Editor’s note: Columbus North High School graduate Matt Krempel, who starts at offensive tackle for Northern Illinois, has agreed to share his Orange Bowl experience with The Republic for four days leading up to today’s game.
Growing up, Matt Krempel dreamed of playing for a college football team like Florida State.
Today, Krempel gets to prove that he really is playing for a team like Florida State.
As Krempel walked around the Fontainbleau Miami this week, Northern Illinois fans have stopped him to wish him well. The message most often was to help the Huskies prove they belong in the Orange Bowl against a national powerhouse.
The Huskies, who are 13½-point underdogs, know their task. They know that college football analysts have predicted that they will be pulverized by the Seminoles.
“I would say we all are pretty calm,” Krempel said on Monday. “Overall, we’re really focused. And we know that we play our best football when we are loose and having fun. We know when to turn it on, and turn it off.”
Krempel had some fun Monday morning when he was picked to do an interview in front of a large gathering.
“I felt more nervous in front of everybody than I will for the game,” he said. “They brought me up on the stage, but it was a little different interview; it was more for fun.”
He was asked about his roommate, quarterback Jordan Lynch, who is one of the nation’s most explosive offensive players.
“They wanted to know what Jordan is like,” Krempel said. “Until this year, he has been just an average, everyday guy. Now people are stopping him, asking him for his autograph. But we still see him as the average, everyday guy.”
Krempel might be an average, everyday guy as well, but he was the center of attention Friday.
Did he feel like a celebrity?
“Yes, I kind of did,” he said with a laugh. “I got to shake some important people’s hands.”
After the news conference Monday, Krempel attended a team luncheon, then it was back to the hotel for team meetings, mostly focused on special teams play.
Then the team was headed to the stadium for a walk-through before leaving for a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. He said the atmosphere was “crazy” around the Fontainbleau, so the team was moved for the night so the players would remain calm and focused.
Today, Krempel and the Huskies will arrive at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens about three hours before the 8 p.m. kickoff.
“I will just keep myself calm during that time, listening to my iPod,” he said. “I will go out on the field and sit on our sideline for a while, and by the time I got back and get dressed, it will be time to go.”
He will then perform in front of a huge throng that will include his mom, Martha, and dad, Lou.
“I’ve always loved to see them there,” Krempel said. “It would be weird if they weren’t.
“My mom always has embraced my football, probably because my dad played in college (at Davidson College in North Carolina). And my dad was my coach every year from third grade through seventh grade.
“It’s always nice to know that there are people in the crowd who care about me.”