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NIU kicker receives top preseason honor

DeKALB – After a successful first season at Northern Illinois, kicker Mike Salerno is starting to get noticed on a national level.

The senior was named to the Lou Groza Award watch list Wednesday. The annual award recognizes the top kicker in college football.

Salerno is one of 30 kickers on the list and, along with Toledo's Alex Steigerwald, is one of two names on the list from the Mid-American Conference.

"It's something I knew was coming up but like coach [Jerry] Kill has told me many times, the accolades you get before the season don't mean anything until you get through the season," Salerno said. "It's great to be on that list and it gets my name out there, but I'm trying to concentrate on the season."

He was 18-for-24 on field goals in 2008 and led the MAC with 16 touchbacks and a 64.9 yards/kickoff average. He was named to the all-MAC second team.

Salerno's field goals included a school-record tying 52-yard blast against Bowling Green, a game-winning, 30-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining in the same game and a 25-yard effort with 19 seconds on the clock to send the Central Michigan game to overtime.

He said he found out when his mom and dad both sent him text messages and called him with the news after practice Wednesday afternoon.

Salerno added that he believed what has helped him entering this season is his work with long snapper Nolan Owen and quarterback/holder Ryan Morris over the summer.

"[Wednesday], when we were working with coach Kill and we called the 2-minute drill we were spot on," Salerno said. "Last year we were very shaky in that."

The Award will be presented Dec. 10 on ESPN.

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