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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Often an overlooked part of any program, the recruitment of special teams players is a unique process, unlike any other in college sports. But even with that in mind, the commitment that Ohio State picked up from kicker Sean Nuernberger on Tuesday was special in its own right.
The son of German Olympian basketball player Kai Nuernberger, Sean moved to the United States at the age of six, and grew up a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and soccer in Marion, Ill. But shortly after moving to Buckner, Ky. before the start of his junior season, Nuernberger opted to focus on football, with dreams of becoming a Division-I kicker.
Attending a camp at the University of Kentucky for kickers and other specialists, Nuernberger met Dick Seitz, the kicking and punting instructor for the Cincinnati chapter of One on One Kicking. It was there that Nuernberger enlisted in the coaching veteran of 40-plus years to help him reach his goals.
"I met Sean and he told me he'd really like to devote all his time into kicking," Seitz recalled in an interview with BuckeyeGrove.com. "Sean drove up all the way from Louisville with regularity."
Despite living nearly a two hour drive away from Seitz, Nuernberger not only agreed to his terms of making a weekly visit to work on his kicking skills, but he even came up for extra sessions. Seitz said that it was that type of dedication that made him realize that the Oldham County high school product was serious about his craft.
"A couple times when Sean wasn't doing too well, he'd say, 'Coach, do you care if I drive up tomorrow?' and I'd say, 'Sure, come on up,'" Seitz said. "That's how he did it. He was the type of young man that worked at it, he listened."
After a junior season that saw him connect on 7-of-12 field goals with a long of 46 yards, college teams began to take notice in the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder. After attending Alabama's kicking camp last week where he hoped to earn a scholarship offer as a punter, Nuernberger learned that he had been passed over for three-star prospect JK Scott. That brought him to Columbus on Tuesday, after he and Seitz decided to attend Ohio State's kicking camp over Kentucky's.
While other positions are recruited year-round based on a player's performance with his high school team, special teams players typically follow a different protocol. Due to the vast difference between kicking at the high school and college levels, a player's film and stats are often rendered meaningless, Seitz explained.
"You can't always go by a kid's record, and coaches are finding that out. Especially in high school, they kick off a tee, a one-inch tee or a two-inch tee. There's a really big difference in a kid kicking off the grounded versus kicking off a tee," he said. "If there's one thing that keeps a lot of kids from playing college ball it's that they can't adjust from that kicking off the ground."
As a result, these kicking camps essentially double as tryouts for teams looking to add special teams players to their recruiting classes. And with Drew Basil's eligibility set to expire at the end of the 2013 season, that's the position that the Buckeyes found themselves in on Tuesday.
As seen evident by the scholarship that he was offered -- and that he accepted on the spot on Tuesday -- Nuernberger won his tryout. Seitz attributed his pupil's success to his immunity to distraction, an ability that he's mastered over the last year.
"Coaches do things to distract kids to see if they do well under pressure. There were about 20 kickers at the Ohio State camp that were definitely Division-I kickers," Seitz said. "What separated Sean was that they were totally amazed at the type of discipline that he had. They couldn't shake him. They couldn't cause him to lose his confidence."
Seitz also raved about Nuernberger's leg strength, as well as his willingness to make a tackle in the open field on kickoffs. But the coach noted that what will allow Ohio State's latest commit to start from day one and succeed at the college level is the No. 1 trait that a kicker needs to possess: focus.
"When I was a coach, I'd tell them -- especially the specialists -- you can't be like the average person. You can't have the human nature-type ways about yourself. You have to start mentally disciplining yourself," Seitz said. "Sean's always been coached that nobody what anybody says, no matter what the weather is, I don't care if it's pouring down rain, I don't care if he's on a mud field kicking, there's no excuse why you can't put that ball in between the uprights."
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