BC kicker Freese ready for redemption

NEWTON, Mass. -- The heat of the spotlight can impart very different feelings in those it falls on. It can make one warm with pride and it can make one burn with shame.

Nate Freese knows that all too well.

A year ago this week, the Eagles' junior place-kicker had what he lives for: a chance to win a game for BC with his powerful right leg.

With 43 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles faced a fourth down on the 5-yard line. Trailing Duke 20-19, they called on the kicker who had been almost perfect as a freshman the previous season (22-for-25 on field goals).

The snap was good, the hold was true and the kick ... hit the left upright, bouncing harmlessly away as the Blue Devils celebrated.

It was the second time in the game Freese found an upright; he clanged an extra-point attempt off the right upright earlier that afternoon.

"Obviously he was crushed after it happened," senior left tackle Emmett Cleary said. "It was his chance to win us a game and he didn't come through. But that's part of just what the fans see -- I missed blocks in the game, [Luke] Kuechly missed tackles in that game. Everybody loses as a team.

"We knew and he knew, frankly, that we needed him to win us games afterwards and he did. He ended up having a pretty good year and he's been excellent this year."

Freese is 5-for-5 on field goal attempts and 7-for-7 on extra points so far as a junior, and says that while he still thinks about the miss against Duke he doesn't let it affect him negatively anymore.

"Obviously I was pretty bummed about it," he said before practice Wednesday. "I let it affect me for a little while but the next morning I got up and said 'You know, it's in the past.'"

Freese said it's important to have a short memory, to not get too high or too low, in his job.

"Good or bad I kind of put the game behind me and kind of look forward to the next week," he said. "[That] Sunday I just was like, 'You know, it's one game. It's over with. I'm done with it. I'm gonna move on and put it behind me and learn from it. Try to make myself better from it.'"

His teammates had his back then, and they have it now.

"Nate's a tough kid," senior linebacker Nick Clancy said. "Everyone was disappointed when it first happened, but I know the first thing I said to him was keep your head up.

"He's worked his butt of this offseason and he's not gonna put himself in a situation where he's gonna miss another field goal. He's definitely bounced back from the Duke game last season."

Freese knows he plays a position that has no room for error.

"The fact is that specialists -- long-snapper, holder, kicker, punter -- we have to do it perfect every time," he said. "There's no messing up. We have maybe one chance a game, maybe we have three chances a game. But each time we have to be perfect or the game could be decided from that."

There is a unique fraternity among kickers, one fostered by the special pressures and circumstances (common coaches many kickers use, a small number of kickers overall) of the position. When a kicker misses in a big spot, it's likely he'll hear from others who have been in the same shoes.

Freese said he heard from other kickers after the Duke game. And he said he's trying to reach out to Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, who missed four kicks in the Nittany Lions' 17-16 loss to Virginia last week.

While Freese has moved on from the heartbreaking misses against Duke, which contributed to the team's 0-3 start in a season it would finish 4-8, he may never forget it.

When he was asked Wednesday if he'd like another chance like the one he had against the Blue Devils, game on the line, time ticking down, he allowed himself a small smile.

"I mean, if it happens it happens," he said. "I would rather win 50-nothing, obviously, but if need be it'd be great. I play for times like that. I think everyone does. Everyone wants to make that winning throw, the winning catch, the winning interception."

Or the winning kick.

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