LINCOLN — Former Western Illinois kicker Pat Smith wasn’t sure what kind of response he’d receive when he started sending his highlight tapes to various college football programs a few weeks ago.
But Husker special teams coordinator Ross Els called Smith just a couple of days after the DVDs were mailed.
“I didn’t know if it was going to happen fast, take the whole semester,” Smith said. “As soon as I got my tape out, Nebraska got back to me right away.”
And Smith didn’t waste much time deciding, either. He’ll walk on at Nebraska and finish his collegiate playing career with the Huskers in 2013, as first reported by Husker Online.
NCAA rules allow graduates with remaining eligibility to transfer without sitting out a year. Smith is set to earn his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois in May. His coach at WIU, Mark Hendrickson, is not returning.
Thus it seemed, to Smith, like an ideal scenario to examine his options. Smith toured the Lincoln campus last weekend.
“I didn’t know a lot about the Nebraska program, about its history. I didn’t know the pedigree of the kickers that had been there,” Smith said. “I had a great visit.”
He initially targeted NU as a potential destination for two reasons: the university’s graduate degree opportunities (he’ll pursue an MBA with a focus in finance) and the program’s openings for on-field playing time (do-it-all specialist Brett Maher has exhausted his eligibility).
As a junior in 2012, Smith made all 10 of his field-goal attempts for Western Illinois, including a long of 46 yards. He taught himself how to punt before the season and averaged 38 yards per attempt on a school-record 84 punts.
He was one of 10 finalists for the Fred Mitchell Award, given annually to the best college kicker outside of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I’ll compete for whatever (position) is available,” Smith said.
He’s not quite sure when he’ll join the NU program. He’s targeting to be in Lincoln by the summer.
Nebraska does have one scholarship kicker, sophomore Mauro Bondi, on its roster. Maher handled all of the field-goal, punting and kickoff duties in 2012, though.
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