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Ex-Huskies return to DeKalb, give back

DeKALB – Former Northern Illinois football players Chandler Harnish and Chad Spann don’t have the luxury of coming back to DeKalb for homecoming festivities; they’re busy with their NFL lives.

So, Harnish and Spann wanted to find a way to get all the former Huskies with NFL ties back to DeKalb to work out and get involved in the community. The two former Vern Smith Award winners, with the help of numerous people in the NIU athletic department, organized a get-together this week for a number of former players with NFL experience.

Harnish, Spann, Alan Baxter, Rashaan Melvin, Landon Cox, Pat Schiller, Martel More, Jason Schepler, Perez Ashford, Nathan Palmer and Anthony Wells (who was a senior defensive tackle for the Huskies in 2013) were in town Thursday and Friday, working out at the Yordon and Chessick Centers and speaking to area students.

“Just kind of give back. It’s a good opportunity for us to come back because we can’t come back in our seasons because we have our own obligations,” Harnish said. “This is a good time to come back, enjoy the facilities, just do what we do.”

The group held a meet-and-greet at Fatty’s on Thursday evening, after Harnish, Spann, Palmer, Schepler and Cox spoke with Sycamore High School athletes that afternoon. On Friday, Harnish and Schepler talked to students at Clinton Rosette Middle School, while the rest of the group went to Lincoln Elementary.

“To get all of us here at the same time was special,” Melvin said. “And we felt that it was someting that we needed to do, to give back to our community for all the support, and the help they’ve given us while we were here.”

Melvin signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent last April, but missed the 2013 season because of a hamstring injury. Melvin said he’s fully healthy now.

Palmer spent the end of the year on the Denver Broncos’ practice squad, while Baxter headed to the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad late in the year, joining Harnish. Schepler recently signed with the Tennessee Titans.

Spann signed with the Houston Texans in December, and saw action in the Texans’ Week 17 game against Tennessee. Houston backup running back Ben Tate is a free agent and is expected to sign elsewhere, which could help Spann’s case for a roster spot and playing time.

He wants the events that happened this week, with former players coming to DeKalb for a few days, to continue in the future.

“We hope to make it a yearly thing, that was the plan,” he said. “Hopefully, it sticks.”

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