Anthony Fera arrived in Happy Valley from the deep heart of Texas and seemingly headed straight to the head of the line for the Nittany Lions kicking duties.
No kicker had ever arrived on campus with more hype than the kid out of the Houston suburbs.
Not Chris Bahr, not Matt Bahr, not even Robbie Gould.
But a funny thing happened to Fera on the way to college football immortality.
He missed his first kick.
Not by a little either.
Fera’s first extra point try in last spring’s Blue-White game was wide left. Tiger Woods two fairways over wide left. So wide left that it missed the netting behind the south end zone goal post and crash landed in the student section. Wide left like you might kick it.
His second kick wasn’t much better.
Another extra point miss.
Fera’s hat trick of misfortune ended with a missed field goal that had the freshman staring for a very long time into the blue and white sky and wondering if he had packed his talent in his bags on the way out of Texas.
Fera disappeared from view after that April afternoon. He was quietly red shirted not long after and spent the rest of the 2009 season trying to figure out how to kick again.
Reports indicate that Fera has found at least a little something this fall. Teammates report that Fera has hit more than a handful of 60 yard field goals in practice and has been working on the hang time of his punts.
According to a depth chart released by the athletic department Fera has beaten out a handful of other, virtually unknown, candidates to win the starting punting job.
One time walk on Colin Wanger will handle what was supposed to be Fera’s job of place kicker. While not possessed of a cannon leg, Wagner split the uprights in the dying seconds of January’s Capital One Bowl in Orlando to pull a 19-17 win over LSU out of the muck of the Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando.
Wagner is more on par with the Bahr brothers in terms of range and slightly less in distance. Both of soccer legend Walt Bahr’s sons were lethally accurate inside of 50 yards but a real stretch at 50 or beyond. It wasn’t enough to keep either out of the NFL for more than a decade each.
Fera poses an interesting problem for a Nittany Lion team with more question marks than “The Riddler” uniform in the old Batman TV series.
Is he the next David Kimball, a kid with a leg so strong that his kickoffs routinely landed in the band? The same Kimball who missed a 71 yard field goal in the dying seconds of a game against Ohio State that missed a school record and immortality by less than the width of this article? But also the same kid that couldn’t get it between the uprights more than half the time and couldn’t wait to quit?
Or is Fera the next Robbie Gould? Gould was Kimball’s backup and a somewhat serviceable kicker who spent part of a year after graduation being tutored by Mike Vanderjagt before landing with the Chicago Bears and kicking them to a Super Bowl.
This season is liable to be the most unusual and fraught with peril seasons that Paterno has seen in a very long time. The team is going to have to count on the unproven and, yes, sometimes the unworthy if Paterno and company are headed somewhere warm for the holidays again.
Could Anthony Fera still leave his mark on a game after a less than memorable April day in Beaver Stadium?