Nick Setta was a standout first at Lockport High School and later the University of Notre Dame. | AP file photo
Updated: March 7, 2012 9:46AM
He kicked a 59-yard field goal as a high school sophomore at Lockport, the longest in IHSA history.
He hit the crossbar from 72 yards in a playoff game as a junior. Then-Porters special-teams coach Jim Hall swears he nailed an 80-plus-yarder in practice.
He averaged 47.8 yards per punt as a senior.
He was 46-of-66 on field-goal attempts during his Notre Dame career, the second-most field goals in Irish history behind John Carney’s 51.
He is in the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ record book for his 97-yard punt — a feat he accomplished twice. He averaged a Canadian Football League-record 64.7 yards per punt in a game.
If anyone connected with an NFL team is listening, Nick Setta is available.
Now 30 years old and two years removed from his third and final season with the Tiger-Cats, Setta is primed for another shot with the NFL. And if he had his druthers, it would be as a team’s kicker and punter.
“I’ve never been in this good of shape physically and mentally,” he said during the recent Wish Upon A Star Benefit Softball Game in the Snow, where he was among the guest celebrities.
His readiness is a byproduct of his business, Setta Performance, which he operates from his former high school. He trains local athletes, and he gets right in there with them.
“The Lockport football, baseball, softball, wrestling and swimming and diving teams hired me to work with them, and some others in the area have, too,” Setta said. “They have invested a lot of time in me, and I love doing it. So it’s got to be a good opportunity for me, too, to take another shot at playing.”
At various times, Setta was in NFL camps with the Saints, Buccaneers, Bears, Browns and Bills and he played in NFL Europe before joining Hamilton, where he kicked from 2007 through ’09. He was a two-time CFL All-Star and made 111-of-139 field-goal attempts during that span besides averaging 44.7 yards for 365 punts.
“Three years in the CFL taught me a lot,” Setta said. “For example, they do more directional punting there than they do here because the field is wider. I still have the big leg. I can kick field goals beyond 60 yards, maybe 64-65 on a calm day, and with a little wind, bump it up a bit. I kicked one 74-75 yards in practice at Notre Dame, off the ground.”
The Tiger-Cats released him in January 2010, but he is not convinced that was the end. Not that a comeback will be easy to accomplish.
“If you do want to come back, you have to make that commitment,” he said. “Plus, I have to pursue NFL teams now. When you finish with college, people pursue you.
“So the hardest thing is to find someone who knows you and is willing to take a chance on you. I could call teams myself if I wanted to go back to the CFL. With the NFL, I can’t. I need to find someone to represent me who knows me, who sees me as a kicker who is a good athlete.”
Setta was an All-America high school kicker/punter but is an athlete first and foremost. He belongs in the team picture of the best all-around athletes the Joliet area has produced.
When Setta was in high school, he was one of the top distance runners in the state. He finished as high as fifth individually in the state cross country meet and helped Lockport win two state titles.
As you know, cross country and football seasons coincide. Think about that.
You say kickers have played two sports simultaneously, such as soccer and football? True, but Setta, whose No. 1 sport growing up was soccer, was much more than a kicker/punter.
He used his speed and grit to make tackles after kickoffs. He threw two touchdown passes on fake field-goal attempts at Lockport (at Notre Dame, he threw for a touchdown and ran for another on fake kicks).
Lockport used him at times at wide receiver. Then-coach Bret Kooi said he could have been an all-state receiver if that were his position.
Then there was track and field in the spring, the third sport where he earned four letters. A two-year member of the track team at Notre Dame, Setta won a state championship in the 800 and qualified for state in the 800, high jump (he set the school record at 6 feet, 10 inches) and intermediate hurdles the same year. There’s a trifecta you don’t see every day.
When he says he never has been in better shape physically and mentally than he is now, you have to believe there is an NFL team out there that may get interested. If not, what about the CFL?
“I’d possibly consider the CFL again because a chance to play is a chance to play,” Setta said. “John Carney is in his 40s and kicking.
“If sometime later some team asks if I’m still kicking the ball, I’ll still be kicking and my body will be in shape. I’ll be ready. I like being in the game.”