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Signing Day: NIU lands highest-rated recruit in program history

According to the NIU football Twitter account, Antario Brown is the highest-rated recruit in program history.

The 5-11, 210-pound running back from Savannah, Georgia said he's just taking it in stride.

"That's a big responsibility," Brown said. "I'm happy I made history, but I've got to live up to it and play. As most people in football say, rankings and so on and so on don't define a player. It's how they play. I just got to show it on the field."

Brown was one of 21 high school seniors signed by coach Thomas Hammock on Wednesday on National Signing Day.

Brown was committed verbally to South Carolina, but changed his mind a couple months ago. He said Hammock and running backs coach Nic McKissic-Luke had a lot to do with that.

"The reason being coach Ham and coach Nic were consistent, still talking to me, pushing for me to commit to Northern Illinois," Brown said. "That's probably the main reason why."

In fact, he said the attention from the coaches is the main reason he chose Northern Illinois. He said they were the first to recruit him.

"They've been genuine from the start," Brown said. "They always had the vision about where they're about to take the program. That's probably one of the main reasons. I had a great relationship with coach Hammock and coach Nic beyond the recruiting process. Basically, it was like they were my coaches before being my coaches."

Hammock said he thought he and the staff were the first to reach out to Brown, and that may have created some attention from other schools.

"We really liked what he was about as a person," Hammock said. "Then what happened, I think what happens sometimes in recruiting in the age of social media, if one school offers you, you end up getting a bunch of other offers. That's not the way we do business. ... When things didn't work out at South Carolina, he remembered the relationship we built with him from the beginning."

But now the Huskies are getting a player his high school coach at Beach High in Savannah, Michael Thompson, said is a back loaded with raw talent.

"I was blessed to coach him for a year," Thompson said. "He's always a hard-working, hard-nosed, grit kind of kid. His work ethic is incredible. I believe that Northern Illinois is getting a steal. He's an all-around great athlete and great kid."

Thompson said Brown can step in right away and compete. Brown said he expects, one way or another, to have an impact on next year's team.

"I'm young, but I got the ability to lead," Brown said. "I just feel like I can come to Northern Illinois and make an impact just off my leadership. I want to win games. I want to build a relationship with my teammates. I feel I can come in right away, have an impact with those guys, build the team up."

With Harrison Waylee, Jeyvon Ducker, and junior Erin Collins all expected back and Julius Bolden also signed on Wednesday, Hammock said he likes the running back room for next year.

"We talk weekly about how Harrison Waylee was developing, He knows about Ducker," Hammock said. "Julius Bolden is coming into the program. Erin Collins is back. We've got the running back room in a spot whoever earns the spot and whoever plays is probably going to be a very dynamic player."

Now all that's left is for Brown to get used to the cold. It was in the mid-50s in Savannah on Wednesday and expected to be in the mid-60s next week.

"It's not northern Illinois type of cold, but it's cold," Brown said. "I like the cold so I should get used to it. But I don't know. A lot of people have been telling me that's a different type of cold."

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Akanimo Asuquo, 6-1, 215, LB, Forney, Texas, North Forney

Julius Bolden, RB, 5-11, 190, Wichita, Kansas, Wichita Northwest

Antario Brown, RB, 5-11, 210, Savannah, Georgia, Beach

Javaughn Byrd, CB, 6-0, 170, Milwaukee, Wis., Rufus King

Cade Haberman, DT, 6-3, 275, Omaha, Neb., Westside

Elijah Hamm, LB, 6-2, 200, Watkinsville, Ga., Oconee County

Ethan Hampton*, QB, 6-3, 194, Elburn, Ill., Aurora Christian

Drew Hoth, OT, 6-5, 305, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Cedar Falls

Trevon Jordan, DT, 6-4, 235, Sterling, Ill., Sterling

Wetu Kalomo, CB, 6-1, 173, Wichita, Kansas, Wichita Northwest

Blake Kosin*, TE, 6-5, 240, Davisburg, Mich., Clarkston

Brandon MacKinnon, OL, 6-6, 280, Lakeville, Mass. The Hun School (N.J.)

Cyrus McGarrell*, CB, 6-2, 175, Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Clearwater Academy International (Fla.)

Ty Myles, CB, 6-0, 182, Blackshear, Ga., Pierce County

Makhi Nelson-Douglas, LB, 6-1, 200, Omaha, Neb., Elkhorn South

Pete Nygra*, OL, 6-4, 270, North Indianapolis, Ind., Brownsburg

Mason Pierre-Antoine, WR, 6-0, 175, Frankfort, Ill., Lincoln Way East

Luke Pinnick, OL, 6-4, 291, State Center, Iowa, West Marshall

Liam Rempel, DE, 6-5, 230, Monmouth Beach, N.J., The Hun School

Trey Urwiler, WR, 5-8, 170, Mooseheart, Ill., Batavia

Brian Whitsey, LB, 6-1, 200, Chicago, Ill., Solorio Academy

Jalonnie Williams, DE, 6-5, 278, Milwaukee, Wis., Greenfield

Eddie Carifio

Eddie Carifio

Has been the sports editor in DeKalb since 2014.