DEKALB, Ill. (WIFR) When Northern Illinois kicks off the 2019 season this August, there will be a crowd of ball-carriers itching to be the star back and if you are a fan of NUIC football, there may be one to root for.
"If you run it well, I don't care if you're scholarship, walk-on, it doesn't matter."
Being a former NFL running backs coach, NIU head coach Thomas Hammock is keeping a close eye on the competition in the Huskie backfield and that includes former Lena-Winslow star Rahveon Valentine.
"He's a tough little player now," Hammock said. "He comes to work every day. You know exactly what you're going to get. He's got some very subtle skills. I like the way he goes about his business and just doing things the right way. The Huskie Way."
Valentine red-shirted his freshman season and, this spring, he is trying to assert himself into a starting role. He says that the year off was very important for his development.
"The transition from high school to college is a lot faster so just having that year to settle down, learn the offense, and get to know my teammates helped a lot," said Valentine. "I think that was a good thing that I red-shirted."
The last time we saw Valentine on the field in a game was at Huskie Stadium for the 2017 1A state title. He rushed for 140 yards and two scores that day and helped the Panthers win their third championship.
Valentine understands that if he's going to get back onto the field this fall, he's going to have to make good use of his carries.
"Every rep, every opportunity I can get on the practice field, I have to just take advantage of those little opportunities to give me the best chance to get in the starting lineup or get on the field or get on special teams," Valentine said. "I've got to take everything to heart and take advantage of the little opportunities I get."
"The kid plays the game the right way and I'm certainly happy with his development," said Hammock. "Hopefully he can help us when the season starts."