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Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00

diesel COLOR

NIU mascot Diesel poses with Tom Bonnevier--his owner, handler and friend-- prior to last Tuesday's home season finale. (New Bulletin photo)


Diesel, NIU's beloved football mascot, is calling it a career

“Diesel” has never handled a football or barked out signals.

Yet of the scores of coaches, players and staff associated with Northern Illinois University football, the nine-year mascot may be the most recognized symbol of a program that's risen from obscurity to national prominence.

And now it’s time to say goodbye. 

The most Huskie of the Huskies, Diesel will deliver a final high five and gracefully step away and become “mascot emeritus” when the football season ends.

The 10-year-old purebred Siberian Husky with the piercing blue eyes was honored for his service at last Tuesday’s final home football game against Western Michigan. A corsage was attached to his collar as he basked in the adulation as 17,000-plus fans cheered for him and his partner, handler and friend Tom Bonnevier.

“It’s been fantastic, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. It’s been nine wonderful years,” Bonnevier said. “We never did any type of training with him, this is how we’ve been when we got him. He used to run the end zones quite a bit but as he got older he’s had some hip problems so he doesn’t do that as well.

“But the biggest thing,  though, is that he loves people and that’s the biggest thing to being a mascot.”

Diesel has patrolled NIU sidelines and tailgate parties for nine seasons, dispensing high-fives to friends and foes in DeKalb and on nearly every other Mid-American Conference campus. He’s been to four MAC championship games as well as bowl games in Shreveport, Toronto, Mobile, Ala. and Miami.

And whenever a Huskie game has been televised, there’s the obligatory shot of Diesel delivering a high-five — or rather a high-paw — to a cheerleader or fan.

“In many ways, Diesel has become the face of Huskie football
over the past nine years,” said Sean T. Frazier, NIU’s Associate
Vice-President and Director of Athletics. “He’s been the constant figure on the sidelines whether home or away, at bowl games
spring games and more. He’s a fan favorite, the TV cameras
love him and he’s a great dog.”

Bonnevier, who lives in Round Lake, adopted Diesel from Free Spirit Siberian Husky Rescue group based in Harvard, Ill.  The
NIU connection came courtesy of a daughter who was an NIU cheerleader.

Diesel’s plans for retirement include being a family dog and coming back for Homecoming.

“Just like an alumni,” Bonnevier said. 

A worthy successor is waiting in the wings. 

“Mission” is a frisky, two-year-old Siberian Husky recently donated by NIU graduates John and Cassandra McKearn whose respective fathers both served in the military. Members of NIU’s ROTC program will assume responsibility for care.

In the meantime, Diesel has least one and maybe two more games in store. Diesel will be on hand when NIU plays in Friday’s MAC championship game in Detroit and could make one last trip if the the Huskies reach their second straight major bowl game this January.

The Jan. 1, 2014 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona is a most commonly mentioned destination and would be  a festive finale indeed.

 

—Jack McCarthy

Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 10:05
 
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