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KORCEK'S CORNER: It's a small Huskie world

True story.  

Bob Heimerdinger and his wife were having a pleasant lunch with friends in scenic Lake Geneva this week. Most people in DeKalb and Sycamore remember “Heimer” for his long tenure as a coach and athletic director at DeKalb High School and as Northern Illinois University’s first Little All-America quarterback on the celebrated 9-0 football team in 1951.

The topic of conversation: Coach Rod Carey’s nationally ranked Huskies, naturally. “Heimer’s” friend asked: “How good is this NIU team and the quarterback Jordan Lynch?”

“The Huskies are a great team,” Heimerdinger replied, beaming with Cardinal and Black pride, thanks to the 4-0 start that includes historic triumphs over two Big Ten Conference programs. “And Jordan Lynch is a great quarterback, and a young man who truly loves playing the game of football.”

Out of the blue, from the next table, a voice concurred: “I have to agree on both counts.”

Surprised, “Heimer” turned around and looked. The voice belonged to George Bork, maybe still the ultimate NIU gridiron icon 50 years after his final collegiate snap and the Huskies’ 10-0 College Division national champions in 1963.

Two proud alums, two NIU Athletics Hall of Famers (both in the 1983 induction class), two of the school’s greatest quarterbacks talking about a future Hall of Famer. Small Huskie world, isn’t it?

What better way to segue into the upcoming 2013 NIU Athletics Hall of Fame induction on Oct. 11.

As someone who was associated with the Hall of Fame for two decades and the former selection committee chair, my message reads the same. If you claim to bleed cardinal and black, be there. No excuses. Get off the couch. DVR the new episode of “Hawaii Five-O.” Stop blogging on “The Dog Pound” for a few hours. You can go to Fatty’s afterward.  

It’s Homecoming – our 107th, by the way, and the 31st NIU Hall of Fame induction class since 1978.

The 2013 NIU Hall of Fame inductee roll call: Mick Coyne (men’s swimming, 1998-2001), Ryan Diem (football, 1997-2000), Denise Dove (women’s basketball, 1987-91), Sue Henrichsen (women’s swimming, 1979-83), Dan Jaques (men’s track and field, 1969-73), Joe Novak (football coach, 1980-83, 1996-2007), Walt Owens (baseball, basketball coach, mentor, 1973-2007), and the 1991 women’s gymnastics team. Congratulations to all.

One of my best friends calls the NIU Hall of Fame induction his “social event of the year” and arranges his calendar accordingly. Many would agree. The 2013 ceremony resembles a “Who’s Who” of our Northern Illinois past. Surely, most of the Huskie Nation would recognize these previous Hall of Famers who have RSVP’d and will grace the induction ceremony’s red carpet in the Duke Ellington Ballroom at NIU’s Holmes Student Center.

Do you think Bill Baker, Tom Beck, Mary Bell, Bork, Rodney Davis, Roger Dutton, Lisa Foss, Cary Groth, Heimerdinger, Tammy Hinchee, Jerry Ippoliti, Mark Kellar, Al Kranz, Bill Mallory, Dave Petzke, Vince Scott, Jim Smith, and Tim Tyrrell provide enough collective Northern Illinois endorphin memory rushes?

Elite group, indeed. Anybody notice that the only four NIU student-athletes in the football program’s 111-year history whose jerseys (as opposed to numbers) have been retired – split end Petzke (No. 6), Bork (No. 11), Heimerdinger (No. 12), and fullback Kellar (No. 31) – will be all in the same room? Or two College Football Hall of Famers (Bork and Beck)? Small Huskie world.

In my eyes, it is no coincidence that Petzke and Lynch share that Northern Illinois No. 6. On the field, both represent the epitome of mid-major overachievers. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, the hard-working Petzke not only led the NCAA Division 1-A in receiving (91 catches for 1,215 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1978), but disciplined pass routes as well.

“People come to see David Petzke play and catch the football,” former Huskie head coach Pat Culpepper said in the day. “It’s like going to see Frank Sinatra in concert, you’re not going to hear the piano player.”

Petzke recognizes his good fortune and NIU ties.

“To be honest, I feel very grateful for my experience there,” said Petzke, now a senior VP in investment management for American Funds in Boulder, Colo. “There’s nothing like the college athletic experience. And, for me, to be in the NIU Hall of Fame, it means a great deal to me. Not everyone has that opportunity.

“In my business, I travel all around the country and speak at many events. When they introduce me as being a Northern Illinois graduate, everyone knows who that is now – mainly because of our success in football the last decade. I’m extremely proud of that.

“I can’t wait to see Joe (Novak) honored,” said Petzke who served with Novak on Mallory’s 1983 California Bowl staff. “When you think about where we (NIU) are now, it all started with Joe.  What he did was so special.”

Not to digress, but so are all the Northern Illinois Hall of Famers.

Eighty-something Heimerdinger is usually a fixture at the Hall of Fame ceremonies.

“It’s an evening of family, celebration, and achievement. That is important,” Heimerdinger reflected. “The most meaningful to me was when our (1951) team made it (in 1991). So many guys contributed to our success. What people forget is that we had a great defense and that’s why were were undefeated.  

“I do enjoy seeing the younger inductees,” “Heimer” added. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime honor.”

In addition to the introduction of past inductees and the latest ones, the 2013 NIU Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony features an anniversary tribute video of the 1963, 1983, and 2003 football teams narrated by Emmy award-winning NBC sportscaster Bob Costas (yes, that Bob Costas), a special “halftime”, and a few more surprises in an ESPYs-type format. Members of all three football teams will be in attendance and also honored at halftime of Saturday’s (Oct. 12) Northern Illinois-Akron game.

The Hall of Fame reception with a cash bar (5:30 to 6:45 p.m. in the Capitol Room) and induction ceremony (7 to 9 p.m.) is open to the public. You can reserve complimentary tickets (yes, they’re free of charge) by calling Amy Schmidt in NIU Athletics Development at (815) 753-1923. All guests must have tickets.

Come to the induction and rub elbows with some real Huskies. Small world, isn’t it?

Fearless Korcek prediction: Northern Illinois 42, Kent State 31.

Mike Korcek is a former NIU sports information director. His historical perspective on NIU athletics appears periodically in the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at

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