After a competitive season, the 2017 NEIU flag football intramural concluded on Nov. 2. The third-year Honey Badgers won decisively in the championship game against the first-year team Beast Mode, 38 to 6.
New faces and new teams highlighted the start of the season. Beast Mode prevailed in the season opener against freshman team Big Baller Brand, 31-12. Many players on these teams have extensive experience playing in organized football, but the transition from tackle football to flag football comes with a significant learning curve.
Despite the adjustments, Beast Mode was able to score the second most total points in the league, with some help from first-year flag football player Tristen Tanner.
Tristen Tanner has been playing organized football for over 10 years, starting in grade school and competing through high school. He played collegiate football at Millikin University in Decatur for a year but transferred to NEIU after experiencing an injury.
Despite that setback a year ago, he showed no signs of slowing down on the field and was a dynamic threat throughout the season. This fall semester was Tanner’s first time playing organized flag football.
“It was actually really fun but different for me,” Tanner said. “It was the first time I had played with that group of guys which is cool because now I know them personally so anytime I see them we can catch-up.”
Tanner added, “One thing I’d like to see changed is to have more teams in the league. We only got to play four or five games because there weren’t enough players.”
Tanner is working toward playing Division 1 football next season at Valparaiso University where he was originally offered a scholarship.
“If I’m at NEIU next fall, I plan on playing flag-football here again,” Tristen said.
Freshman Charlie Hani, the captain of the first-year team Big Baller Brand, played a big part in his team’s success. Hani’s been involved in organized football for several years and was a starter for Maine South last season.
“My favorite moment from this season was definitely when Kobe Hill caught a pick-six at the end of the half which ended up being the game-winning touchdown,” Hani said. “Playing flag-football at NEIU is a great way to meet new people.”
Hani also had some ideas to increase turnout for the next fall semester. “It would also be really cool to play a night game on campus. I think an event like that would be a lot of fun and could be a great way to get more students involved and support our teams.”
Even though Hani’s team came up short in the first round of playoffs, Big Baller Brand showed a lot of talent on the field and has great potential to be a championship team next season.
Andrew Pena is a third-year flag football player at NEIU. In his first season, he won the championship with his then team Last Men Standing.
At the beginning of the season, he and another member of Last Men Standing, popularly known as “Big Rob” on campus, decided to join the third-year team the Honey Badgers. Their championship experience and skillset played a big role in the Honey Badgers dominant season.
Pena has been playing organized football for over 10 years. At Stevenson High School, he played both wide receiver and safety.
“The worst experience I had this season was when we allowed six points in the championship game,” Pena said. “I was really hoping for a complete shutout season.”
Pena also shared some ideas about ways to increase student turnout for next season.
“There should be fliers posted in the hallways of other buildings, maybe even classrooms,” Pena said. “I know a lot of students that didn’t even know we had a football league or any other intramurals, to be honest.”
Pena plans to be back next season to win another championship before graduation.
Karlton Watkins is a third-year starter for this year’s championship team, the Honey Badgers. He, like the rest of the students interviewed, has an extensive football background surpassing 10 years. He played throughout high school, at Trinity International University, and with the semi-pro team the “Chicago Blaze.”
“The Honey Badgers were pretty bad our first season,” Watkins said. “In our second season, we did a lot better and this year we won the championship,”
When asked to reflect on the season, Karlton said “I think the best part of this season was how well our team worked together to win every game. The worst part was when we allowed our opponents to score in the championship game, that really bugged me. I really wanted to have a complete shutout season.”
Watkins also spoke about the benefits of participating in intramurals at NEIU.
“I met some new people playing each year, got to know a few of our rivals better and found out that I share the same class with some of them. Next season is probably going to be my last year at NEIU and I definitely plan on playing and going out with a bang.”
As the writer of this article and captain of the Honey Badgers, for any students who are hesitant but are considering joining intramural sports at NEIU, I definitely suggest you take a chance and join. I wasn’t sure what to expect the first season I joined, but looking back on my third-year going from being the worst team to current champions, it was well worth leaving my comfort zone.
It’s a great way of getting know your classmates better and you might even accomplish something you once doubted being possible.
Being involved in other various groups on and off campus, winning the championship with my team will be the highlight of my college of experience because it took commitment and teamwork to achieve victory.
For more information about available activities at Northeastern Illinois University, visit https://www.neiu.edu/university-life/campus-recreation and also NEIU Campus Recreation on Facebook.