On the run
Brown's emergence fuels NIU's ground game
Instead of protecting sophomore running back Me'co Brown with a flu shot, Northern Illinois may want to look into making him sick ... at least every Saturday.
Brown had a migraine, stomach ache, trouble breathing and a temperature and his legs felt heavy before Saturday's game against Purdue.
"I was feeling really bad," Brown said.
It didn't stop him, though, from having a career day in the Huskies' upset of Purdue. Brown rushed for a career-high 150 yards along with a touchdown.
His inspiration? Michael Jordan and his 38-point flu performance against the Utah Jazz in the 1997 playoffs, of course.
"[Running backs] coach [Rob] Reeves said Jordan had the flu, and he had a great game," Brown said. "I said to myself, 'If he can do it, I can do it.' Thanks to him for doing that before me."
Brown's flu didn't completely disappear during the Purdue game. He never felt bad whenever he stepped onto the field for a play, but when he got back to the sideline, those ill feelings seemed to return.
It was especially bad after he broke off a career-best 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
"I wasn't celebrating too much," Brown said. "After the touchdown run, I threw up four times."
Brown was feeling much better this week. His flu departed and in came the accolades. He was named the MAC West Offensive Player of the Week.
Northern Illinois has had it share of running back attention so far this season. Brown had his performance against Purdue, and his 331 rushing yards lead the MAC. His counterpart, junior RB Chad Spann, has also been in the news as he led the nation in touchdowns after his first three games and now is second with seven scores.
While both players likely would prefer to be the main back, they have come to accept their shared duties.
"I don't mind at all," Brown said. "I like the fact he can fill in my blank, and I can fill in his. I'm more the shifty type. He's more of the third-and-3 type and run physical. We're like thunder and lighting. I got the yards right now. He's got the touchdowns. I feel good about him. He feels good about me."
Reeves feels good about both of them.
"We're petty fortunate to be that deep at running back," Reeves said. "Each one brings us something different to the table. Those two guys get along great. They're competitive and they want the ball. At the same time, they know what we're doing."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.