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Northwestern's Demos puts mishaps behind him
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Northwestern's Stefan Demos

 

Associated Press

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Published: 8/12/2010 12:00 AM

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Stefan Demos might be the only college football player in America giddy about the chance to see less action during his senior year.

Demos handled all of the punting and kicking for Northwestern last year, which gave him three seasons as the Wildcats' punter.

But with the emergence of redshirt freshman walk-on Brandon Williams in spring practice and fall camp, Demos eagerly has relinquished his punting duties to focus on kicking.

As usual, the fifth-year senior from Scottsdale, Ariz., went the self-deprecating route to explain the move during Northwestern's media day festivities Wednesday.

"Nobody wants me out there punting any more, that's for sure," Demos said. "Including me."

There's more than a bit of truth to that statement.

Demos, who always considered himself a kicker first and foremost, averaged 39.6 yards per punt in his first two seasons.

That was an acceptable number considering coach Pat Fitzgerald, the special teams czar, frequently requested rugby punts where distance wasn't as crucial as hitting the target and limiting the return.

But when Demos added the kicking duties last year, his punting average dropped to 35.0 yards even as the other half of his game went so well that he earned second-team all-Big Ten honors at kicker.

Demos' 18-for-25 showing on field goals included last-second game-winners against Eastern Michigan and Indiana at Ryan Field.

"He put us in position to play in a January 1 bowl last year," Fitzgerald said. "I thought he just had a tremendous season. Unfortunately, a couple of his kicks didn't go the way he wanted them to go."

Ah, yes, those couple of kicks that happened to come in that Jan. 1 bowl game.

The left-footed Demos pulled a 44-yard field-goal attempt on the Outback Bowl's final play of regulation that would've earned NU's first bowl victory since 1949.

He also pulled a 37-yard attempt that would have squared the game in overtime - though the Wildcats retained possession as Demos was roughed and injured after the kick.

Fitzgerald claimed Demos needed barely an hour to put those misses out of his mind.

"You guys know my middle son, Ryan, is a ball of energy," Fitzgerald said. "I think Stef and Ryan were playing 'I Spy' for five minutes on the bus trip to the airport, so I knew that he was fine."

Perhaps so, but Northwestern fans and classmates felt it important to test and re-test his resolve.

"I had enough time to dwell on it three months out (until spring practice)," Demos said. "Two-three weeks after the game, where everyone on the campus and the community reminded me of the game, it was enough to dwell on it. I should've just locked myself in a cage.

"But there's no point in dwelling on it. It's just a game. I enjoy it. I try to have fun with it, but obviously that game wasn't fun for me."

Blessed with the chance to focus on his kicking - and avoid those extra 20-30 punts per practice that contributed to a hip problem last year - Demos expects 2010 to be that much more fun.

"This year without punting, I've got more time to focus on field goals and kickoffs," Demos said. "That's more where I belong."