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NIU's Jefferson has right state of mind

DeKALB – Time management.

It’s something Northern Illinois defensive tackle Nabal Jefferson, or any Division I athlete for that matter, has to emphasize.

Good planning is something Jefferson credits for his success in football, and away from the game.

On the field, Jefferson has been a key part of the Huskies’ defensive line this season, notching 56 tackles, a sack and six tackles for loss. NIU ranks ninth in the nation with 38 sacks.

Off the field, Jefferson carries a 3.78 GPA in accountancy and does volunteer charity work near his home on the South Side of Chicago. He also speaks at his alma mater, Marist High School, as well as other schools around the area where he grew up.

On Dec. 4, Jefferson was one of 15 players honored as a National Scholar-Athlete in New York at the 55th annual National Football Foundation Awards Ceremony. He was a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which was won by Alabama center Barrett Jones.

At the ceremony, the senior defensive tackle was able to meet people like Jerry Jones and Archie Manning.

“The whole trip was first-class,” Jefferson said. “It was awesome.”

Jefferson, along with defensive end Alan Baxter and tight end Jason Schepler, earned Capital One Academic All-American honors last week.

When it comes to maintaining his grades and competing on the field, Jefferson makes a schedule and makes sure he follows it.

“You’ve got to plan your day, for everything like eating, to working out, to film, to class,” Jefferson said. “You’ve got to plan everything. That’s how I’ve made it this far is having a plan and following my schedule.”

Jefferson came to NIU in 2009 and planned on redshirting his first season. However, the senior found out two days before the Huskies’ Week 2 game against Western Illinois that his redshirt would be taken off. He still remembers NIU’s win over the Leathernecks, his first game action when he saw the field in the third quarter.

On New Year’s Day, Jefferson will play his last game for the Huskies in the Orange Bowl.

He’s scheduled to graduate with an accounting degree in May, and will pursue a masters degree in the same subject, hoping to become a CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

Rod Carey has only known Jefferson for two seasons, but said people can learn something from him and what he’s accomplished. Carey said his defensive tackle is in a position where his life is going to be “completely changed.”

“I’m talking about me,” Carey said. “If I can’t learn something from him, then I’m kind of missing the boat.”

Jefferson may be done playing football at NIU after the Orange Bowl, but he’s probably not going anywhere. He plans on getting his degree at NIU, and has even thought about keeping his football career alive and becoming a graduate assistant with the Huskies.

“This place is awesome. This place is responsible for the best years of my life,” Jefferson said. “I know everyone here. I’m so close with everyone here.”

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