DeKALB – After years of anticipation, DeMarcus Grady has decided to step away from the quarterback position.
Grady didn’t line up at quarterback once during Tuesday morning’s practice, Northern Illinois’ first this spring. Instead, the Huskies senior will be a full-time wide receiver this season.
Receiver is a position many fans expected Grady to move to for some time. It’s also a brand new spot for him.
“I’ve never played receiver in my life,” Grady said. “I actually started working on it last week with route running and things. I worked out with Willie Clark [on Monday]. Just getting the footwork and timing down, that’s all it really is. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
Grady said he independently made the decision to switch to receiver. Quarterback is the place he’s long preferred, and he appreciated the chance to be a college quarterback. But he believes the position change will give him more playing time.
“I made it clear from Day 1 that I wanted to move,” Grady said. “It wasn’t a force (from coaches) at all. It’s something I thought about during (last) season. I figured I’d done all I could at quarterback. I’m thankful I was able to experience it.
“It will help me contribute more, a lot more than I did last year. So I think switching for me was my best interest.”
The adjustments Grady will have to make are as difficult as they are obvious. Grady will see the field from a different perspective. He will have to get used to playing without the football in his hands on every play. And, of course, he’ll have to learn how to run routes, get the timing down and understand the footwork.
But Grady said he’s looking forward to the challenge. He already has conquered a few this year, playing college basketball for the first time and learning a new position on the court.
“That’s my thing, I guess, this year: trying different things,” Grady said. “From basketball to playing point guard. I’d never played point guard. I could always bring the ball up. But as far as being the point on the floor and directing everybody, I’d never had to do that.
“I just want to play as much as I can. Whether it’s one or two plays, something just to get me out there.”
Moore looking for more: While Grady learns how to play receiver, Martel Moore showed why he’s a veteran at the position.
Perhaps no player had a more impressive first day than Moore, the Huskies’ second-leading receiver last season with 40 catches, 525 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
“He caught the ball well; he sprinted after the catch,” Doeren said. “He kind of picked up where he left off, which is exciting.”
With the cold, rainy weather making the football hard to catch, Moore’s hands looked good all practice. The closest he came to a drop was a vertical route that looked overthrown. Moore dove for the ball, almost making a terrific one-handed catch, but was unable to finish it.
Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada patted Moore on the back, told him they liked the effort, but Moore wasn’t making excuses.
“No pass is overthrown, I’ve just got to go get it,” Moore said. “I’ve got to get back into the habit of catching the ball again. There’s just a little rust.”
Womble impressive: At 5-foot-11, 246 pounds, Jamal Womble would look like a defensive end if he didn’t have a running back’s speed.
In his first practice with NIU, the Hutchinson Community College transfer got plenty of reps. He also had one of the practice’s most exciting moments when he returned kicks during special teams drills.
Afterward, Womble received praise from Doeren.
“Tailbacks, you know we don’t have pads on yet, so it’s hard to get too excited,” Doeren said. “But you could definitely see a couple of those guys hitting the holes. ... Womble definitely is a guy who knows how to get north and south.”
No weather woes: It was the first spring practice, but the weather felt much more like late fall.
The rain finally went away after the first hour. The wind didn’t, causing frigid temperatures all morning.
The weather caused difficulty for NIU’s passing game. It was one of those days when having an indoor practice facility just made sense. It was also beautiful conditions for a lineman.
“Welcome to DeKalb,” center Scott Widege said. “We don’t got an indoor (facility), but we believe it makes us tougher. When it’s November, December, we don’t shy away. We’re a tough team, we’re hard-nosed, we’re old school. And we’re not afraid of the weather. I think that benefits us in the long run.”