CHARLESTON — Coming into the season, Nick Wilson never attempted a field goal in a game. During his one season with the Charleston High School football team, Wilson only attempted extra points. After high school, Wilson was a member of the Lake Land College baseball team.
After his two years at Lake Land, Wilson took a year off from his athletic career and focused on his studies at Eastern Illinois University. During that year, Wilson started to get the itch to play again, but this time the sport wasn't baseball. After watching some YouTube videos, Wilson decided to give kicking another try and tried out for the EIU football team. He earned a spot and had two years of eligibility left.
Even Wilson is a bit baffled on how he ended up on the EIU football team.
"I don't know really. I've been everywhere it seems like," Wilson joked. "I've always wanted to play football, and in high school I only played one year and regretted not playing more. So I made the attempt to try out here and everything worked out."
Wilson suited up last season as the backup punter and field goal kicker but didn't play. The Charleston graduate was rushed into duty in the first game of the season when Nick Bruno, the team's regular field goal kick, suffered an injury during warmups. Even though freshman Matt Severino attempted the first two extra points of the game, EIU head coach Kim Dameron called on Wilson to attempt a 22-yard field goal right at the end of the first half.
It was the first-ever field goal attempt for Wilson and he connected on it, giving EIU a 16-7 lead. Wilson said he worked through all of the nerves before going out to attempt his first career field goal.
"I'm just happy that coach put his trust in me and allowed me to do that," Wilson said. "It was nerve-racking at the beginning. But when we went through the warm-ups and the first one (in warm-ups) went through, the nerves went down. The second one went through, the nerves went down. Third one hit the upright, but that happens. I had a long time before I went into the game, so the nerves were really gone.
"My biggest thing was that it was going to be a great snap and a great hold, so just do your job and put it through."
Wilson said the kick felt good off his foot.
"I remember looking up and I didn't think it would actually go right down the middle," Wilson said. "But it was surprising and really humbling."
Wilson could've continued his baseball career after college, as he had some offers, but he decided he wanted to stay close to home.
When Wilson tried out for the team, he didn't have a grand plan to beat out Bruno, who has been EIU's field goal kicker for the past three seasons, or the punter Cody Edwards. His main goal was to basically make the team.
"I was just happy to make the team honestly," Wilson said. "The main thing was when my time came, I just wanted to be ready. Punting was the first thought and then unfortunately with Bruno's injury, that happened. I worked with Bruno over the summer and he told me if there was a backup, he wanted me to be it. So I was working hard at kicking field goals over the summer and he really helped me."
The extra preparation has paid off. Wilson is 2-of-3 on the season with the 22-yard field goal being his longest so far. Wilson did make a 37-yard field goal last week against Northern Illinois, but it was called off due to a penalty.
"It's exciting," Wilson said. "If it's a 45-yarder, I think I can hit that. Even a 50. Really it's just wherever the coach feels comfortable putting me and I will go out there and hope it goes through."
Even though he is getting playing time because of an injury to one of his friends, Wilson is still enjoying his time on the field during his last season of eligibility.
"I love it. I never thought this would happen honestly," Wilson said. "I love the playing time. Under the circumstances, it's very unfortunate, especially with (Bruno) being one of my best friends. You don't want to see your friend go down like that, but luckily he got me prepared to be able to come in if something happened to him. He helped me a lot and he knows what he is doing."