by Pat Turner, goUTSA.com contributing writer
SAN ANTONIO — A whole new world opened for Sean Ianno during his senior year at Pflugerville High School.
Although soccer had been Ianno’s sport, the football team needed a kicker for the upcoming season. Ianno had no experience, but he had the strongest leg on the soccer team, which made him the ideal candidate.
After being encouraged by Pflugerville coaches, Ianno decided to put his best foot forward and see what would happen.
What happened was the birth of a dependable place-kicker.
He was exactly what Pflugerville needed with accuracy on extra points and field goals. Since the brief, but impressive high school campaign, Ianno has been just as reliable on a bigger stage while becoming UTSA’s career scoring leader.
Going into Saturday’s season finale with Louisiana Tech, Ianno has totaled 174 points by connecting on all 87 of his extra-point attempts and another 29 field goals during his three-year career, including 35 PATs and eight three-pointers this season.
The best thing about the situation is Ianno has a chance to do even more.
“Kicking here has been cool, but it’s not the end of the road” Ianno said. “I’m not done yet. We still have more games this season and then I have another year. Hopefully, there will be more years after that. We’ll see how it goes. I want to keep working and try to be the best I can be and see if it takes me somewhere.”
Ianno already has come a long way.
Making the move from kicking a soccer ball to booting the pigskin wasn’t an easy transition, especially for someone who had never been around football. Ianno just did whatever he needed to succeed.
Going through spring training at Pflugerville was a good way to ease into the situation. However, the biggest lift came during the summer while attending Chris Shaw’s Kick Nation camp.
That’s when Ianno’s life as a kicker grew.
“At first, I was doing it just to do it,” he said. “I knew I had a strong leg, but I didn’t know how much went into it and how much consistency was needed. I went to a few camps, but Chris’ was the one that stood out. I stuck with his teaching and form because I like the methods he uses. He’s all about focus and quality reps over quantity. The key to getting better is repetition, doing things over and over.”
As Ianno found his groove, he started thinking about carrying his fancy footwork to college. Being a newcomer to football meant he wasn’t well-known, so he had to do a little extra leg work to get his name out there.
His father sent highlight videos to several colleges and a few nibbles came from out-of-state schools, but the offers were only partial scholarships. Then, Ianno heard about UTSA starting its program and a new opportunity surfaced.
“It was the perfect time to come here,” he said. “I was in the first tryout right after we started practices in 2010 and everything worked out.”
Head coach Larry Coker knew the Roadrunners had a reliable kicker when Ianno showed up for tryouts as a walk-on and, after the first year of competition, Ianno made a big enough impression to earn a scholarship.
“Sean has some special skills,” Coker said. “He gets dynamic height off the ball and is very accurate. I think he’s an outstanding kicker.”
In addition to being perfect on all his extra points, Ianno has enjoyed other highlights.
The one that stands out came at last year’s season opener at South Alabama when he kicked four field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder with 16 seconds remaining to give the Roadrunners a 33-31 victory, which was the program’s first-ever Football Bowl Subdivision and road victory.
In addition to the points, Ianno is sharp on kickoffs with improved hang-time and distance.
The main thing he’s learned about kicking in college is to stay focused and humble. After all, at this level a kicker only is as good as his last kick. The good times can leave quickly, something Ianno found out in earlier this season in losses to Houston and Rice.
After that tough two-game stretch, Ianno wanted to right the previous wrongs. In practice, he went through game-type situations where he attempted field goals from the missed distances, but the biggest impact came from getting in touch with Shaw during the bye week.
“I was struggling, especially at home for some reason,” Ianno said. “Chris was actually at a game and I sent him some film. He called me back and told me what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t focusing in practice. You do it so long sometimes you go through the motions. We made the corrections and I had a couple days to work on it. I became more focused.”
It has worked, as Ianno’s kickoffs were sharper following the bye week against UAB and his 30-yard attempt was on the money with room to spare. After connecting on all four of his extra points and a pair of field goals and recording three touchbacks the following week at Tulsa, he booted the third game-winning field goal of his career, a 34-yarder, in the last home game against Tulane and was named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
“I have felt a lot better in pregame and amazing during the last month,” he said. “I've been very satisfied with my field goal and extra point kicking and I'm also happy with my kickoffs. I've done exactly what I wanted the last few games.”
Now, Ianno wants to do more.
“I’m not satisfied with I have done so far,” he said. “I’m still working every day to get better. At this level, there are two things you have to do. You have to stay focused and humble. Those are two big things for me.”