Former Prairie Ridge football standout Sean Folliard appeared in 10 games for Northern Illinois this season as a freshman, making 20 tackles heading into this week’s Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego against Utah State. Folliard proved to be a fast learner, switching from safety to linebacker, an adjustment that was made easier by enrolling early at NIU and learning from the Huskies’ seniors – including Heisman Trophy finalist Jordan Lynch.
It’s kind of your job as a freshman to just try to do anything you can do for the team. I had no idea if I was going to play at all this year, but luckily I got the opportunity. They got to the point where they felt like they could trust me enough on the field. It means a lot to be able to have the coaches trust me and that just shows the amount of effort that I’m putting in is starting to count for something. Earning the coaches’ trust was one of the biggest things I wanted to do in my first year, just to let them know that I’m going to work and I’m going to do whatever I can to help the team any way I can.
I think linebacker is a great place, as opposed to playing safety in high school. Coming into a Division I program, I don’t think safety was an option. I’m a little bigger guy and at linebacker I get to hit a lot more and that’s really what I want to do. That’s what they asked me to do and so I was ready and willing to do it.
You have to rely on your teammates 100 percent. In high school, in my position at Prairie Ridge, I was just running and hitting people and filling in spots where I was needed. Now, it’s just more of a team-oriented thing where I’m not making every single play – I’m relying on my teammates to do that and I’m just trying to do my job. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be the same as high school just with the amount of playmakers that you have. I mean, everyone here was a playmaker in high school, but coming into a college atmosphere, you’re not going to be that playmaker. You’re going to make plays, but (doing it) every single time just isn’t reasonable unless you’re some crazy NFL-right-out-of-the-blocks linebacker.
I think [this season] was a lot more meaningful (than winning a state championship as a junior in 2011). A state championship in high school obviously was a great day. I can’t take anything from that, but going to college, it’s just a lot harder to win games, especially at the level we’re playing at. It just takes a true team and every single person doing their job – on special teams, on defense and offense.
We didn’t actually hit Jordan (Lynch in practice). The quarterbacks – you know they’ve got those green jerseys on – and so they’re not supposed to be touched. I think that’s a good thing if that’s what you’re asking. I didn’t want to see him get nicked up in practice – I don’t think it’s worth it for a quarterback. But you’re going to get bragging rights and get in their face a little bit and (going against Lynch every day in practice) was definitely a good experience. Jordan just kind of taught the team about being a good person and a team player. There was no one on the team that cared more about every person than Jordan Lynch, and he deserves everything that he has coming to him.
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