Kickers rarely get much attention when it comes to college all-star games. But Wake Forest’s Nick Sciba is no ordinary kicker. So, when the fourth-year junior from Clover, South Carolina traveled cross country for the 2022 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, he was going to make sure to take advantage of the opportunity.
Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena was like many post season all-star games. The focus was on quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, and the occasional defensive lineman. But the game did have some different variables. A quarterback from an FCS school, (Cole Kelley from Southeastern Louisiana), was the game MVP. And the game was decided in the closing seconds on a missed field goal. The miss was from James McCourt of Illinois, not Sciba. He doesn’t miss. Well, at least not much.
In fact, Sciba is one of the most prolific place kickers in the country, in a year that has more than a few. And when we say one of the most prolific, we don’t mean he had a good season. He has had a record-breaking career.
To get to the granular details, Sciba has never missed a PAT in his career. That equates to a whopping 193 made in 193 attempts.
He has a 90% success rate for field goals for his career, including 92% for the 2021 season. In his four years he has hit 80 of 89. In the season just concluded he was 23 of 25. He holds the NCAA record with 34 consecutive field goals made. And he is the most efficient field goal kicker in ACC history for anyone who has at least 50 career attempts.
So when he was called on in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a game with all-stars from all over the country, he was unfazed. He was one for one on field goal attempts with a 26-yarder in the first half and was two for two on PAT’s. For good measure he also showed off his leg with a 62-yard kick.
“It felt good,” Sciba told Last Word after the game. “I had a good holder and a good long snapper. They really made the week easy. We had a good week of practice so we really felt prepared coming into the game.”
During the regular season, the kickers are usually off to the side working on their own for much of the practices. It is not until the end of practice for most teams, that the special teams units go through their drills together. Sciba said it was really no different this week in Pasadena for the all-star game. “It’s a lot similar to college practice. Field goals will be towards the end of practice so you’ve got to stay warm during practice to be ready for that.
He provided a humble grin when we reminded him of his stats and the records he holds. “I’m not a big fan of talking about myself,” he said. “But it feels good to hear that because it means my hard work has really paid off. I hope that it can pay off at the next level as well.
There will be competition in getting to the next level. The 2022 draft is strong class for place kickers. LSU’s Cade York has one of the strongest legs in the country. He holds the Tigers’ record for the longest field goal at 57 yards. He was perfect in PAT’s this last season.
Gabe Brkic of Oklahoma is also highly regarded by NFL scouts. He was perfect in his field goal kicking in 2019. In 2020, like many in the Covid season, he had a down year, hitting only 77% of field goal attempts. But what he did do is connect on four of six from 50+ yards. The strength of his leg is undeniable. His 2021 field goal percentages were the exact same as the previous season. For that matter, his attempts and makes were the exact same as last season.
Sciba didn’t have a bounce back season in 2021. He didn’t need one. Yeah, his percentage was only 82% in 2020. But the Demon Deacons only played eight games and he only had 17 attempts. In his sophomore season he only missed one field goal attempt. And last year he only missed two.
Sciba told us that even for all of his success there are things he needs to work on to get a gig at the next level. “I’ve always said I can work on my ball contact, and always just increasing leg speed.”
If he has an edge on accuracy over the other kickers in the draft pool, and the difference is them having success at longer distances, how does he fix that? He said refining his technique will provide the extra distance.
“It adds to everything,” he said. “It’s not letting your form go to crap whenever you are at farther distances. And also it is about just getting stronger every day just like any other football player, to be honest.” Sciba said it is too easy to over adjust when it comes to kicking from longer distances. “You try to over kick. You try to kick it too hard or you try to swing too far out of your normal rotations. It messes you up instead of hitting the same ball that you would hit from 40 yards out.”
Sciba is going to get his chance to show he can add the distance to his accuracy. With the NFL Combine and pro days still ahead, he will cement his place in the draft. Last weekend’s NFL playoffs had three games that were decided by a field goal in the closing seconds. If that taught us anything it is that placekickers belong at the same all-star table with the rest of the line-up.