Nick Weiler’s world ‘overwhelming’ after game-winning kick at Florida State

Two days after the kick, a camera crew from ESPN was following Nick Weiler around at North Carolina on Monday, there to record footage for a day-in-the-life segment called “Big Man on Campus.”

At one point not long after noon one of the camera guys turned to another with an important question:

“Are you going to kind of hang out with him while he's getting the massage?”

If you're a kicker at UNC, this is what happens after you make a 54-yard field goal as time runs out to beat Florida State in Tallahassee: An ESPN crew shows up and wants to document your every move, even those moments on the massage table.

The presence of the camera crew, with one guy trailing Weiler with a big, furry boom mic, provided tangible proof of how Weiler's life has changed since Saturday. Before, he was a very good but relatively anonymous college football kicker, another leg in the crowd.

And now? Now he had two cameras on him at all times on Monday, and a slew of messages that had piled on top of each other, one after the other, on his phone in the minutes and hours after he made what was perhaps the most memorable field goal in school history.

“Overwhelming, to say the last,” Weiler said, describing his world these past couple of days.

For road games, especially, Weiler remembers to turn his phone off when he puts it away in the locker room. That way, he'll have it fully charged for the trip back home.

When he turned his phone back on after the Tar Heels' 37-35 victory on Saturday, “It didn't stop vibrating,” Weiler said, “for the next 30, 45 minutes.” By then his kick was being replayed everywhere, on TV and all over social media. It gave UNC its first road win against a top-12 team in 20 years.

“It was a lot to handle,” Weiler said. “I'm pretty sure I missed responding to a lot of people through the various social media outlets or texting. So I don't know. I've just been spending the past two days catching up with everyone.”

This is unlike anything Weiler has ever experienced. The barrage of congratulatory messages. The media attention, the interaction on Twitter. He prides himself on his modesty and tries, he said, “to play it low key.”

That all changed, in the moment, in the time it took his 54-yard attempt to cross through the uprights. Weiler saw the referees' hands go up, signaling the kick was good, and he took off down the Florida State sideline, chopping at the air with his right arm, mimicking the Seminoles' tomahawk chop.

Before he attempted the field goal, Weiler visualized success. He saw a good snap and good hold, and then watched the ball leave his foot, rising and falling through the uprights. And all of those things happened just as he envisioned.

What he didn't envision, though, was sprinting down the field, doing the tomahawk chop until his teammates surrounded him and piled on top. He didn't envision that at all. When it happened that way Mitch Trubisky, the Tar Heels' quarterback, said it took a moment to register.

His mind went blank when Weiler made the kick. Then, Trubisky said, quickly came a thought.

“Where's this guy running?” Trubisky said on Monday, repeating a question he'd asked himself on Saturday. “He was just running down the field doing the tomahawk. It was nuts, it was awesome. I couldn't believe it.”

Though Weiler didn't plan it that way perhaps he should have anticipated such a reaction. After all, he and his teammates last week during practice were treated to the Seminole war chant, which at times played over the loudspeakers on a non-stop loop. At the game on Saturday, it was more of the same.

Weiler said the noise, and the chopping motion of the fans in the stands, annoyed him.

“So that kind of inspired me just to chop them back right after,” he said.

Since then it has become a running joke with his teammates. When the players gathered on Sunday for their usual team meetings and conditioning work, “everybody was doing the chop,” Weiler said. When he goes on social media, people are sharing replays of his celebration more than the kick.

The reaction has been fierce, if not predictable. Florida State fans have condemned Weiler for taunting. Florida fans have commended him for treating the Seminoles to what they often serve. Weiler, meanwhile, said he was just trying to convey his “inner confidence and swagger.”

“So all that was, was me releasing what I have inside,” he said. “The confidence and swagger that I want to show. But yeah. It was funny. I didn't expect it to blow up like it did.”

He's not apologizing for his celebration. He knows some might have told him to act like he'd been there before, but … he'd never been there before. Or anywhere close to it. That was the first time Weiler had ever had the opportunity to make a last-second, game-winning field goal.

It just happened to come at Florida State. Against a team that was ranked in the top 15. From 54 yards out.

He'd done it in practice. His long there, he said, was 59 or 60 yards. In a game he'd never made a field goal longer than 49 yards. Then came Saturday, and the kick, and the celebration and all the messages and other attention afterward.

Now his life has a clear line of demarcation. There is the before, the relative anonymity of being a kicker. And the now, in the days after what instantly became one of the signature moments of the college football season.

After a round of interviews on the fifth floor of the Kenan Football Center on Monday, it was nearly time for Weiler's massage. An elevator door opened and he stepped on, a three-person team of cameramen following closely behind.

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