NIU football: Christian Fuhrman shaping up to be missing piece for NIU defense

Transfer from Southeast Missouri State expected to be one of Huskies’ starting linebackers

Northern Illinois University's Christian Fuhrman (44) works on warm up drills before the scrimmage on Saturday April 27, 2024, held at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Christian Fuhrman didn’t get to see the 2023 edition of the Northern Illinois University defense up close. But from what he’s seen, the 2024 model is shaping up really nice.

The senior linebacker, a transfer from Southeast Missouri State, is expected to be one of the starting linebackers for the Huskies this year. The defense was ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense last year.

“Guys are having fun out there,” Fuhrman said at the conclusion of spring practices late last month. “Every day we go to practice it’s enjoyable, fun, exciting. Energy always stays the same. There are never down moments. If the offense gets a good play we bounce back right away. When you have a defense that can bounce back and just keep playing good ball even though there’s a bad play, that’s special. It’s hard to find.”

Fuhrman made 125 tackles over the past two years at SEMO, including 7.5 tackles for a loss in 2022 and 3.5 last year. He also has 4.5 sacks in his career.

Head coach Thomas Hammock said Fuhrman has added a physical presence and has the ability to put up some big numbers for the Huskies this year.

“He’s a guy, to me, I think he can be a 100-plus tackle guy. A 2-yard play becomes a 2-yard play,” Hammock said. “He can key and diagnose plays with great detail. He’s not afraid to be a knock-back tackler. And that’s what we’ve been missing the last couple years, a guy that can change the line of scrimmage as in a positive at the linebacker level.”

The last time an NIU player had 100 tackles in a season was CJ Brown in 2022. The last time a linebacker reached the mark was in 2018, the year before Hammock came on board. Antonio Jones-Davis had 130 that year and Kyle Pugh had 106.

The base Huskies defense generally uses two pure linebackers, plus a third hybrid linebacker-safety. Fuhrman will step into the role Tyler Jackson occupied last season, alongside returning linebacker Jaden Dolphin.

Aside from Dolphin and Fuhrman, there aren’t a lot of linebackers with game experience. Linebacker coach Adam Breske said that’s been one of the biggest things Fuhrman has brought to the table.

“He’s a guy who’s played a lot of football,” Breske said. “We’re really excited he joined us. Going into his last year he’s brought a lot of veteran leadership, brought a lot of on-field leadership. He’s a guy that’s played, so it’s been an easy transition.”

Breske called bringing Fuhrman on board a match made in heaven.

When Fuhrman entered the portal, he said NIU was the first school to contact him. One visit to DeKalb and he was convinced to join the Huskies.

“I came here on a visit and I loved it,” Fuhrman said. “They treated me and my family with tremendous hospitality. I’ve known NIU over the years to be very successful and competitive. So when I saw them, I was like that’s where I’m going to be.”

NIU was 23rd in total defense last year, allowing 319.5 yards per game and sixth in allowing 171.2 passing yards per contest. The run defense was more toward the middle of the pack, allowing 148.4 yards per game, 62nd in the county out of 133 FBS teams.

Fuhrman said there’s a lot of trust on the team, something that is a huge strength and has made his adjustment smooth.

“It’s just been about coming in here and working, gaining everybody’s respect,” Fuhrman said. “That’s the main thing, making sure the guys next to me trust me. I’ve been doing this for a while so as long as I come in and compete and guys trust me, that’s all I can do.”

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