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College Football: Spencer Nolen has some big feats for St. Xavier

St. Xavier placekicker/punter Spencer Nolen | Supplied photo

St. Xavier placekicker/punter Spencer Nolen | Supplied photo

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:17AM



It was a long journey to St. Xavier for Spencer Nolen, who’s a 27-year-old senior. The Cougars are sure glad he’s found his way to Mount Greenwood.

Nolen has provided a huge boost in the kicking game for St. Xavier this season. He’s made 8-of-11 field-goal attempts (one miss was a block and one was a 59-yard attempt), including a 50-yarder. He’s also averaging 46.1 yards per punt, second in NAIA.

In Saturday’s 37-25 win over St. Francis, Nolen tied a school record with five field goals, including a 46-yarder.

All of that has garnered him attention kickers usually don’t see. In addition to being named the NAIA National Special Teams Player of the Week and National Placekicker of the Week for Saturday’s game, as well as National Punter of the Week for the Sept. 7 game against Marian, he’s been named the St. Xavier University Athlete of the Month for September.

“It’s a good feeling,” Nolen said. “Every year I want to continue to get better. I think I did pretty good last year, but I don’t want to just do a little better than last year, I want to do a lot better than last year.”

Nolen’s road to Chicago began in his hometown of Columbia, Tenn., where he started kicking at age 13.

After high school, Nolen lived at home and worked at Lowe’s for a year and a half to save money.

“I had a dream to play college ball but I didn’t have the knowledge, being in a small town, of how to network and find scholarship money,” he said.

After a chance encounter with his high school gym teacher, Miss Bailey, at Lowe’s, Bailey suggested Nolen talk with coaches at UT-Chattanooga.

“I didn’t just walk-on,” Nolen said. “I walked in. No one knew who I was.”

He eventually got a shot with the team and became the NCAA FCS team’s kicker for the last seven games of his redshirt freshman season.

Finally living his dream, Nolen, a Mormon, decided to give it all up.

“Around that time I was going through a spiritual transformation and I really wanted to serve the church,” he said. “I decided to go on a two-year mission. Every day I carried a bag of weights and footballs with me. Once a week, we’d find a high school somewhere and I’d kick.”

After the mission, Nolen found his way to the University of Nevada, but said he was competing against seven kickers and was told he wouldn’t get any scholarship money.

Encouraged to contact NAIA schools by his brother-in-law’s brother, Nolen did and heard back quickly from coach Mike Feminis at St. Xavier.

Nolen was the team’s starting punter and backup kicker on the 2011 national champion squad and has pulled double duty this season and last.

“I honestly don’t know where we’d be right now without Spencer,” Feminis said. “It’s very rare that you have one guy who can excel in all three phases (placekicking, punting and kickoffs) the way he does.”

Nolen, who got married over the summer, hopes his football journey will continue beyond this year.

“My wife, Haylie, has been a great supporter,” he said. “I have a plan to play post-college ball — and I don’t know where that will be — but she’s 100 percent on board.”



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