The Mercyhurst kicker has come a long way since his senior year at Ursuline.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
AUSTINTOWN -- Given the opportunity, placekicker Vinny Repucci of Mercyhurst College has proved he is capable of making big improvements, big adjustments and big kicks in his football career.
That is why the converted soccer player from Austintown and Ursuline High has so much potential entering his senior year for the Lakers of Erie, Pa.
And perhaps it's the reason Repucci could become an NFL kicker after graduation from Mercyhurst in 2003.
Consider the success of his four year soccer-to-football odyssey.
After playing soccer since he was 5, he was recruited from the Ursuline soccer team before his senior year by football coach Scott Niedzwiecki and became the Irish kicker for a year.
After graduation, he kicked a school-record 50-yard field goal in the 1999 Mahoning Valley Coaches All-Star Game in June at Hubbard High field.
And after that one year of kicking footballs, Repucci became a placekicker for Mercyhurst, converting 7 of 11 extra point attempts as a freshman and 6 of 8 as a sophomore.
Most impressive of all, he took a giant step last season as a junior with a perfect 21-for-21, while also connecting on a 47-yard field goal -- tied for second-longest in Mercyhurst history.
He wound up 4-for-7 in field goals as a senior, after going 2-for-5 as a sophomore and 2-for-3 as a freshman.
Entering his senior year, Repucci is more confident than ever and has even pondered his NFL chances -- but he's being realistic.
"As a kicker, I really don't try to get too far ahead of myself. I'm just taking one thing at a time. I definitely think that is the key to success in kicking," said Repucci. "Obviously, the objective is to make every kick. [But] every kick is a new kick. [I just] just take one kick at a time."
So, how did Repucci make such big strides from sophomore to junior?
"I think it was a maturity thing, definitely a focusing thing," Repucci said. "I felt more confident. I didn't think too much about kicking. I just kicked. I tried to block every thing out of my mind."
And, "I had to [do it] pretty much on my own. The coach kind of leaves me alone a lot. I have to do it myself and practice. I tried to figure it out by myself."
He didn't get many chances to kick his first two years.
"I was in competition with other kickers my freshman and sophomore years," Repucci said. "I had one other challenger my junior year [but] he dropped football. That left me to be the main kicker."
Repucci, who is majoring in business marketing and has a 2.75 grade-point average, credits Niedzwiecki for opening the door to his football career at Ursuline.
"We had a new coach. He needed a kicker. It was the end of my junior year. He asked me to come out, and I went out and he held the ball for me. That encouraged me. He was really cool about it. He pretty much opened the door to my kicking career," said Repucci.
Prior to that, Repucci's father, James, helped to pave his son's soccer career. James was an assistant soccer coach for Ursuline High, and coached Vinny for all four of his years on the team, including his senior season he shared with football.
Repucci has been practicing a lot this summer, usually by himself off of a tee, because his older brother, Andre, who used to hold the ball for him, is in Thailand.
Andre also played four years of soccer at Ursuline, two of them under his coaching father, then attended Kent State and now is at Youngstown State majoring in business.
Repucci said Andre "is actually in the entertainment business. He is an actor/model in Bangkok, Thailand, [and is there] with his mother [Yoi]. He is studying the language and wants to get into movies."