DeKALB – Me'co Brown needed one word to describe the new turf at Huskie Stadium.
Voluntary football workouts began last week for Northern Illinois, the first workouts on the new FieldTurf installed in May after the NIU Board of Trustees approved a request for expenditure authority of $500,000 for the purchase and installation of the new turf.
The old turf was installed in 2001 and it was viewed as a necessary step for a multitude of reasons, including preventing ankle, foot and knee injuries. The expenditure was enough to install new turf on the playing field – the sidelines still have the old turf – and the difference between the old turf and the new is noticeable.
For Brown, though, the difference in running on the new turf is more than just looks.
"It's better on your shins, your knees and your feet also," Brown said. "You can make better cuts. You see a big difference."
That's a big deal for the sophomore running back, who dealt with a foot injury for part of last season.
"Because it was so old, it played a big part on a lot of injuries, especially my foot," Brown said. "It happened against Eastern Michigan (at EMU), but practicing on that turf didn't make anything feel good."
Without practice fields or an indoor practice facility, NIU has to use its field for practices as well as games, which wore down the turf quicker over eight years.
Quarterback Chandler Harnish said the problems with the old turf didn't start last season, either.
"You remember two years ago we had so many knee injuries and the turf was a big cause because cleats were getting stuck in it," Harnish said. "This stuff doesn't allow you to do that. It's very necessary and worth the money."
Harnish added, "You feel like a different athlete," on the turf, a notion wide receiver Landon Cox agreed with.
Cox, who had the most catches last season of any returning wide receiver with 16, expects to increase his production this season with the groundwork improvement.
"It's much more plausible to cut out here than it would be to cut on the old turf," Cox said. "I'm glad we got this new turf."
Harnish said he noticed big differences last season in the ground in DeKalb versus trips to Ball State and Western Michigan, which had newer turf.
"It felt like you were playing on soft sand, like on a beach," Harnish said. "Here it felt like you were playing on concrete. Having this is huge for us. It can only help us and we're happy."
NIU plays its first game on the new ground on Sept. 12 against Western Michigan, but the players have been thrilled to test it out during summer workouts.
"We rolled on it, turned on it, did backflips, front flips," Brown said. "That's all part of the workout. Everything feels good."