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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
After early kicking success, Henery can't wait to punt

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Who needs a quiet summer? Alex Henery is doing his best to stay busy by trying to win another job with Nebraska.

It's why Henery is trying to build on his record-breaking start as a kicker by becoming the Cornhuskers' regular punter.

But whether booming high spiraling punts or drilling balls through the uprights, Henery has confidence he can help the Cornhuskers at both positions.

 
  Josh Wolfe/Icon SMI
  Nebraska kicker Alex Henery is looking to add the punting duties to his plate in 2009.

"It's something that I can do," Henery said. "Some kids are strictly kickers and others are punters. I feel like I can do both. It's a challenge I feel like I can accomplish."

Henery actually came to Nebraska as a punter after averaging more than 41 yards per kick at Burke High School in Omaha in his junior and senior seasons. Those numbers earned him all-state honors as a punter from the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star in both seasons.

But when he arrived at Nebraska, his chances at the position were stifled with Dan Titchener and Jake Wesch in front of him on the depth chart. After sitting out a redshirt season, Henery moved to kicker where he has blossomed into one of the nation's most consistent performers once he got his chance.

And he earned Bo Pelini's ultimate compliment when he was described as "a stud" after his record-breaking 57-yard kick that helped beat Colorado last year.

During his college career, Henery has missed only one extra point and one field goal attempt inside of 50 yards. He is the most consistent kicker in Nebraska history to this point.

"I couldn't imagine things turning out much better for me than how they've worked out," Henery said. "I'm happy with how things have gone so far. My career has worked out pretty well."

Even with that early success, Henery hopes to build on that by punting this season after the graduation of Wesch and Titchener.

Few college players have been successful at both jobs. But recent success by Wake Forest standout Sam Swank and West Virginia's Pat McAfee have convinced Henery to give it a shot.

Despite the different fundamentals involved in kicking and punting, Henery isn't worried about losing his edge as a kicker as he goes back to punting.  

"I'm not too concerned about it," Henery said. "They are two different motions and they contradict and do different things. And once you do one, you forget about it. I have to go back on the field and cancel what might have happened before. You have to have a short memory in how you look at things as a kicker."

In his first season in 2007, he converted all 45 of his extra points and all eight of his field goals as he was used as the Cornhuskers' short and intermediate kicker. None of his attempts were longer than 39 yards.

That all changed last season when he won the job at the start of the season. He started by nailing four field goals -- all from 44 yards -- in the Cornhuskers' season opener against Western Michigan. Those kicks gave him a streak of 12 consecutive field goals -- the best start in history by a Nebraska kicker.

His streak was snapped by a 35-yard miss against New Mexico State, but that has been the only time he's failed from within 50 yards in his career.

His 57-yarder against Colorado has been a career highlight, one he admits to watching a couple of hundred times on YouTube. But it's hard not to be proud of that clutch kick that prompted more than 300 text messages in the two hours after the kick.

Just as important were his four field goals against Clemson that provided the margin of victory in the Cornhuskers' Gator Bowl victory. It was the third time and second straight game where he kicked four field goals that ended up being the margin of victory.

Those career successes make it a little hard to believe that Henery had more interest as a soccer player than in football.

"Back then, it was almost all soccer, 24-7," said Henery, whose only scholarship leaving high school was a soccer offer from Creighton. "I would go to school, practice football for about 45 minutes and then play soccer and club soccer. On Friday nights, I would play my [football] game, then go out and play soccer out of state for the rest of the weekend. I never concentrated on football that much."

But that all changed when he received the opportunity to walk-on with the Cornhuskers, which was boosted with the opportunity to study engineering at Nebraska.

"It was a tough decision and took the better part of three months to decide," Henery said. "But a lot of it had to do with my major. It was just something I couldn't pass up."

Despite the laudatory comments from Pelini and his clutch success down the stretch last season, Henery still isn't on scholarship with the Cornhuskers.

And while he's starting the season awaiting a scholarship, Henery is confident he'll get one soon enough.

"I'm sure it's coming soon and I'm not worrying about it," said Henery, who has converted a 63-yard field goal attempt in practice before when kicking indoors. "They know what they have with me. It will come soon. I love playing football here."

After that, if his current success holds, he likely will follow in the path of Cornhuskers before him. Kickers like Kris Brown and Josh Brown have gone on to successful NFL careers after kicking for Nebraska.

Those plans still are a long ways in the future. Henery has some busy plans as a kicker and punter before then.

"I'm not really surprised as much as happy that this has all happened and worked out for me," Henery said. "I just need to keep it going for two more years."