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Nicholas Setta: Injury doesn’t diminish kicker’s desire to help

Pat Leonard | Thursday, November 13, 2003

How dare Julius Jones.With his two touchdowns against Navy, Jones surpassed fifth-year senior place kicker Nicholas Setta for the Notre Dame team lead in points.Not a big deal, really. It’s just that the 5-foot-11, 194-pound kicker from Lockport, Ill. has led the Irish in points the past three seasons.So why not make it four? Well, injury for one. Although Setta began the season hitting 9-of-10 field goals and 5-of-5 extra points for 32 points, a leg injury suffered during a kickoff at Pittsburgh has kept him sidelined. Backup walk-on D.J. Fitzpatrick has performed well in his stead.Regardless, Setta has been the old reliable of the Notre Dame offense during his four years as place kicker and one year as punter. Despite a few rocky games toward the end of last season when the entire team seemed to collapse, Setta – who graduates this spring – has been steady and sure, whether the coach has been Bob Davie or Tyrone Willingham.”I’m just excited to be a part of it all,” Setta said. “To have the chance of playing for the greatest college in the world, it’s just an honor.”Setta began this season shouldering both the place kicking and punting duties for the first time since he punted just four times in the 2000 season. He averages 40 yards per punt, but Setta’s greatest value exists as place kicker. A consistent kicking game is even more important in an offense like Notre Dame’s, which has struggled in the transition from a power rushing attack to a west coast system.Setta has hit 46-of-66 field goals in his career, a 70 percent accuracy rate. Setta has hit 99-of-100 career extra point tries and his streak of 87 straight extra points is the second-longest in Notre Dame history.Setta has remained consistent even in down years.”Whether we’re having a great season or not, my work ethic is the same,” he said. “The goal is to be the best that you possibly can be to help the team. Obviously it’s tough losing, but the work ethic always stays the same.”That work ethic earned Setta numerous preseason accolades, being named to 2003 first- and runner-up teams in publications such as Street and Smith’s and The Sporting News.Wasting no time, Setta opened the 2003 season by living up to the hype.For the second straight season, the Irish got a career-high five field goals from Setta in a season-opening victory against Washington State. Last season, he set his career high of five field goals in one game in a 22-0 defeat of Maryland. He also hit a career-long 51-yard field goal in that game.Performances like those in the Washington State and Maryland games now have Setta nipping at the record books.If Setta returns to action at some point this season, he could tie or break two records held by NFL and former Irish kicker John Carney. Setta’s 66 career field goal attempts are just three behind the 69 Carney attempted in his time from 1984-86. The senior’s 46 field goals made are just five behind Carney’s all-time high of 51.The implication could be a bright future for this Irish kicker, although Setta does not see it that way.”The way I look at it is if any record comes about, it was because I was doing something to help the team,” he said. “Of course, I’d love to have [the record]. I’d love to have every record in NCAA football, period. But will it happen like that? No, and I’m happy with what I did. At this point, I’m just trying to help the team win some games.”