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Ivanic, record holding NIU kicker and broadcaster, dead at 52

John Ivanic (right) at an NIU football game.
John Ivanic (right) at an NIU football game.

John Ivanic, one of the most prolific placekickers in Northern Illinois University football program history and a former TV anchor in two markets, died Monday, the Columbus Dispatch reported. Ivanic was 52.

Known to his Huskie teammates as the “Iceman” for his clutch kicks during 1987-90, Ivanic authored school history with four field goals (33, 44, 23, and 31 yards - the latter the game-winner with 1:24 left) in a 19-17 victory over Wisconsin on September 17, 1988, marking NIU’s first gridiron triumph over a Big Ten Conference program.

“It’s numbing, this news,” said former Northern Illinois head coach Jerry Pettibone.  “I loved John.  It’s somebody you know, you care about, and who was such a big part of our program’s success.  It was great to visit with several players last fall when I was inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame, and John was one of them.

“I worked with the kickers at Northern and at Oregon State,” Pettibone added.  “The smartest thing I ever did was not mess with John’s kicking style.”

As an ex-assistant at Oklahoma, SMU, Nebraska, and Texas A&M, Pettibone was asked who he’d chose to make a crucial kick.  “Easy, John Ivanic.  By far, he was the best I’ve ever seen.”

On the Wisconsin game-winner, Pettibone recalled:  Our guys were jumping all over John.  I just gave him a big hug.”  The host Badgers had time for a short drive and a long field goal attempt which missed.  “I looked over at John and he gave me a big smile.”

A 5-foot-9, 165-pound, right-footed, soccer-style kicker, and a non-roster walk-on as a freshman, Ivanic graduated with 11 school records - including career scoring (253 points), career kick-scoring (253), season PAT kicks (37 twice), career PAT kicks (115), season field goals (18), and career field goals (46).

As a senior, Ivanic produced a career-high 17 kick-scoring points in the 73-18 rout of No. 24-ranked Fresno State, going 8-for-8 on PATs and three field goals (25, 29, and 45 yards). He contributed to four straight non-losing NIU seasons - 5-5-1 (1987), 7-4 (1988), 9-2 (1989), and 6-5 (1990).

A three-time preseason Honorable Mention Street & Smith’s All-America, No. 84 made post-season Honorable Mention Football News All-America with teammates QB Stacey Robinson, DE Cary Caliendo, FB Adam Dach, and C Eric Wenckowski in 1990. In 1991, Ivanic had a free agent tryout with the WLAF San Antonio Riders.

Born in Brussels, Belgium, Ivanic was raised in Columbus and later was a First-Team All-Western Big Six Conference kicker for Rock Island Alleman High School in Illinois.

Post NIU graduation, Ivanic worked as WDKB-FM radio in DeKalb and then as an anchor at WREX-TV in Rockford before moving back to Columbus where he was the weekend anchor for WCMH-TV.  In 2007, he became the spokesman for the city council.  Eight years later, Ivanic was transferred to the city’s department of public utilities, where he handled media and policy responsibilities.

“Everyone knew him and he was forever celebrating all that is good about Columbus,” a story on the WCMH-TV website said.  “He was a diehard Cubs fan and would eagerly bend your ear about his beloved alma mater, Northern Illinois University.”

Ivanic is survived by his long-time soul mate, Jenny Horn, and two grown children.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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