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Upton’s Neri Gets his Kicks at Bridgewater State

It started out as a joke. Bridgewater State senior and soccer standout Colin Neri was working for had football coach Chuck Denune in the school's fitness center and the coach needed some help on special teams. "I'd tell Colin 'when you're done playing soccer, you'd better come kick for me,'" Denune said.
One day after soccer season had ended, Neri asked Denune if he could borrow a bag of footballs. He didn't return them right away. Instead, he went over to the turf field at Milford High and practiced kicking the more elongated ball until he became one of the best kickers in the MASCAC.
"I knew he could kick off for us when I saw how far he could kick the ball," Denune said. "What I didn't expect is that he would learn how to kick field goals or PATs so quickly. He should have been all-league as a kicker and it's a travesty he wasn't. He was by far the best kicker in our league."
Neri connected on seven of 10 field goal attempts for the Bears in 2014. He made four kicks of more than 30 yards and was a near-perfect 25-for-26 on point-after tries. The Upton native and Nipmuc High grad averaged nearly 60 yards per kickoff with 14 touchbacks and even became the team's punter midway through the season - averaging 36 yards per punt on 19 attempts.
"The biggest challenge was dealing with the pressure," Neri said. "I tried not to be too overwhelmed with what was happening. It's difficult in a game situation with pads on, I had never even put on pads and a helmet before."
Neri's long field goal on the season was 44 yards, but Denune says he has seen his kicker hit from 60 in practice with the wind at his back. "He has been kicking a ball his entire life and he is rather good at it, all he needed to do was figure out where he needs to strike the ball," Denune said. "It took him some time, but he worked religiously at it. He was out on the field every day kicking 50 balls or more."
"With all the preparation, I got very comfortable kicking field goals," Neri said. "I got used to working with a snapper and a holder and got used to perfecting my steps and the way I approached the ball."
Neri was a three-sport athlete at Nipmuc, participating in soccer, winter track, and baseball. While he has no regrets about pursuing soccer at the collegiate level, he says he wishes he would have started place kicking a little sooner. "We won the league and got to the NCAA tournament and that's something I would never take away," he said. "But I think I could have gone further if I had more experience in football. It just came naturally to me through repetition and getting the strategy down. I also watched other kickers on TV and online to see how they do it."
The 23-year-old has one semester of varsity eligibility left. He says he plans on returning to Bridgewater State for graduate school and playing one more season with the football team. He also hasn't ruled out attempting to play football after college.
"Typically people see their biggest improvement from the first year to the second year, but I don't know how much room for improvement there is with him, he was that good," Denune said. "If he is able to come back next year, he will break records."
Even with all of the made kicks, Neri said he most memorable moments from the football season were when he got to hit someone. He made three tackles on kick returns, including two in one game. "In soccer, I was very aggressive and because of that I was called for fouls," he said. "On the football field, it's a different story."




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