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Walk-on gives BC a leg up

Aponavicius delivers the goods in his debut

Imagine you tinkered with playing the violin in your bedroom, but never actually performed in front of anybody. Then the Boston Symphony Orchestra calls, and your first concert is in front of sellout crowd of discerning music lovers.

Or suppose you have a knack for writing pithy sports musings in your journal, yet none had been published. Next thing you know, the Globe asks you to chronicle the Red Sox-Yankees weekend series -- on deadline, for thousands of readers.


Now you know how Boston College kicker Steve Aponavicius felt last night. He had never kicked a field goal, an extra point, or, for that matter, ever kicked off in a football game at any level. Not Pop Warner, not junior varsity, not high school, not even in intramurals. His résumé was one big, blank page.

And yet, there he was on a balmy Thursday evening, lining up with the Boston College Eagles, ready to take on No. 22 Virginia Tech on national television.

In other words, there he was, handling kicking duties for the biggest game of the season.

The page is no longer blank. Aponavicius capped off a magical evening at The Heights with a perfect kicking slate: 2 for 2 on field goals and 2 for 2 on PATs. On another night, in another situation, this would not be all that remarkable. After all, the headliner of BC's bone-crunching 22-3 victory over the Hokies was the Eagles' defense, which harassed Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon from goal post to goal post.

But it is a truly remarkable phenomenon when an athlete with absolutely no prior experience can step into a major college program and perform under pressure the way Aponavicius did.

``All of it was fun -- every minute of it," said Aponavicius, who was still beaming an hour after the game ended.

College kickers don't generate much attention, but Aponavicius has become a national curiosity. Pundits have dismissed him, even without a body of work to dissect, and others have embraced him just for the sheer joy of his story.

``I tried to drown out the people who said I couldn't do it, and listen to the ones who thought I could," he said.

Aponavicius added to his growing legend by drilling a 36-yard field goal with 9:11 remaining in the third quarter to give BC a 10-3 lead. It was a key kick at a key moment.

``I just ran out and gave it my best shot," he said. ``It looked like it was going toward the right post, but then it turned at the last second."

He added a 20-yard chip shot less than five minutes later to extend his team's advantage to 13-3. The Eagles never looked back, and neither did the rookie kicker.

He walked onto the team last season, but not before he enjoyed a cameo appearance on the team's highlight film as a frenzied ``super fan" whose chest was painted in the team's traditional maroon and gold.

The former football groupie, who was a soccer star at Easton (Pa.) High School, knew he had a good leg. He considered kicking in high school, but he couldn't play soccer and football, and there were two excellent kickers already on the football team.

``One of the guys [Brendan Pickel] kicks for Lockhaven now, and the other [Jonathon Boyer] kicks for Temple, who lost by 4,000 points tonight," cracked Aponavicius.

Last fall, the player coach Tom O'Brien has coined ``Sid Vicious" sauntered onto the field at Alumni Stadium and tested his luck with real uprights. He felt confident enough to become a regular on the field, hoping to be discovered.

One day, he was. Graduate assistant Jay Civetti strode across the field toward Aponavicius, and the kid began to retreat. He thought Civetti was coming to shoo him off the field. Instead, the coach informed him the team could use some depth at kicker, and maybe he should consider becoming a walk-on.

So now Boston College has its own Rudy, a kid who, against all odds, has talked (kicked?) his way onto the roster. Chances are none of us would know Aponavicius if Ryan Ohliger hadn't squandered his career by thumbing his nose at Boston College's off-the-field policies. His suspension left O'Brien looking around his locker room and weighing his options. There was true freshman Billy Flutie, nephew of Doug and Darren, who has kicked 48-yard field goals in practice, but the Eagles like his potential as a quarterback, too, so the plan is to redshirt him.

Aponavicius, wearing No. 83 (what's up with that, anyway?) looked understandably nervous in the minutes leading up to last night's game, but when it was time to take the field and kick off, he did so with authority, sending the ball all the way to the Virginia Tech 3-yard line in his first official act as an Eagle. His subsequent kicks were not nearly as impressive and he yielded field position to Virginia Tech that was a tad too favorable.

Yet, when his team needed him to deliver, he did.

The moment thirsty BC fans had been waiting for -- Sid's first career points -- came with 5:11 until halftime, shortly after Kevin Challenger hauled in one of his two touchdown catches.

You know what comes next. The extra point. Eagles fans know better than to take them for granted. Ohliger had missed three PATs this season.

Aponavicius put his head down and drilled the ball through.

As he jogged to the sideline, grinning, he was mobbed by his teammates as if he had just kicked the winning field goal.

Perhaps that opportunity will come. One of these weeks, it's possible the game could come down to the foot of a kid who used to paint maroon and gold on his chest, but now wears the colors proudly in the form of a real, bona fide football jersey.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is

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