DeKALB – Andrew Gantz had interest and offers from multiple high-major football programs.
But after visiting Northern Illinois in December, the former University of Cincinnati kicker knew he had found his future home.
“When I came to NIU, I called my dad the first night here and told him it’s the perfect fit,” Gantz said. “It’s a great environment here. They treat everybody the same way. I’m still a football player, not just a kicker, I get that mentality here. Everyone is an equal teammate.”
Gantz – a Dayton, Ohio, native – comes to NIU as a graduate transfer with plenty of experience. He’s a two-time All-American Athletic Conference second-team selection and a two-time Lou Groza Award semifinalist for the nation’s best kicker.
He has one year of eligibility remaining, and Gantz said that Huskies coach Rod Carey expects him to make an immediate contribution next season with NIU losing senior kicker Christian Hagan to graduation.
“As soon as I talked to (special teams coach) Dan Sabock and coach Rod Carey, I realized this was a place for me,” Gantz said. “As a seasoned guy, I learned the business of college football. There were things I went through last year that shouldn’t be part of the football world.
“Once I came to NIU, I didn’t need to take visits anywhere else. It was a done deal.”
Gantz announced his decision to transfer to NIU on Twitter on Monday evening.
Carey did not respond to interview requests.
After stellar freshman and sophomore seasons, Gantz faced setbacks as a junior in 2016. He suffered a hip injury during training camp and was limited to only two games before reinjuring his hip during warm-ups. He was granted a medical redshirt after his junior year.
This past season was more of the same for Gantz. He played in Cincinnati’s first two games before being sidelined for the rest of the year with a groin injury. Gantz said, however, he was healthy and could have played the last half of the 2017 season.
“I’ve felt good for a while now,” he said. “I could’ve played my last few weeks, but Cincinnati didn’t play me – that’s part of the reason why I was looking for other options to play.”
Gantz said over the final eight weeks of the 2017 season, he made 100 of 109 field goals in practice. He said, during that stretch, he hit multiple attempts from 57 and 58 yards.
“That’s when I wasn’t even 100 percent,” Gantz said.
In four seasons at Cincinnati, Gantz appeared in 29 games, making 39 of 50 field goals with a career long of 51 yards. In 2015, he had 85 kickoffs with a 62.8-yard average, including 31 touchbacks.
“I honestly feel great now,” Gantz said. “In football, there’s always going to be nicks and bruises. Unfortunately, I had some injuries that derailed my upward path of success.”
Gantz’s first career game was against NIU MAC foe Toledo on Sept. 12, 2014. The Bearcats defeated the Rockets, 58-34. Gantz finished with seven PATS and a 34-yard field goal.
“Beating Toledo in my first-ever game was awesome. It was the best day of my life,” Gantz said.
Gantz graduated from Cincinnati with a degree in sports management and is enrolled at NIU this semester pursuing his master’s in sports management.
“I moved to DeKalb last week and class starts tomorrow,” Gantz said. “I feel great and I’m ready to get this ball rolling.”