Press Box

April 19, 2005


MARQUETTE, Mich. - Two Northern Michigan University football recruits have been named to the 2005 Old Spice Red Zone Players ofthe Year squad.  Named to the squad were Gannon Novak from New Lenox, Ill. and Ben Hempel from Franklin, Wis.  Novak and Hempel were honored in a full-pagecongratulatory announcement in USA Today on Feb. 3, 2005.  â€ÂœRegardless,who is recruiting them or where they are going, they are recognized as one ofthe top players in their state,â€Â Doug Sams, the head football coach at NMU,said.  â€ÂœWe thought (Gannon) Novak was a heck of a playmaker, a good special teamsplayer and he makes plays on defense.  (Ben) Hempel set records in the state of Wisconsin high school football for passing yardage and passing touchdowns.â€ÂÃƒÃ‚‚ 


The Old Spice Red Zone High School Football Player of theYear program uniquely recognizes those high school football players who elevatetheir play and that of their teammates in the Red Zone.  The Red Zone athleteembodies and exemplifies leadership and performance.  Heâ€Â™s the one player thecoach looks to when the game is truly on the line.


Gannon and Hempel were nominated by their high schoolcoachâ€Â™s and selected by the Red Zone Judging Committee from a large pool ofnominees from more than 4,500 participating high school football teams toreceive this honor.  They are honored as two of 50 players across America who stood out among their peers for their exceptional performances in the Red Zone.


Novak, a defensive back, played for Providence Catholic as hewas an all-conference selection as well as an All-State selection by theIllinois High School Coaches Association for the 2004 season.  He was named tothe Chicago Tribune All-State squad, was the Joliet Herald Playerof the Year for 2004 and was an all-area pick for the Star Newspaper andDaily Southtown Newspaper. Ã‚  Novak registered 85 tackles, oneinterception, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery for the 2004 season. He also had one blocked punt and five blocked field goals.  Novak returned 14punts for a 17 yard average and scored two touchdowns on punt returns duringhis senior campaign.  â€ÂœIt means a lot, mainly because they donâ€Â™t base it onmere statistics.  Itâ€Â™s definitely an honor,â€Â Gannon said on winning the award. Ã¢Ã‚€Ã‚ÂœGuys on the list are going to big college programs.  I know that I am as goodas anyone on the list.â€ÂÃƒÃ‚‚  The major factors in Novak picking the â€Â˜Cats were theway the coaches treated him on his visit, his planned major (computer science)and the facilities. 


Hempel, a quarterback, played for Franklin High School as he registered over 9,500 yards passing and 93 passing TDs for his career, whichwere both Wisconsin state high school records.  For the 2004 season, Hempel wasnamed to the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-State team, was asecond team selection to the AP All-State team and was selected to the MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel All-State team as a second team pick.  Hempel was a firstteam all-conference selection and the Offensive Player of the Year for theconference as a senior.  For his senior campaign, Hempel was 172-308 for 2,829yards and 28 TDs.  â€ÂœIt was something that was a surprise.  I never thought Iwould be named to a team like that,â€Â Hempel said of winning the award.  â€ÂœIt isa great honor to be with those guys.â€ÂÃƒÃ‚‚  Hempel looks forward to playing in theSuperior Dome with the offense that the â€Â˜Cats use and to take advantage of theoutdoor activities that the U.P. has to offer. 


â€ÂœWhen you start looking in it makes you feel real good aboutthe class you put together and what you have accomplished,â€Â Sams added. Ã‚ ÃƒÃ‚‚ 





Prepared By
Dave Faiella
Sports Information Director