshman will get the chance to play in front of him as well.
“I’ve been good friends with the Dellenbach family. His dad did a lot for me,” Sebastiano said. “I’ve been actually fairly close with him. It’ll be fun to square off against him.”
While some of these players know and keep up with each other, in the end, they’re enemies tonight.
“It’s cool, it’s a competition,” Ward said with a big smile. “We aren’t friends on the field.”