It's hard to imagine being considered undersized at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 255 pounds.
But when Ben LeRoy started in 2016 on the NIU defensive line as a true freshman, he definitely was at a disadvantage.
"When I first got here, I was 255 playing three technique against grown men, 21, 22 years old, who were all 310 at least," LeRoy said. "I had to eat a lot more, I had to sleep a lot more. I had to put more efforts into recovery. That's something I've really harped on the past two years."
This season, you can catch LeRoy on the field as he enters his junior year on the interior of the Huskies line boasting 302 pounds. He started 12 games last season, and both he and NIU coach Rod Carey are expecting a leap in production this year.
LeRoy played eight games a freshman after being pressed into service because of injuries, making four tackles. Last year he had 37 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and two sacks.
"Ben is one of those guys, I don't want to call it a casualty, because he played real well in '16," Carey said. "But we had such an injury thing going on that year with the whole team, he played as a true freshman at 260 pounds, maybe. He probably was not ready. But he was good enough to play, and then he's matured. So fast forward into his true junior year he's 300 pounds, he's experienced, he's played extremely well at a high level in his mind and his body."
LeRoy's best game last year came at Central Michigan, a 31-24 loss for the Huskies in the regular-season finale. He had a career-best seven tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. He also had a sack.
"I started to get into a little roll at the end of the year," LeRoy said. "But it was my first year starting in college football, so it was a lot of learning on the fly. But I say it was a pretty good year."
The Huskies failed to make a bowl in 2016, snapping an eight-year streak. But last year, the team qualified for the postseason.
LeRoy said he's hoping for the Huskies – who were picked to win the MAC West in the preseason media poll – to make another leap forward.
"We have a lot of talent going into this defensive line, as well as the overall defense and offense," LeRoy said. "I think it's going to be pretty special."
Check out the Huskies this season!
The Huskies will celebrate the 112th Homecoming in school history on Saturday, Oct. 13 versus Ohio and close out the home schedule with a pair of MACtion match-ups, including a November midweek meeting versus Toledo on Wednesday, Nov. 7. NIU finishes its 2018 home slate versus Miami (Ohio) a week later on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Huskie Stadium has a variety of seating options from general public to reserved bench backs or chair backs, as well as Sky Club and Sky Box availability. Try a Huskie Stadium Family Pack, four tickets for $220.
Visit niuhuskies.com for more information.
Eddie Carifio is sports editor at the Daily Chronicle.