Jared Treece | @bisalo
With two seconds left on the clock in the fourth quarter, tied 17-17 with SEMO, starting kicker Nico Gualdoni lined up for a 27-yard field goal attempt that would secure the Salukis a victory in the War for the Wheel.
Gualdoni, the 6-foot 1-inch senior who wears number 99, is 16 for 20 on field goals in his time at SIU and five of seven last season. He is also 46 of 47 on extra points and has been doing kickoffs for all four seasons.
Gualdoni said he was excited after he made the game winning kick.
“I just wanted to celebrate with my teammates, cause it was a big win for the program since we haven’t beat them the past two years,” Gualdoni said.
Jared Petrino, the Salukis special teams coordinator, said Gualdoni is able to get the job done every time he goes on the field.
Petrino said he thinks that Gualdoni is one of the strongest players in the locker room and lifts with the linebackers and running backs.
“I would put him up against any kicker in the conference, and in the country in the weight room,” Petrino said.
Petrino said the most emotion he ever saw Gualdoni show was after the game winner vs SEMO.
“He just pointed to the sky and you could tell he was excited, but then he really quickly shut it down,” Petrino said.
Petrino said he is lucky to have the special teams unit that the Salukis have “They all just go to work, I don’t have to micro-manage them and they all put in the work,” Petrino said.
Just before his game winning kick vs SEMO he was thinking that the kick was barely longer than an extra point and just wanted to kick it with good form and put it through.
Petrino said he was 100% confident that Gualdoni would make the kick and was only worried about the snap and the kick blocking.
“I didn’t say one word to Nico even when they called timeout, I had talked to him at the start of the drive and I just said are you ready to go win a football game and he said “yep” and that’s what you’re gonna get out of Nico,” Petrino said.
The former Johnston City, Ill., high school graduate now holds a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness economics from SIU and is pursuing his Master’s degree in the same field.
In Gualdoni’s redshirt freshman season he was named to the MVFC Academic Honor Roll.
Gualdoni started playing football his freshman year of high school and played soccer up until that point. He attended an SIU football camp while he was in high school.
“I went to a camp here and got noticed by the [previous coaching] staff, and I was talking to him. Then Coach Hill got hired and they brought in a new staff and they were still interested so I stuck with here,” Gualdoni said.
Former Johnston City football head coach Dan Mings was the coach that has had the biggest impact on Gualdoni in his athletic career.
“He seemed like he always knew what to say and was just a fun person to be around,” Gualdoni said.
Gualdoni said he needs good time management to fit in time for football, school work and personal time.
Gualdoni redshirted his freshman season so is now in his fifth year at the program and he wants to help lead the special teams unit.
“I’m one of the older guys now and I always come to work and make sure all the other specialists are doing good every day and trying to have a bond with all of them,” Gualdoni said.
Petrino thinks that Gualdoni is a calm player “if he misses one it’s almost the exact same response as if he made it,” Petrino said.
He’s also not a vocal player but is well liked and respected by his teammates. Petrino said Gualdoni works just as hard as the rest of the players in practice.
“Do you want to be treated as a kicker or do you want to be treated as a football player and there’s no doubt about it Nico is a football player,” Petrino said.
Sports reporter Ryan Scott can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @RyanscottDE.
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