Last season senior kicker Tony Miliano saw his share of struggles going 7-of-17 in field goals while struggling from kicks of 40-yards or longer (1-of-7) and two that were blocked.
In the first week of camp, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville has made sure the Elder High School product feels pressure not only on the field but for his job. How does Miliano feel about the first week of practice and the battle he’s facing with fellow kicker Andrew Gantz?
“I thought the first week was good,” said Miliano. “I don’t think it was great, but it was good. Me and Andrew both had a really good week as our percentages were up there around 75-80 percent. I think the battle has really been good as Andrew has been pushing me and I’ve been pushing him.
“I thought the scrimmage went pretty well on Sunday and I think we combined to go 20-of-24 on kicks. So I thought that was pretty encouraging. The next couple of weeks, especially this week, the last week at Higher Ground, we’ve got to turn it up a little bit as we can’t be missing 30-35 yards field goals and stuff like that. So far it hasn’t happen too often but we can’t be doing stuff like that.
“We have to keep the competition going and keep pushing each other and hopefully each day we’ll be getting better and better and ultimately the best man will win.”
How has Miliano handled the pressure for keeping his job as he enters his final year as a Bearcat?
“It’s good, it’s really good,” he stressed. “I don’t feel I would be where I’m at right now if it wasn’t for Andrew pushing me and all the guys around supporting us. I’m really glad he’s here and I’m glad he’s pushing me and I’m glad I’m pushing him. But being my senior year, obviously each of us want to be the guy that comes out on top.
“But that is only going to make us better and that is going to be the best for the team. No matter what happens the best man is going to play. We’re going to do our part and do it to the best of our abilities. We’re not going to have any bitter feelings towards each other because we understand the nature of the business is the best man plays. That is how we’re approaching it and being my senior year hopefully I can make it happen.”
When asked to look back at his decision to stay home and play in front of his hometown, Miliano couldn’t see himself anywhere else.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s awesome to kick in front of your family for every home game and having everybody being there to support you. I’m so happy to be back for one more year and to have all of these guys and all the family to support me and to have one more season so I can go out with a bang.”
Has the past week brought more urgency in what he wants to accomplish before his career ends?
“There is always a sense of urgency, especially out in camp,” he explained. “We’ve got so many pressure kicks out here with Coach (Tommy) Tuberville saying this kick is for six forty yards sprints and the whole team has to run if we miss. So you’ve got to be on point nearly 100-percent of the time and be at your best at all times. The sense of urgency is really high and I think we’ve done a really good job of handling it so far.”
And how has he handled the pressure?
“We try to deal with it the way we do every kick,” he continued. “Sometimes that is not always the case but that is why we’re practicing it right now so we can go out there and have the comfort level knowing that there is pressure on you and you have one chance to make this kick. Nothing should change from a mental or physical standpoint as you should be going out there doing the exact same thing on every kick. But sometimes, that is just not the case.”