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BC walk-on kicker Joey Launceford earns chance, scholarship

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Joey Launceford was summoned to Boston College coach Steve Addazio’s office Monday afternoon, and at first the senior walk-on didn’t think much of it.

But as he waited outside the head coach’s office, he watched associate athletic director Barry Gallup and the school’s compliance director walk in ahead of him. That started the Seattle native’s pulse racing.

“I started getting a little nervous, and I thought maybe this was actually happening for me,” Launceford said Tuesday.

After “a really awesome couple of days” in which Launceford went from reserve to his first game action in four years with the Eagles -- with his family in the stands, he kicked two field goals and three extra points in the 30-7 win over UMass at Gillette Stadium -- Addazio awarded the senior a scholarship. Addazio thanked him for his hard work, both on and off the field, and told him to go celebrate with family members, who were in town by chance because his younger sister, Megan, happened to be going abroad, and her flight left from Boston.

And, Addazio said, send in Jeffrey Jay on your way out.

“I saw Jeff sitting there, and I couldn’t even look at him,” Launceford said. “I was just like, ‘Jeff, head on in.’”

Addazio said he was thrilled to be able to offer scholarships to Launceford and Jay.

“Those are guys that have earned starting roles on our team,” Addazio said. “They’ve been Model A guys in our program. They work really hard, they’re really good students, they’re great BC guys. It’s a great opportunity for your guys to earn a scholarship and show that if you come out and walk on, things can be earned. I’m really excited about it.”

So is Launceford, who joined the team in 2011, when he came east to study economics and theology at BC. He’s spent the past three seasons on the sidelines, watching and learning from Nate Freese.

“It’s been a hard, tough four years,” Launceford said. “I’ve learned a lot about discipline, a lot of lessons. It feels good to be recognized.

“It means a lot to me and my family. I mean, tuition is expensive here,” he said, which drew laughs from reporters. “It’s been a burden. I mean, it’s been worth it. It’s obviously been tough on [my parents], but they have been everything -- above and beyond supportive of me. And that is a major reason I’ve been able to keep a positive attitude, because of the support of my parents.”

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound senior, who spent time during training camp working as a defensive back on the scout team, has also had the support of his teammates. That includes fellow senior kicker Alex Howell, a scholarship player widely expected to take over for Freese after the latter graduated and got drafted by the Detroit Lions.

“He’s been unbelievable,” Launceford said of Howell. “Some people would be like, ‘He’s taking reps from me.’ [But] he’s been above and beyond supportive of me [and] helping me out.”

For the time being, the two are splitting the place-kicking duties, with Launceford taking the short-range kicks and Howell taking the long-range kicks. Howell was 1-for-2 on kicks against the Minutemen and missed a 44-yarder to end the first half.

“To me, it doesn’t matter,” Howell said of the job share. “As long as the kicks are made, it helps the team out, and he’s done a great job. The objective is to make the kick.”

Launceford didn’t start taking live reps in practice until early last week. He did well, and the coaches gave him more and more chances. Then on Thursday they told him to be ready because he’d likely have a role to play in Saturday’s game.

He admitted there were nerves before his first kick against UMass. After all, he hadn’t kicked in a game since he was a senior at Seattle’s O’Dea High School.

During the week, Launceford exchanged messages with Freese. The pro told his former teammate, “Just get through the first one.”

Then in pregame warm-ups, Launceford pulled one of his kicks hard left. He didn’t miss, he was quick to note, but he almost missed.

A few words from one of the team’s captains helped steady those nerves.

“He came up to me and said, ‘Everyone on this team is rooting for you right now. You should be so confident. We all want you to do well, and we know you can,’” Launceford said. “And I kinda got up there and just said, ‘You know what? I’ve done this kick in practice, and they all believe in me.’ That’s kind of how I approached each kick.”

After the game, Launceford checked his phone and saw he had a message from someone who’d been in his shoes before.

It was from Freese, who said, “You got through your first one. Good job.”

Now all the new scholarship kicker has to do is keep it up, starting Friday against Pittsburgh (7 p.m. ET on ESPN).

“[Monday] was an awesome day," he said. "I celebrated, but at the end of the day I also had to realize that I’ll be kicking on Friday, so I need to also come back down to earth. The coaches have confidence in me -- they just showed it in a big way. So I need to step up and don’t let them down.

“The confidence they showed me is only helping my confidence. I don’t feel pressure or anything. I just feel a responsibility, but a healthy responsibility. This is my job now, and I’m gonna do it well.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.