Thursday, December 12, 2013
ORONO -- Sean Decloux gets a kick out of travel.
Maine (3-0) vs. No. 16 Northwestern (3-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ryan Field, Evanston, Ill.
Not so much for the food or the culture or the touristy sights and sounds. No, what Decloux, a sophomore civil engineering major at the University of Maine, likes most about traveling is the architecture. In particular, the architecture of football stadiums.
"The way the seats lie on top of each other, or the different entrances," he said, "I really like seeing that."
Decloux and his Black Bear teammates are on the road this weekend for the third time in four weeks. They'll take a 3-0 record against similarly unbeaten Northwestern, ranked 16th in the country among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, for a Saturday afternoon game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.
The last time the Black Bears faced a bowl-eligible team ranked among the top 20 in the country was 2008, and they lost 46-3 to Iowa. The only player who scored for Maine was kicker Bryan Harvey.
Decloux is the kicker who replaced an injured Harvey after four games of the 2012 season, and the freshman wound up leading the Black Bears in scoring despite playing only seven games. He converted 7 of 10 field goal attempts and was 24 of 25 on PATs.
In three games this season, Decloux is four of five in field goals and 10 of 10 on PAT kicks. On Saturday, he may be Maine's most effective scoring weapon.
"He's way further along," said Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove, "than any kicker we've ever brought in."
It's not simply that Decloux, a native of Ottawa, has a strong leg. If the elapsed time from snap to hold to kick is 1.25 seconds or faster, then not even Usain Bolt coming off the edge should be able to block the kick.
"Decloux was doing that from Day 1," Cosgrove said. "And now, we're well under that, because (tight end Justin) Perillo and (quarterback Marcus) Wasilewski are outstanding at the snap and the hold."
At 19, Decloux is a true sophomore. Growing up in Canada, he played soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball. In winter, he skated on the frozen Rideau Canal.
"It wasn't until my freshman year of high school that I started playing football," he said. "My high school in Ottawa (St. Peter Catholic High) had a pretty strong football reputation. The coaches knew I had a pretty good leg, so they wanted to see me kick."
They also suggested Decloux play wide receiver, but he didn't want to get injured for soccer or his other sports.
"So I just kicked," he said. "Slowly but surely I started to love the kicking game."
By his junior year, he knew he wanted to continue kicking in college. A good friend, Eli Ankou, had attended camps in New Jersey and was being recruited not just by UCLA (where Ankou is currently a 290-pound red-shirt freshman nose tackle) but for an unusual high school in Delaware called Red Lion Christian Academy, which offered football scholarships.
So Decloux joined Ankou and kicked for Red Lion as a high school senior. His longest field goal traveled 52 yards, in a crosswind to boot.
"I aimed it outside the uprights and it came back in," Decloux said. "Yeah, I play golf."
Decloux's longest field goal with Maine is 41 yards, both last season against Georgia State and this season at Norfolk State. He missed from 45 last fall against New Hampshire.
The school record, set in 1975, is 52 yards by Jack Leggett, a Cosgrove teammate better known now as Clemson's head baseball coach.
Decloux had other options for college, but chose Maine because Cosgrove offered the most scholarship money and Decloux said he wanted to help his mom as much as possible.
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