Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, Kenny Golladay occasionally watched the White Sox play at then-U.S. Cellular Field. On Wednesday night, he grasped the opportunity to perform at the same site and flourished on Roger “Sodfather” Bossard’s work of art.
For Golladay, though, the only ambiance he desired was the NCAA’s standard 18-foot goal post.
“To be back where I grew up all my life, that was amazing,” he said. “I never really thought about putting a football field in a baseball stadium, but it turned out great.”
The Huskies fell to Toledo 31-24 in the “Chi-Town Showdown,” resulting in their seventh loss of the season (3-7, 3-3 Mid-American Conference). While the team fell out of bowl contention for the first time since 2007, the Northern Illinois wide receiver put on a show for his family and friends in attendance.
During much of the first half, Golladay repeatedly found space against the Rockets’ zone coverage, accumulating nine catches for 66 yards. He finished with 14 grabs, good for 149 yards.
Those totals awarded him his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, as well as the seventh of his Division I career. Plus, he now ranks fourth in the country in receptions (79), along with generating 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I tried to take the little hitches they gave me and get yards after the catch,” he said.
Moreover, even when he was challenged with contact, the 6-foot-4, 213-pounder muscled his way to the ball. Midway through the second quarter, the St. Rita High School product leapt over Toledo cornerback Ka’dar Hollman for a four-yard score in front of a then-hushed Rockets’ marching band. The touchdown handed NIU a 14-3 lead.
Touchdown Northern Illinois MAC action! pic.twitter.com/G4kxR2EjUd
— ⓂarcusD2.0 (@_MarcusD2_) November 10, 2016
After the final whistle, Toledo head coach Jason Candle raved about the redshirt senior’s eventful rendition. He says both his gigantic hands and quickness separate him from the rest of the elite playmakers in the nation.
For instance, in the fourth quarter of the matchup, Golladay turned what should’ve been an ordinary 11-yard gain into an acrobatic maneuver, hurdling a couple of would-be tacklers in the process.
“He’s going to have a chance to play football for a while,” Candle said.
Originally, Golladay landed at the University of North Dakota. He spent two years with the program before eventually deciding to reel in a new challenge. Thus, Golladay headed east towards DeKalb, IL.
Still, he didn’t imagine that he’d appear in his last collegiate home game near the high school football field, where he dominated as a teenager.
“Just being able to say I played there (Guaranteed Rate Field), that’s awesome,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t sold out, we still had a nice crowd.”
Although Huskies’ supporters sat sparsely throughout the stadium, their howling applause was heard following each of Golladay’s receptions. Overall, 10,180 folks witnessed the first football game in the venue’s 25-year history.
Sean T. Frazier, NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics, went through an 18-month process to assemble the game at now-Guaranteed Rate Field. Additionally, he says 151,000 alumni live in the Chicagoland area, delivering a large part of the fanbase a ticket to experience the notable event.
“This is big time for Kenny (Golladay) and for all our players (from the city),” Frazier said pregame. “To be able to have a school that has so much entrenched in Chicago, and to have our kids that we recruit (in the area) come here, it’s pretty special.”
Once Golladay wraps up his days in a NIU uniform, the next stage he hopes to step on is in Philadelphia.