DeKALB – Before leaving to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft, Kenny Golladay held a small team meeting inside his DeKalb apartment with a few members of the Northern Illinois football team.
Among those in attendance? Christian Blake and Spencer Tears.
“I had to let them know,” Golladay said. “It’s their time to make plays now. We had a lot of talented receivers, but between those two, I told them there should be non-stop competition next season. Not in a way of being jealous of each other, but making themselves and everyone around them better.”
It seems like the message has been received by the pair of NIU receivers.
Blake and Tears both had breakout games last week against San Diego State, combining for a total of 18 catches, 275 yards and three touchdowns. It was the kind of performance that Blake said he believes should be a standard for the rest of the season as the Huskies begin the hunt for a Mid-American Conference Championship.
“Everybody might have a target on our back now,” Blake said. “But regardless, I have to defeat the odds and still put up big numbers and continue to help my team succeed.”
Despite posting career-high numbers, Blake wasn’t in a celebratory mood when he and the rest of his teammates headed to the airport following a 34-28 loss to No. 19 SDSU.
“I hate losing. I was sad until we touched down in DeKalb,” Blake said. “By the time we got back to DeKalb, my mind was already on Kent State. Even if I were to have 2,000 yards in that game, it wouldn’t have mattered because we still lost.”
NIU wide receivers coach Steve Crutchley said expectations for Blake have gone up this season because has the most experience on the team.
“It wasn’t necessarily a surprise for us, it just happened to be this game gave him that opportunity to be great” Crutchley said. “Christian is a guy who works like that during every practice.”
With Blake earning his way to the No. 1 receiver spot, Tears has gone under the radar for most games as a redshirt sophomore. But with performances like last week, Tears said he thinks he’s growing into a bigger role as a receiver.
“Of course opponents don’t know who I am, I’ve always had Kenny and Blake in front of me, so my reps were limited” Tears said. “It was just a matter of time for me to get my hands on the ball and make plays.”
Tears had a message to opponents to who don’t have him circled yet on the scouting report, too.
“Go ahead and don’t think I need to be game planned for. Just wait until we line up across from each other.”
Still, Blake and Tears have maintained a positive work ethic throughout the season.
“Those guys put in the work, they pretty much keep everyone motivated,” Golladay said. “They’re a good duo. When they’re at their best, nobody can play with them. It’s a lot of fun watching them go deep like that.”
Golladay maintains a busy NFL schedule as a rookie for the Detroit Lions, but still makes time to check-in on this year’s Huskies team. He said he’s always looking for NIU highlights after every game and keeps them on his list of favorite teams on his ESPN app.
“I try to hit both of them up every other day, we text a lot,” Golladay said. “It’s their time now. I gave them that challenge, they’ve got to create a name for themselves and show what NIU is all about.”