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UNI's Daurice Fountain dreamed of being a Wisconsin Badger, but is happy where he is

Saturday's 3-TD performance 'a big step forward'

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CEDAR FALLS — Daurice Fountain is a Madison kid. He grew up watching the Wisconsin Badgers, always wanted to be a Wisconsin Badger.

But just when he thought he was going to get an offer to officially become a Wisconsin Badger, Bret Bielema left as head coach to go to the University of Arkansas. That change ultimately made him a Northern Iowa Panther instead.

It’s UNI which always has to worry about an FBS school coming in at the last second and taking a recruit. Funny how this was the opposite.

“Of course. I always had the dream of playing with the Badgers. But, obviously, things didn’t work out,” the junior wide receiver said. “It’s been great down here at UNI. I don’t know what happened. I was getting recruited there, but UNI came in at the last minute. When I came here, I fell in love with the place.”

Fountain actually was in the stands at Camp Randall Stadium as a junior at Madison’s Memorial High School in 2012 when Northern Iowa nearly upset mighty Wisconsin. The impression of the Panthers he got that day ultimately helped sway him toward Cedar Falls.

“I remember being there with my mom on a recruiting trip thinking ‘Wow, UNI’s about to get the win here,’” Fountain said of a 26-21 game. “Wisconsin held us off. It’s crazy how things work out years later. Now I’m here ... I remember they were on the verge of offering me, then they had that coaching change (to Gary Anderson). Everything just kind of fell through.”

Fountain became the first Northern Iowa receiver in 10 years to catch three touchdowns passes last week in a 42-21 Missouri Valley Football Conference opening victory over Southern Illinois. He was the Panthers’ leading pass catcher a season ago and is so again through four games here.

A quarter of his 16 receptions have been for TDs.

“They call me dad,” Fountain said, with a smile that never seems to leave his face. “(Senior) Logan Cunningham is the granddad. That’s just a little joke in the receiver group. But, yeah, man, I always try to take the younger guys under my wing because I’ve been through it. It’s always a little nerveracking sometimes being a young guy playing out here on this field. So I just try to keep them calm and try and help them with any questions that they have.”

“Daurice is a great receiver,” said UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey. “I’m happy to have him. He’s a character, but I’m happy to have him.”

Bailey was asked to expound on his “he’s a character” comment.

“There’s never really a dull moment with him,” Bailey said. “Even when we don’t have the so-called best of days, just seeing Daurice ... There are some people in life that just make you smile out of nowhere, and Daurice is definitely one of them. It’s funny because he’s serious on the field. But when we’re off the field, it’s like day and night. You’d think we’re 12-year-olds the way we always joke around. Daurice is definitely a character, and I feel like the team could testify to that as well.”

Fountain said he actually considers himself a rather shy guy, especially around people he doesn’t know. A state champion hurdler in high school, he also has competed for UNI’s track and field team.

He and everyone were encouraged by last Saturday’s improvement in the passing game. Northern Iowa (2-2) plays Saturday afternoon at South Dakota (1-3).

“I thought Daurice really grew up Saturday,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “There was no question he was the one who stood out. He stepped up.”

“Definitely a big step forward,” Fountain said. “All year we’ve been emphasizing getting better in our pass game. To go out there and see all the pieces fall together was a great experience.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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