DeKALB – Jason Onyebuagu had never been to Canada before this past Wednesday.
But when the Northern Illinois senior left guard got a chance to explore Toronto, the site of NIU’s International Bowl appearance on Jan. 2 against South Florida, he came back with rave reviews for this teammates.
“It was amazing,” he said. “It was my first time in Canada and Toronto’s a beautiful city.”
And with a whole 24 hours of the Toronto experience now under his belt after a pre-bowl news conference at Rogers Centre and a night exploring the city on a per diem, Onyebuagu will serve as a travel guide of sorts for the Huskies when they travel north to Canada at the end of the month.
“I got to go out and scout the area a little bit and just experience downtown, walk around and see some different places and some different stores, a lot of the restaurants,” Onyebuagu said. “It was just an evening in Toronto.
“I’ve got a couple of streets in mind where I’ve seen a lot of restaurants so we won’t have to do a lot of searching.”
Onyebuagu’s teammates naturally were curious about the outing and what Toronto was really like.
His report actually brought comparisons to a much different climate, the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, where the Huskies played Texas Christian University (a 37-7 loss) in 2006.
“He says it’s going to be nicer than San Diego,” quarterback Chandler Harnish said. “That was surprising to me because I know San Diego is a nice spot to be at. He was excited and that gets me excited.”
Onyebuagu and NIU coach Jerry Kill also got to tour Rogers Centre and get a look at the field they’ll be practicing and playing on against the Bulls.
“The convenient thing about this bowl is you move in and you move into your locker room and you’re there right off the bat,” Kill said. “The dome is maybe five minutes from the motel.”
Playing a bowl game in a major metropolitan city will be a dramatic difference from last year’s experience at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., an experience the Huskies enjoyed but had to take a bus everywhere they went.
“The motel sits right in the city,” Kill said. “New Year’s Eve they’re expecting 10,000 people and it’s like a little Times Square deal. That part of it, for a coach it makes you a little bit nervous.
“But for a fan or a spectator or someone who enjoys the holidays in a different country, and experiencing something different, I think it’s really going to be a neat experience for the kids.”