By Bob Sutton
Special to The Alamance News
Elon’s football program has benefited from what coach Tony Trisciani and others have called a unique situation. The Phoenix basically has a hometown kicking and punting coach.
Add to that kicker Skyler Davis, who wrapped up his career this fall with unprecedented accolades for Elon.
Special teams assistant Mike Nall, who has deep ties to local high schools, said he became the beneficiary of Davis’ kicking the past few seasons.
“The great thing about Skyler, you’ve got to develop that trust,” Nall said. “Really from the very start, I’ve developed a good rapport. It was a transitioned thing, a slow process.”
Davis was named an Associated Press first-team All-American in the Football Championship Subdivision. That was one of several All-American distinctions coming his way in recent weeks.
“We’re probably one of the only schools in the nation to have an actual kicking coach that knows what he’s talking about out here every single day working with all the specialists,” Davis said. “It’s so nice to have him here. I wouldn’t be half the kicker I am now.”
Davis was 18-for-22 on field goals, including 7-for-8 from 50-plus yards. The field goals of at least 50 yards ties the single-season FCS record that hadn’t been reached in almost 40 years.
Nall, a three-sport letter-man at Cummings, is in his second go-around with the Elon program. He coached at Williams High School before a stint with the Phoenix from 2006-08. He spent a few seasons with Cummings before rejoining Elon in 2019.
“We’re really fortunate to have someone right here who can coach these specialists,” Trisciani said. “That’s just not something most teams have. At some places, the specialists are off on (another practice field) and doing their own thing. With Mike, we have someone over there working with them.”
Davis, an avid weight lifter, increased his kicking distance several yards from a few seasons ago.
“It’s nice to have talent to work with,” Nall said. “He has continued to fine tune his skills. A student of the game. He adjusts to the situations. What it comes down to, Skyler focuses on the process when he makes kicks.
“He doesn’t care where it is, he goes about it the same way. The bigger the situation, he’s bullet proof. He has a real good approach to what he does. He’s so strong-willed, so strong-minded.”
Davis also credits Nick DiMarco, director of sports performance, for guiding him to add strength. Among his boots was a school-record 53-yarder this season.
“That one has been built up for a while because it was the longest one ever in Elon history,” Davis said. “It was also the (Elon) scoring record.”
Davis was a five-year starter, beating out Owen Johnson who had been the primary kicker in 2017. Meanwhile, Christian Van Sickle moved out and has been the starter at Rice as a graduate transfer and led the 2022 Owls in scoring. Van Sickle played 16 games at Elon, including limited time in 2017 as place kicker.
So Davis said he was determined to make the most of his opportunity.
“I just put my head down,” he said. “I’m in here to play. I got to make the opportunity. … I got the technique from Mike Nall. Working with him helps a lot.”
Nall returned for Davis’ second season with the Phoenix.
“It’s a lot different. It’s a lot more organized. I feel we have a good group of guys. We want to get better. We’re working with Mike Nall,” Davis said. “Having Mike Nall right there to say, ‘Hey, maybe try this. Try that.’ Now I’m back in the swing of things. With him, there’s always another guy I can talk to.”
Davis had a YouTube video of a trick spin kick go viral during the pandemic. ESPN contacted him about the video.
“I got my 15 seconds of fame,” he said. “It blew up and got a lot of views.”
But Davis, who stands 5-foot-8, decided to concentrate on traditional kicking rather than the trick maneuvers. He played his final college season with a marketing degree while pursuing a master’s in business administration.
Davis joined senior linebacker/defensive back Marcus Hillman as an AP first-team All-American, giving Elon two first teamers in the same season for the first time. The Phoenix had an 8-4 record with a first-round exit in the FCS playoffs.