If Nick Aussieker doesn’t have ice water in his veins, it’s something close. He certainly has nerves of steel.
The Illinois State place kicker and Lafayette graduate kicked game-winning field goals on the final play recently in back-to-back road games for the Redbirds.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Aussieker said in a phone interview from Normal. “It was something to have both games come down to a winning field goal. It’s definitely been a dream. I never had the opportunity to kick a game-winning field goal before and then I got to do it two weeks in a row.”
Aussieker nailed a game-winning field goal in a 20-18 win in front of a hostile crowd at Indiana State. Aussieker calmly kicked the game-winning 20-yard field goal with three seconds left in the contest to lift the No. 15 Redbirds past the Sycamores on Homecoming at Memorial Stadium. The Wildwood native also added a 34-yard field goal early in the third quarter, which put the first three points of the day on the scoreboard for Illinois State.
That kick earned him the Special Teams Player of the Week honor for the Missouri Valley Conference.
For an encore, Aussieker did it again.
The Redbirds’ senior snapped a 34-34 tie with a 34-yard field goal on the game’s final play to complete a stunning Redbird comeback and lift Illinois State to a frenzied 37-34 victory over Western Illinois at Hanson Field.
“I was real excited,” Aussieker said. “(But) we’ve made that so many times in practice (that) the nerves were very minimal. I felt like I made the kick before I went out there. It was a tie ballgame but I wasn’t going out there thinking ‘if I miss it, we go into overtime.’ It was the end of the game, and I wanted to end the game right there.
“The life for a kicker is everybody expects you to be perfect. You have to keep your mistakes to a minimum and don’t repeat them.”
He’s been perfect this season. He is the current school leader in career field goal percentage at 75 percent (37 of 49) and ranks fourth all-time in career scoring with 256 points, just 15 points behind Stephen Carroll, who scored 271 points from 2001-04.
Watching the clock, Aussieker gauges whether it might come down to a late field goal. Against Western Illinois, he thought he might be called upon. And, since both kicks came on the road, he had to shut out the hometown crowds.
“I’m definitely aware that everybody is looking at me,” Aussieker said. “The fans are either cheering for me or against me. I stay really focused on hitting a clean ball. Everything else is blocked out. You don’t hear anything when you’re locked in.”
But he can’t do it alone. Senior long snapper Chris Highland and senior holder Scott Kuehn are crucial to Aussieker’s success.
“I have a ton of trust and faith in them,” Aussieker said. “They make my job easier.”
The trio has a nickname.
“We’re starting to become known as ‘The Battery.’ It’s a new phrase for the three of us,” Aussieker said.
Aussieker grew up in West County playing all sports, but especially hockey and soccer. In middle school, he went out for the Junior Lancers program.
“I talked to my dad and told him I wanted to try football,” Aussieker said.
He won the starting kicking job as a sophomore at Lafayette, where he earned three letters.
Aussieker was a first-team Class 6A All-State kicker selection by the Missouri Football Coaches Association and the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association after his senior season. He also earned first-team all-Suburban West Conference honors as a kicker and punter. He averaged nearly 54 yards per kickoff and 35 yards per punt in his final season with the Lancers.
He set Lafayette’s single-season record with nine field goals as a senior while helping team get to the state quarterfinals. He also is the school’s career record holder with 18 career field goals made.