Highest-rated recruit in program history among NIU's signing haul

  • File photoNIU football coach Thomas Hammock is ecstatic over his 2021 recruiting class.

    File photoNIU football coach Thomas Hammock is ecstatic over his 2021 recruiting class.

Updated 12/16/2020 4:12 PM

The NIU football Twitter account called him the highest-rated recruit in school history, a running back from Georgia who had just two months ago de-committed from an SEC school.

His high school coach called Antario Brown a hard worker and someone who can have an instant impact at the collegiate level.


Brown highlighted the NIU signing class on Wednesday, adding a back to a backfield that already includes a highly-sought recruit in Jeyvon Ducker from last year and Harrison Waylee, another true freshman who had back-to-back 100-yard games to close the season.

Michael Thompson, who just wrapped up his first year of coaching Brown at Beach High School in Savannah, Georgia, said the 5-foot, 11-inch, 200-pound running back can hit the ground running with the Huskies.

"He can be a complete, every-down back," Thompson said. "His skill set is going to be great on the next level. Maybe in high school he was limited because of the coaching aspect, but he's going to be one of those backs that's going to be an every-down back. And he's going to get bigger, stronger, faster. So I believe that transition will not be hard for him and he's already at that level now in high school."

Brown had committed to South Carolina earlier this year but then changed his mind, going from the SEC to the MAC.

"It's one of those things where you have to do your research and find a place that's going to fit your style," Thompson said. "His ability to do those things, he's one of those tangible blocks that can do all three things. He can run, he can block and he can catch out of the backfield. So I think him deciding to switch and go to Northern Illinois was great because that offense is going to allow him to be a whole true athlete."

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NIU coach Thomas Hammock said the Huskies were one of the first schools to contact Brown.

"We really liked what he was about as a person," Hammock said. "Then what happened, I think what happens sometimes in recruiting in the age of social media, if one school offers you, you end up getting a bunch of other offers. That's not the way we do business. ... When things didn't work out at South Carolina, he remembered the relationship we built with him from the beginning."

With Waylee, Ducker, and junior Erin Collins all back and Julius Bolden also signed on Wednesday, Hammock said he likes the running back room for next year.

"We talk weekly about how Harrison Waylee was developing, He knows about Ducker," Hammock said. "Julius Bolden is coming into the program. Erin Collins is back. We've got the running back room in a spot whoever earns the spot and whoever plays is probably going to be a very dynamic player."

Thompson said Brown is loaded with raw talent.

"I was blessed to coach him for a year," Thompson said. "He's always a hardworking, hard-nosed, grit kind of kid. His work ethic is incredible. I believe that Northern Illinois is getting a steal. He's an all-around great athlete and great kid."

The signing class also featured a lot of northern Illinois talent, including Aurora Christian quarterback Ethan Hampton, Sterling defensive tackle Trevon Jordan and Batavia wide receiver Trey Urwiler.

"Coach Hammock and his staff [did] a great job recruiting me. They recruit the right way, and they're building something special up there. I want to be a part of it," Urwiler told Friday Night Drive earlier this year. "What they're building up there is truly special. And, I don't think a lot of people actually know it. They recruited me the hardest out of any school ... just a great, great fit for me."

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