ORONO — Jeffrey Ondish and Sean Decloux are the “team clowns.”

Ondish jokes that their fellow University of Maine football players don’t even know their names, just calling them “kicker” and “punter.”

“We don’t have names on the football field. Not until we do something bad,” Ondish said.

“A lot of guys, they have to focus up for the positions that they play. They have to get mean. They have to be someone who they’re not sometimes when they step out onto the football field. Me and Sean, we’ve found that it works best for us when we’re just loose, we’re making jokes with each other on the sideline. It keeps our mind off of the pressure of making a crucial kick.”

Don’t let the frivolity fool you, though. When Maine opens its season Aug. 30 against Norfolk State, there will be question marks throughout its offensive lineup. Decloux and Ondish are exclamation points, providing the best tandem of kicker and punter since Jack Cosgrove became head coach 22 years ago.

Ondish is a senior entering his third year as the starter. He averaged 40.4 yards per punt last season, with 10 of 50 yards or more.


Decloux is a junior who was named to the preseason all-Colonial Athletic Association team after scoring 93 points last season, making 16 of 21 field-goal attempts.

They are two big reasons why Maine ranked second in the conference in special teams last year, up from 11th the previous fall. And they give Cosgrove some peace of mind heading into Saturdays this year with an untested offense that figures to be involved in a lot of close games.

“If we’re not able to get seven, you’ve got to get three,” Cosgrove said. “And having a punter who’s consistent is such a big part of the game. We want to make (opponents) go 95 yards against our defense. We want to be a smart field-position football team as we grow our offense.”

Decloux and Ondish are good friends, constantly having to find ways to occupy themselves on the sideline during long practice sessions. To preserve their legs for Saturday, the amount of kicking they do in a week is limited. So they spend 30 minutes a day working on strength and conditioning, what Ondish refers to as “jailyard” workouts including biceps curls, pushups and situps. Decloux helps Ondish practice receiving snaps.

And they do a fair amount of joking around. Each claims to be the funnier one.

“We have to find busy work so we don’t get yelled at,” Decloux said. “We definitely keep our eye out for when Coach is getting close to us and make sure we’re doing something.”


Both kickers came to Maine because it was their only Division I option. Cosgrove said recruiting such specialists to Orono is problematic, since the weather turns cold by mid-October and makes the conditions unfavorable for booting a football long distances.

Ondish, from Maryland, was spotted at a kicking camp in New Jersey. He had also played linebacker and wide receiver at his high school in Elkton until his coach sat him down and said punting was his likeliest ticket to a college scholarship.

He has always been able to kick a football a long ways, but concentrates more on hang time and directional punting these days. His ideal punt is 50 yards with a five-second hang time.

“You want to just put the ball where the guys can make a play. You don’t want to be selfish and hit the ball 60 yard down the field and get your punting average up, when you outkick your coverage and they run the ball back 30 yards,” Ondish said.

“Punters get overlooked a lot. And in the game of football it is crucial to win field position. To be able to switch fields, to put the other team back inside its 20, it’s huge for our team.”

Cosgrove remembers Ondish’s first punt as a freshman, at James Madison. It sailed sideways and landed on the track surrounding the field. It was not a good debut for someone playing a position that Cosgrove has little patience for to begin with.


“I have a tendency to be easily aggravated by kickers and punters, simply because they do a lot less,” Cosgrove admitted. “Ondish, he’s really kind of matured tremendously for us in the last couple years. I think both of us have taken our own dosage of patience pills with each other. Jeff and I are able now to joke about some of those events.

“He has the ability to be the best punter in the league.”

Decloux grew up in Ottawa playing every sport except football. He was introduced to it at age 16, and a year later he gave up a promising soccer career to concentrate on this new sport.

He spent his senior year of high school at Red Lion Christian Academy in Delaware, a football powerhouse that travels the East Coast in search of quality opponents. He booted a 52-yard field goal in a game in Florida. He started to get a little interest from colleges, but Maine was his only full Division I scholarship offer.

He was pressed into service in the third game of his freshman season when Brian Harvey pulled a groin muscle in pregame warmups. The game happened to be at Delaware, with plenty of former prep school teammates in the stands.

Decloux said he felt no nerves. He made seven of 10 field-goal attempts that season, but wasn’t happy with the height on his kickoffs.


He improved in both areas last year.

When asked his goals for this season, he had a ready answer: To make at least 80 percent of his field goals, average 63 yards on his kickoffs and have more than 10 touchbacks.

Decloux said he isn’t thinking about an NFL career just yet. But he also said, given two more years at Maine, he could be ready to take that step.

He is driven.

“The kid’s got a special calmness about him. He really has an intensity about him to be perfect,” Cosgrove said.

Case in point: The Black Bears ran a two-minute drill at the end of practice Wednesday, moving into field-goal range. Decloux missed it, then had all night to stew over it.

On Thursday, he made all six of his attempts.

“The biggest thing is the mental. They say the hardest kick to make is the one just after you miss,” Decloux said. “So when I do miss, because it will happen, I’ll be better prepared to hit the next one. I’m working on remaining level, no matter how my last kick was.”

No joking.

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