COLUMN: Meet Kanon Woodill, NIU’s new hero

NIU fans were introduced to the freshman kicker with a game-winning field goal against CMU

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Courtesy of CMU Athletics

Freshman kicker Kanon Woodill kicks a field goal against CMU on Oct. 23. Woodill, starting in his first career game on short notice, went three-for-three and made the game winning field goal with NIU’s 39-38 win.

James Krause, Sports Editor

Head coach Thomas Hammock couldn’t watch, opting instead to stare at the ground and let the noise at Kelly/Shorts Stadium tell him what happened.

With the game on the line against the Central Michigan University Chippewas, NIU had to rely on freshman kicker Kanon Woodill to put them ahead with 54 seconds left and complete an 18-point comeback. 

Just as he had twice prior Saturday, Woodill’s kick was good, and Hammock breathed a sigh of relief.

“(Woodill) did a great job,” Hammock said. “We talk about the next man up at all positions. We had complete confidence in him. We talked about it Friday that we don’t recruit players not to play. We recruit players with the intention that they are going to play and whenever their number is called, be ready to step up.”

When a botched snap on an ensuing Chippewa field goal attempted finalized NIU’s 39-38 victory Saturday, the question on the mind of outsiders was how a team that went from 0-6 in a COVID-19 shortened season to bowl eligible and atop the Mid-American Conference.

For NIU fans, there was another question. Who the hell is Kanon Woodill?

“Hardworking,” Woodill said. “A work in progress, that’s for sure. I like to think I’m humble, a team player, and always trying to get better.”

On top of being hardworking and self-aware, Woodill is confident. After kicking the game winner, Woodill led a post-game chant and was hoisted by his teammates during a post-game celebration

“I had a teammate come up to me and say, ‘Hey man, whatever happens here, I’ll still love you,’” Woodill said. “I was like, ‘Perfect, but like…let’s not think like that.’ I was trying to be present in the moment as much as possible.”

Woodill’s confidence under pressure is especially impressive when taking into account, he had only one offer to kick in college. Originally scouted by the University of Pennsylvania, Woodill’s kicking coach and former NIU kicker Chris Nendick helped Woodill get an opportunity at NIU. 

Woodill was thrust into the starting kicker position after the team learned Thursday that redshirt sophomore kicker John Richardson would be unable to make the trip to Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The Plainfield North graduate Woodill moved into action almost instantly.

“Honestly, it was kind of a shock,” Woodill said. “For me to be notified on Thursday, I was very much like ‘Okay, I’ve got to get ready.’ I remember going straight from class to the facility to make sure my gear was ready, my itinerary set, making sure my parents could get out to the game if they could.”

Woodill went three-for-three, earning himself the MAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. An unknown when the sun rose Saturday, now every NIU fan knows of Woodill. Similarly, NIU entered non-conference play an unknown and now sits as the leaders of the MAC.