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, 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 among Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
The last time the Black Bears faced a bowl-eligible team ranked among the nation’s top 20 was 2008, and they lost 46-3 to Iowa. Kicker Bryan Harvey accounted for all of Maine’s points.
Decloux is the kicker who replaced an injured Harvey after four games of 2012, and the freshman wound up leading UMaine in scoring despite playing only seven games. He made seven of 10 field goal attempts and was 24 of 25 on PATs.
This season, Decloux is four of five in field goals and 10 of 10 on PAT. On Saturday, he may be Maine’s most effective scoring weapon.
“He’s way further along than any kicker we’ve ever brought in,” said Coach Jack Cosgrove,.
It’s not simply that Decloux, a native of Ottawa, Ontario, 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 Rideau Canal.
“It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I started playing football,” he said. “My high school in Ottawa had a pretty strong football reputation. The coaches knew I had a pretty good leg, so they wanted to see me kick.”
By his junior year, Decloux knew he wanted to continue kicking in college. A friend, Eli Ankou, was being recruited not just by UCLA but by a 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. The school record, set in 1975, is 52 yards by Jack Leggett, a Cosgrove teammate who now is Clemson’s 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 against UMass.
When Decloux arrived in Orono last fall, he weighed 169 pounds. He’s added 24 more.
“He really bought into the weight room,” Cosgrove said. “Very hard working.”
And smart. Decloux’s favorite subjects are calculus and physics. Growing up near Quebec, Decloux also learned French and speaks that language with linebacker Christophe Mulumba, who grew up in Montreal.
Decloux hopes to play professionally, whether in the NFL or the Canadian Football League, 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 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.”
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: