For every game of Illinois’ Rose Bowl season -- except for the Rose Bowl itself -- Michael Cklamovski handled the majority of the team’s kickoffs.
The Lyons Township graduate remained the Illini’s kickoff man during the early stages of the 2008 season, but fell out of favor in late September when he knocked two kicks out of bounds to aid Minnesota’s upset at Illinois.
Cklamovski remained at Illinois through last season as he wrapped up degrees in political science and speech communication. He moved on Northern Illinois to attend its law school and when fall camp began…suddenly he was out on the practice field winning the Huskies’ kicking job.
Though he lost his field-goal kicking job after two misses in the first half of the season opener at Iowa State, Cklamovski will be handling NIU’s kickoffs when the Huskies visit Memorial Stadium on Saturday. And if you think he’s excited to put a foot into his alma mater, well, you’d be wrong. Heck, Cklamovski roomed with starting strong-side tackle Ryan Palmer and backup lineman Jack Cornell last year. He retains lots of buddies in orange and blue.
“I only have fond memories of that place and I spent four amazing years there,” Cklamovski said. “I’m excited to go back.”
Because he didn’t play in any of Illinois’ games last year, that preserved one final year of eligibility. And since the NCAA allows a player to switch from Division I-A school to Division I-A school without sitting out -- provided he has graduated from the previous university -- Cklamovski found NIU the perfect fit.
“I wanted to play another year,” he said. “I had an opportunity to do longer field goals here and kicking off. And I got into the law program here and the law program is up and coming. I’ve been working so hard at that. My days are insane. I go to bed every night at 11:30 and I wake up at 6 in the morning. Sometimes I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, but wherever I am is the most important spot at that time. It’s a great experience.”
Because NIU head coach Jerry Kill coordinates the special teams, Cklamovski has gotten to know him well despite his brief time in DeKalb. Clearly he missed the hospitalized Kill’s presence at Tuesday’s practice.
“Coach Kill has been amazing about (my schedule). Couldn’t have been better. Not having him out here today…He’s the guy who watches film for an hour every day. I’ve never seen or heard of a coach at a Div. I school doing that. This guy, I’ve only been here since the beginning of August, I can tell Coach Kill is special.”