David Senior wasn't too familiar with Northern Illinois football last fall.
But when Senior, from Boyd Anderson High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was being courted by the Huskies during his team's spring practices, the Huskies weren't a no-name program by any means, after their Orange Bowl berth.
"It had a very big effect on me," Senior said. "I can see myself playing in those big-time situations and I know I can bring my abilities in those types of games. It was a very big impact for me."
By the time the Orange Bowl bid was announced last December, a lot of recruits from the Class of 2013 already had committed. This year is when NIU really will find out how much last season meant in recruiting.
"I think the Orange Bowl got [NIU] out there for the university, in general," NIU coach Rod Carey said. "I think our name is out there, no question about it."
"It helps us get in the door with a lot of those guys we're recruiting this year," said first-year receivers coach Thad Ward, who recruits the Chicago Public League, south Chicago suburbs, as well as Dade and Broward County in South Florida. "Obviously, you've got to finish up, but it helps you get in the door. At least they have that name recognition when you go in those schools."
As of Aug. 16, NIU had 14 players committed to its 2014 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com.
On the surface, the Orange Bowl should play a big part in giving NIU a top Class of 2014. There still is much more than that.
Senior and Milwaukee defensive end Russell Chambers, who committed in July, both mentioned the program's coaching staff and environment as a reason they committed to NIU. Senior had 13 offers, including ones from Indiana, Washington and Washington State.
"It's a combination of all that stuff, but it's got to feel like a family to me," Chambers said. "I don't want to go where I don't feel welcomed."
Carey mentioned that he's not going to change the formula NIU has been using in recruiting. It's been working fine, why change it, he says? The Huskies will keep recruiting where they've gone in the past.
The Orange Bowl is a great advantage to have, but as first-year recruiting coordinator Brett Diersen puts it, the coaching staff isn't just saying, "Hey, we went to the Orange Bowl and look at us."
"To me it doesn't change, you don't rest on your past. You just keep pushing and finding new ways to reach kids," Diersen said. "The facilities that we've gotten here, that has helped us tremendously. The brand new Chessick and the scoreboard, that stuff is huge, because we're making changes and football's important."