HEMPSTEADT, NY --- As a 6-foot-2, 260-pound blocking back, Northern Illinois University's Mike Stack was never one of those glamour boys. You know, 1,000-yard seasons. Mega 200-yard games. Big-time media props.
Nope, Stack---the throwback, the living blue collar clich who just blocked, blocked again, and blocked some more---finds himself in the New York Jets' training camp with a shot to make a 2000 National Football League roster.
Stack (Taylor, MI / St. Francis Cabrini) signed a standard NFL free agent contract with the Jets Thursday, July 13. The ex-Huskie fullback and quint-captain is one of 79 players---including first-round draft pick Chad Pennington of Marshall University---expected to report to camp at Hofstra University on Friday, July 14.
"I know this sounds corny, but that shows you what hard work can do for you," said Northern Illinois head coach Joe Novak. "There is no more deserving person that Mike Stack. His work ethic, all his efforts. He came here (NIU) as a raw talent. Mike's stronger than heck. He can be used in short-yardage situations as a big, strong, physical lead back."
Which is the ultimate compliment for a guy who only carried the ball twice for four yards and caught three passes for 20 more during 1999. That puts the premium on his blocking abilities, 365-pound power clean, and 770-pound squat lift.
"One of the Jets' scouts saw the Kent State game last fall. That was Mike's best game," said Novak, referring to the Huskies' 50-7 triumph that ultimately resulted from two long, sustained Northern Illinois first quarter scoring drives against a stiff wind. "I mean Mike had three or four great blocks where he got out on the perimeter and knocked some guys on their butts. A lot of (NFL) teams were looking at him. It had to be the right team and right situation for Mike and it turned out to be the Jets."
With New York, Stack would play at an H-back-type position---a hybrid tight end-fullback who would either block or be a flare receiver, according to Jets' director of media relations Frank Ramos. Ramos explained that current New York Jets head coach Al Groh knows the value of good special teams players. "Our coach always says 'how can you make the team? Just make the team bus and you can do that on special teams,'" Ramis recollected.
As a senior, Stack won his fourth letter with 293 snaps and 10 starts in 11 games. No. 40 ranked among the "heaviest" fullbacks in NCAA Division I-A ball with Kansas State University's Joe Hall, Jr. (290 pounds) and Texas A&M University's Ja'Mar Toombs (265 pounds). Stack made a season-best two receptions for 17 yards vs. the University of Iowa and played a season-high 40 snaps vs. Kent State. Career-wise, he won 26 starts (25 at fullback) and performed in 1,071 snaps in 39 career appearances. Stack gained 86 ground yards on 26 career attempts and finished with 11 catches for 80 yards.
The Jets open the 2000 NFL exhibition schedule July 29 against the New Orleans Saints at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands and then play at the Green Bay Packers on August 4. Previous Northern Illinois NFL free agents with the New York Jets include tight end Scott Paplham (1980), linebacker Frank Lewandoski (1981), center Randy Clark (1988), defensive tackle Reggie Harris (1989), and strong safety Rich Favor (1993).