Orange Bowl means so much to Miami’s Victor Jacques.
His stellar high school football career came to a close at the legendary venue, which is now Marlins Ballpark. Ironically, baseball was where he excelled growing up near Suniland Park.
Five years later, Orange Bowl again was significant. His standout college football play ended at the BCS Discover Orange Bowl Game. It marked the first BCS game for Northern Illinois, quite the accomplishment and a nice surprise for Jacques’ family and friends.
Jacques started at middle linebacker for Northern Illinois University against Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl. His Homecoming brought 40 supporters, matching his uniform number, to Sun Life Stadium, the game’s host venue in Miami Gardens.
One of those 40, reluctant to let her ‘little boy’ play youth football, cheered loudest when he ran onto the Sun Life Stadium field.
Fearing of injuries, Maria Jacques, his mom, did not allow him to play football growing up, so he opted for baseball. He became a talented catcher, starring in the travel leagues.
Once Victor attended high school at Christopher Columbus, coaches lured him to football, something he longed to do. Victor loved it so much that football became his calling. He helped the Explorers win two district titles, including his senior season where he was captain and team MVP.
At Northern Illinois, Victor red-shirted at fullback in 2008 but eventually moved to linebacker. By 2011, he was the second team middle linebacker. In 2012, he made the starting line-up, playing a pivotal role in the Huskies outstanding 12-2 season.
The Orange Bowl’s outcome was not what he hoped, but Victor was happy to play his final collegiate game at home. Miami to Northern Illinois is a long road trip, so earning a bid to the Orange Bowl made it so much easier for his family.
His father, Victor Sr., sat proudly with his wife, watching his son play in the Discover Orange Bowl. His sister, Marcela, made a sign, rooting loudly from the front row.
• Victor wasn’t the only Miami kid starting on defense for Northern Illinois.
Outside linebacker Jamaal Bass and defensive back Demetrius Stone also were greeted tremendously by their hometown fans.
Like so many colleges around the country, South Florida is a hotbed for football talent. Northern Illinois recruited many here including Bass, Jacques and Stone.
The school, a member of the Mid-American Conference, is not widely known for football like its Orange Bowl opponent, the Florida State Seminoles of the ACC, but with the help of the three Miami standouts, Northern Illinois is now on the college football map.
Born in Miami, Bass played youth football for the East Miramar Wolverines in the South Florida Youth Football League and Miami Gardens Chargers in Miami Xtreme. He helped Miramar High School win a state title and earned a GPA Award prior at Monsignor Pace High School. The sophomore had a large turnout, too, of family and friends (led by his dad Keithly, mom Cheryl, and brother Isaiah) at the Orange Bowl as did Stone, a senior.
About 32 family and friends of Stone attended including his mom Natasha Lewis, grandma Armentha Lewis, aunt Yvonne Dixon and Coach Peter Brown. For the Golden Glades Panthers in Miami Xtreme, Stone did it all, playing receiver, cornerback, safety, kick returner. He excelled even more at American High School.