DeKALB – Northern Illinois University alumnus Pete Lonsway is ready for the football team's Mid-American Conference championship game Friday.
The 1964 graduate, a former offensive tackle for the Huskies, was at the Village Commons Bookstore on Monday purchasing three sweatshirts for himself and his two brothers in preparation for the game in Detroit.
Lonsway is one of many who have been purchasing NIU football merchandise lately, largely because of the undefeated football team.
"My brothers and I are all football fanatics," Lonsway said. "This being my alma mater, I just felt I had to [support the team]."
The Huskies would essentially clinch a berth in a Bowl Championship Series game – most likely the Fiesta Bowl – with a MAC title victory Friday against Bowling Green. Quarterback Jordan Lynch could also cement a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy ceremony with another solid performance.
Jody Boardman, manager of the bookstore, said they have been receiving online orders from all over the country. They even sold out of jerseys; Boardman said they would receive the next shipment next week.
"Everyone wants a Lynch jersey," she said. "He's the most popular player."
The University Bookstore in DeKalb has been busy, too. Manager Don Turk said sales are up 15 percent to 20 percent from this time last year. Last weekend, the bookstore received 48 orders during a time when they normally receive 15 to 20 orders.
Turk attributes the increased sales to increased expectations for the Huskies: Fans are expecting NIU's football team to perform well, while last year it was rather unexpected for some.
"Any time you have renewed success, you get casual fans," Turk said.
Licensing Resource Group is offering two free tickets to the MAC championship game to those who purchase $30 or more of merchandise at The University Bookstore while supplies last, Turk said. Small things also can have a big influence on sales.
Sometimes, sales depend on what players themselves are wearing. Lynch was seen wearing a camouflage hat on the sidelines during one game, and by the next Monday, the University Bookstore received a dozen orders for the hat, Turk said.
The hat remains the most popular one in the store, Turk said.
NIU sophomore Jeff Nelson was buying an NIU shirt Monday at the Village Commons Bookstore. A first-year NIU student, Nelson said he was buying the shirt to support the school and the football team. "They're amazing," he said. "It makes me feel more like I'm part of it, because it's my school."
Customers are also showing their support at big chain stores such as Target. Dave Keir, leader on duty at Target, said the store's biggest sales take place during homecoming weekend and at the beginning of the season.
NIU merchandise accounts for less than one percent of monthly sales, Keir said.
"During homecoming weekend, it seemed like everybody was buying NIU apparel," Keir said. "I wish we sold more."
NIU senior John Paul Payne was looking at the merchandise the Village Commons Bookstore had in stock Monday. He said he is planning on going to the BCS bowl game if NIU is selected. The full bowl lineup will be announced Sunday evening.
Payne said the team is better now than they were last year.
"Jordan Lynch is a little better, and the offensive line is more experienced," he said. "I watch them because they're good."