Those living in the vicinity of Plainedge Park in North Massapequa could look out their windows this past summer and routinely see someone kicking ball after ball through the uprights of the football field.
He was there almost every day, kicking field goals and then scrambling to retrieve the collection of footballs after they left his right foot and found their way to the ground some 50 yards away.
The neighbors might not have realized this kicker was Briant DeFelice, a redshirt-freshman on the Long Island University football team who was preparing to be the team’s featured kicker and punter.
“That’s where I got my first 50-yarder,” DeFelice said of Plainedge Park, which is a short walk from his home. “I was there three, four times a week kicking alone, and then every single day over the summer.”
He converted on a 33-yard field goal and a PAT in a 34-10 loss to Sacred Heart on Saturday. He booted a 27-yard field goal in a 38-3 loss to South Dakota State on Sept. 7, a moment in which he was “just anxious.”
“It was definitely tense,” he said. “I was kicking the field goal on the right hash, and the student section for South Dakota was right behind the right upright, and that’s where I was kicking. As soon as I got on the hash, I heard all the students screaming at me.
“It felt really good as soon as it left the foot, and it ended up going right down the middle. Once I hit it, there was really no doubt.”
The first three times DeFelice saw the field against South Dakota, LIU’s offense had stalled so he had to punt out of his own end zone. The high-pressure situations helped calm his nerves, and he finished with seven punts for 241 yards, an average of just over 34 yards per punt.
He was pleased with his punting performance, although he said punting is something he still needs to work on.
“I’m more confident in my kickoffs and field goals than I am with my punting,” DeFelice said. “I came in here, and I knew that punting was my weakest. It definitely gave me a test.”
Kicking always came naturally to DeFelice, who played soccer growing up. He said he could always kick a soccer ball farther than everyone else, leading him to try his hand (or foot, rather) at kicking footballs.
While kicking at Farmingdale High School, he earned Newsday’s All-Long Island first team honors in 2017 and finished his career with 184 PATs. He said he can hit field goals from 62 yards away in practice without pads and from 55 yards with pads.
He uses practice to work with strength and conditioning coach Scott Schulz, who helps to keep his lower back loose and his legs stretched out. There’s the potential for downtime as a kicker during practice, but DeFelice stays active.
“If you just stand there for 2 ½ hours, it’s so boring,” he said. “I just go to the coach and try to do exercises, stay in shape.”
His teammates joked with him after his first field goal gave the program its first FCS points.
“The first thing that people were telling me as soon as I came off the field was, ‘Hey, you’re leading the team in points in Division I history!’ ” DeFelice said. “It’s awesome to do, it’s awesome to have, but I’m here just to do my job.”