In two weeks, Anthony Fera has all but silenced the talk about Penn State’s special teams woes. The redshirt sophomore went 1-for-1 against Eastern Michigan and then 3-for-4 against Indiana on Saturday, his lone miss coming from 52 yards away and into the wind. On Monday, Fera was honored as the Big Ten’s special teams player of the week.
After Evan Lewis, a converted-wide receiver, started the season 1-for-5 in field goal attempts in the first three games, the coaches decided to replace him with Fera, already the team’s starting punter. When Fera started against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 24, he became the first player to kick field goals and extra points, punt and perform kickoffs for Penn State since Chris Bahr in his senior season in 1975.
“I thought he did well," coach Joe Paterno said on Tuesday. "I think he just needs to get a little bit more confidence in his ability 'cause he's got a lot of ability. He's got a good leg … He should feel good about himself.“
Flashback less than two months and Fera (Cypress, Texas) was working out at a local State College gym and kicking two or three days a week on his free time.
Rated the No. 2 kicker out of high school by both scout.com and rivals.com, Fera probably would have been Penn State’s kicker at the start of this season. However, he was suspended for preseason practices after he was cited over the summer for purchase of alcohol by a minor and disorderly conduct, his second alcohol-related offense since arriving at Penn State in 2009.
“Basically, I just had to wait for Joe to call me,” Fera said. “So I got a call from Joe, he told me what my punishment was, and I just had to man up and take the punishment as it was and not argue with it and just come back when they allowed me to.”
"I try not to overreact but yet to make sure that both he and the rest of the squad understand there are certain things that we just can't tolerate, not only for the good of the squad but more importantly for his own good," Paterno said.
Paterno allowed Fera to rejoin the team during the first week of the fall semester as it prepared for its season opener against Indiana State. Fera did not play in that game, but saw his first action the following week in the team’s 27-11 loss to Alabama.
Against the Crimson Tide, Fera kicked off twice and punted three times, sharing the punting duties with Alex Butterworth. He finally regained sole possession of the punting job – which was his last season – against Temple on Sept. 17 before kicking his first field goal as a Nittany Lion against Eastern Michigan.
Fera, who was born in Northeast Philadelphia and moved to the Houston area when he was about five-years old, said the hardest part of handling all his duties is making sure he doesn’t kick too much and tire his leg. He said he punts at Monday’s practice, kicks field goals at Tuesday’s and does both, plus kickoffs, on Thursdays
Fera is fourth in the Big Ten with a 43.6 average on punts, with three longer than 50 yards, and is off to a 4-for-5 start on field goals. He didn’t seem interested in going too in depth about his off-the-field trouble over the summer and said he is concentrating on the future, which in this case is Saturday's game against the 3-1 Iowa Hawkeyes.
“You’ve just got to learn from the past. Just focus on the future and hopefully everything works out the way you want it to,” Fera said. “Everything’s worked out so far.”