Before he made The Kick on Saturday at Florida State, Nick Weiler had an extra point blocked and, before that, he’d missed a 51-yard, field-goal attempt. There was a time, Weiler said, when those two moments of failure would have consumed him.
“I would have got really mental about it, been down on myself,” he said.
Instead, on Saturday, Weiler said he was “just begging” to have a chance for redemption. It came with four seconds remaining, with North Carolina on the left hash mark of Florida State 37-yard line. Earlier, Weiler, the Tar Heels senior kicker, had informed coach Larry Fedora of his range.
Weiler had said that he felt good from 35-yard line and in, meaning that he was confident he could make a 52-yard field goal if the situation arose. Then he’d missed that 51-yard attempt and now this one, from 54 yards, was 2 yards beyond the range he’d shared with Fedora.
Even so, Fedora said, “I knew it was within his distance. That wasn’t the issue. And he was due. He was due. And he had something to prove.”
He was talking mostly about the earlier failures on Saturday. And yet Weiler remains driven, too, by his start at UNC – one characterized by missed field goals and low confidence.
Two years ago, during the 2014 season, Weiler shared placekicking duties with Thomas Moore. They combined that miserable season, with UNC on its way to a 6-7 finish, to make six of their 13 field-goal attempts. Neither kicker made an attempt longer than 30 yards.
Weiler’s long was 23 yards. He missed all three of his attempts beyond 30 yards.
And so what happened on Saturday at Florida State wouldn’t have happened as recently as two years ago. Fedora wouldn’t have even considered the idea, back then, of sending Weiler out for a 54-yard attempt.
“Two years ago, you’re right – we struggled,” Fedora said, answering a question that referenced UNC’s poor kicking situation in 2014. “Since that time, Nick has been pretty much automatic all the way through.
“He’s got a lot of confidence and he kicks with a chip on his shoulder. He’s not your typical kicker. I mean, the guy works hard in the weight room. He’s one of our guys. Guys love him. And he is a leader on our football team.”
Weiler (6-0, 190 pounds), doesn’t appear to fit the mold of the kicker cliché. His work in the weight room shows. He wears his hair long. The headband he wore on Saturday during his news conference, after he’d made that 54-yard field goal, made him look a bit like a late-70s, early-80s tennis star.
After he made The Kick – perhaps the most important kick in school history – Weiler said it had been “a heck of a journey.” He spoke about the intangibles Fedora is always preaching about.
“Coach Fedora always talks about having grit, and fighting through adversity with keeping your mind on your goal that’s off in the distance,” Weiler said. “And your failures, adversity. And so those missed kicks probably made me stronger, made me a better kicker today.”
Weiler, who’d never made an attempt longer than 49 yards entering Saturday, was talking about those misses from two years ago. He was talking about those misses earlier on Saturday, too, ones that left him hoping for another chance that came with four seconds left, from 54 yards out.