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Life's a beach for North grad

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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 the Jan. 1 game.

MIAMI — Matt Krempel said he had to treat the upcoming Orange Bowl, which matches Florida State against Northern Illinois on Jan. 1, like any other business trip.

Good luck.

Krempel, a Columbus North High School graduate who starts at offensive tackle for Northern Illinois as a junior, said that’s not going to be so easy.

“Yeah, it has been harder,” he said Friday by telephone from Miami. “There has been a lot of stuff. There has been a lot that we have had to do.

“On Wednesday, I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. so we could catch the flight. As soon as we stepped off the flight, we were handed a lot of free stuff. We got bags and pins and other stuff. Then we headed right to practice for two hours.

“That night we had a welcome party that lasted until 9:30 p.m.”

On Thursday, it wasn’t like any other business trip.

“We had a beach party,” Krempel said. “It was put on by the bowl committee and our hotel, the Fontainbleau Miami. There was music and we went swimming, although they marked where we could swim out to about 100 yards. They had professionals build a sand sculpture. It was like a pile of oranges with a big Huskies symbol.”

Were there any other distractions for the players? “Well, it is Miami,” Krempel said. “There are a lot of girls.”

On Friday night, following practice and interviews, Krempel was putting on his coat and tie. The team was headed for a formal dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse.

“It was more businesslike today, but we did have to dress up, and it’s all you can eat,” he said.

Last year, Northern Illinois beat Arkansas State in the Bowl. This has been different.

“Yeah, I would say it is different,” Krempel said. “The bowl gifts are more extravagant.

“I think the best gift I got was an iPod Docking Station. It had some really nice speakers and a sub-woofer. And I also got some very expensive headphones. A lot of the things I had no idea we would get.

“And the Fountainbleau is right on the beachfront.”

Krempel thought back to his high school career in Columbus and wanted to thank the Columbus North football coaching staff.

“I remember thinking that what they asked me to do was hard,” he said. “I didn’t want to do all the stuff they wanted. But it paid off in the end.”

Northern Illinois is the first Mid-American Conference team to play in a BCS bowl game. The Orange Bowl is being played at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens.

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