Nicholas Setta is a character and is often heard jawing with the coaches and his teammates on the practice field. Most kickers don't get the same respect as the rest of the team but Setta is clearly thought of as a football player by his coaches and teammates. "You really got to be out there to do something more than just kick—you really have to. You get the guys that kind of look down on you but I didn't come to play football to make friends—I came here to win a National Championship. If it takes being that sarcastic, uplifting guy to bring one guy up then you never know how that works. You just have to keep everyone positive. It's really easy to try to help get the guys up and they help me get up too."
Setta looks to be in line to take over the starting punter job in 2003 to go along with his kicking duties. Setta says he isn't concerned he might get injured doing both jobs. "Not at all," said Setta when asked if he's worried about getting injured. "I think it actually it makes it a lot easier doing both of them. It keeps you more in the game and if I've got to worry about injury, I need to choose another sport. With kicking in terms of injury, I've got the least worries of everyone."
Setta says he's wanted to be the punter all along. He's been punting his whole career at Notre Dame and is excited to get the opportunity to win the job. "From freshman year, it was really want I wanted--coming in that was what I expected. I didn't expect to sit my freshman year for that matter. I told myself I was going to come in and play and when I didn't, I was down a little bit but I told myself ‘that's what you've got to fight for' and finally it's here so now it's time to take advantage of it."
Punting is something Setta has done his whole career here at Notre Dame. He says the only difference would be that he might do it in a game. "I've always done it. I've always practiced as I wanted the job of punting. I've always competed against Joey as I wanted the job and I think that's what made him better and made me a lot better. The difference between last year and this year is a game in terms of how much I'm going to punt, that's the only difference."
Coach Tyrone Willingham has jokingly expressed some concern about Setta doing both because the leg motion is different than kicking. Setta says he isn't concerned the motion will alter his kicking game. "Not at all, I use punting to warm up for kicking. My way to warm up on the field is I always punt first because it's an easy motion on the leg. If anything it's going to help me because I'm into the game more and I'm not standing around as much and my mind is mentally preparing for each situation."
Setta struggled at times last year making only 14 of 25 field goals but came on strong towards the end. Setta started off the year on a good note making a career-high five field goals against Maryland but ran into some problems shortly after that. Setta says he just worked through it and the faith Willingham showed in him meant a lot to him. "After the Maryland game, I was off my high that night. That night, after a game I always start thinking about the next week and I start preparing myself for the next week. It wasn't a matter of having too much confidence it was a matter of things not working out and Coach helped me get through that by letting me kick and kick."
Irish Eyes asked Setta what makes a good kicker. "Obviously you have to have the physical ability and you have to get to that point where you become consistent. The consistency, a lot of comes from just mental, just telling yourself and working with yourself. It's like golf, you could have one day that's great and one day that's bad and it's like ‘why? What was the reason today?' Maybe you were more mentally prepared the first day."
Setta is a two-time Lou Groza award nominee and Setta says he's just going to concentrate on winning games and kicking for his team and awards will come if he does his job. "The easiest way to win an award in college football is to help your team the best that you can. If I can help my team in any situation, whether it's punting and pinning them at the five or kicking a field goal and making it 50 yards or 60 yards then that is the way I'm going to get to that point. All I think about is all helping this football team."
Setta downplayed his role as a team leader when we spoke to him. One can sense most members of the team have a lot of respect for Nicholas and understand the mental toughness one must have to be a kicker. Setta struggled at times last year but he has looked outstanding so far in fall camp. Irish Eyes expects him to be the starting kicker and punter when the Irish tee it up against Washington State on September 6th.