ORONO — Sean Decloux gets a kick out of travel.

Not so much for the food or the culture or the touristy sights and sounds. No, what Decloux, a sophomore civil engineering major at the University of Maine, likes most about traveling is the architecture. In particular, the architecture of football stadiums.

“The way the seats lie on top of each other, or the different entrances,” he said, “I really like seeing that.”

Decloux and his Black Bear teammates are on the road this weekend for the third time in four weeks. They’ll take a 3-0 record against similarly unbeaten Northwestern, ranked 16th in the country among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, for a Saturday afternoon game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill.

The last time the Black Bears faced a bowl-eligible team ranked among the top 20 in the country was 2008, and they lost 46-3 to Iowa. The only player who scored for Maine was kicker Bryan Harvey.

Decloux is the kicker who replaced an injured Harvey after four games of the 2012 season, and the freshman wound up leading the Black Bears in scoring despite playing only seven games. He converted 7 of 10 field goal attempts and was 24 of 25 on PATs.

In three games this season, Decloux is four of five in field goals and 10 of 10 on PAT kicks. On Saturday, he may be Maine’s most effective scoring weapon.

“He’s way further along,” said Maine head coach Jack Cosgrove, “than any kicker we’ve ever brought in.”

It’s not simply that Decloux, a native of Ottawa, has a strong leg. If the elapsed time from snap to hold to kick is 1.25 seconds or faster, then not even Usain Bolt coming off the edge should be able to block the kick.

“Decloux was doing that from Day 1,” Cosgrove said. “And now, we’re well under that, because (tight end Justin) Perillo and (quarterback Marcus) Wasilewski are outstanding at the snap and the hold.”

At 19, Decloux is a true sophomore. Growing up in Canada, he played soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball. In winter, he skated on the frozen Rideau Canal.

“It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I started playing football,” he said. “My high school in Ottawa (St. Peter Catholic High) had a pretty strong football reputation. The coaches knew I had a pretty good leg, so they wanted to see me kick.”

They also suggested Decloux play wide receiver, but he didn’t want to get injured for soccer or his other sports.

“So I just kicked,” he said. “Slowly but surely I started to love the kicking game.”

By his junior year, he knew he wanted to continue kicking in college. A good friend, Eli Ankou, had attended camps in New Jersey and was being recruited not just by UCLA (where Ankou is currently a 290-pound red-shirt freshman nose tackle) but for an unusual high school in Delaware called Red Lion Christian Academy, which offered football scholarships.

So Decloux joined Ankou and kicked for Red Lion as a high school senior. His longest field goal traveled 52 yards, in a crosswind to boot.

“I aimed it outside the uprights and it came back in,” Decloux said. “Yeah, I play golf.”

Decloux’s longest field goal with Maine is 41 yards, both last season against Georgia State and this season at Norfolk State. He missed from 45 last fall against New Hampshire.

The school record, set in 1975, is 52 yards by Jack Leggett, a Cosgrove teammate better known now as Clemson’s head baseball coach.

Decloux had other options for college, but chose Maine because Cosgrove offered the most scholarship money and Decloux said he wanted to help his mom as much as possible.

Mary Jane Decloux, whose husband Victor died when Sean was 13, drove from Ottawa to Norfolk, Va., for the opener, spent a week in Virginia and drove to Foxborough for the game at Gillette Stadium against the University of Massachusetts.

Decloux said neither of his parents was particularly athletic. His oldest brother Derek, now a dentist in Toronto, coached him in youth soccer. Another brother, Kevin, regularly dominated Sean in basketball and baseball until Sean turned 13 and started getting the upper hand.

When Decloux arrived in Orono last fall, he weighed 169 pounds. With regular visits to the weight room and dining halls, he added 24 more.

“He’s much stronger,” Cosgrove said. “He really bought into the weight room. Very hard-working. A real positive kid.”

And smart. Decloux said his favorite subjects are calculus and physics. The team’s only other civil engineering major is sophomore defensive end Joshua Ingalls, a Wells High graduate.

Growing up across the Ottawa River from Quebec, Decloux also learned French and often speaks that language with middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba, who grew up in Montreal.

Ultimately, Decloux hopes to play professionally, whether in the NFL or the CFL, whose rosters are mandated at 50 percent Canadian players.

Besides place kicking, Decloux handles kickoff duties, and his accuracy at sending the ball to a certain spot — between the sideline and the numbers, say — contributes to Maine’s success in kickoff coverage.

“It’s very important,” Cosgrove said, “because we scout teams and try to disrupt their planned return with our kick.”

The one thing Decloux has yet to do at Maine is attempt a game-winning kick.

“There have been kicks in the fourth quarter to come within a couple points of a team,” he said, “but never really to decide the game. Not yet.”

Clearly, by his smile of anticipation, Decloux relishes such an opportunity, part of the reason why he ditched round in favor of oblong.

“Soccer was fun, but I kind of like the pressure,” he said. “I like everything coming down to two or three seconds and, hopefully, making the most of it.”



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