Still kicking: Demos gets his shot with the Nebraska Danger

Sarah Kuta

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Stefan Demos said he remembers the agony of his senior season at Northwestern. The 5-foot-10-inch kicker could barely walk, let alone kick a football, because of the intense pain he felt in his hip. He decided to play through the pain and forgo season-ending surgery.

Now he has the chance to get back on the field, pain free. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native signed a contract with the Nebraska Danger, an Indoor Football League team in Grand Island, Neb., in early January and will compete for the starting kicker job during training camp. The Danger starts its second season in February after going 2-11 in its first year of competition.

Five days after the Wildcats lost to Texas Tech in the Ticket City Bowl, Demos’ last collegiate game, he went under the knife. During surgery, doctors found that scar tissue from an earlier operation had calcified and created extra bone in his hip joint. Each time Demos lifted his leg to kick, the newly-formed bone pinched his muscle.

“Every time I kicked felt like I was getting stabbed,” he said.

Demos tried to keep his pain secret, taking cortisone shots before each game and spending hours in physical therapy. When he missed extra points or field goals – Demos missed four extra points and seven field goals on the season – fans were hard on him. His senior season was not what he had envisioned, but coach Pat Fitzgerald stood behind him.

“Stefan has worked extremely hard to put himself in a position to kick at the professional level,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s had to overcome some challenging injuries, but that seems to be behind him. When healthy, he is an excellent kicker. We wish him the best with the Danger.”

After recovering from the surgery, Demos was invited to work out with the Chicago Bears, though nothing came of his time with the team. Since then he’s been training with free-agent kickers in Arizona.

Though he said he has dreamed of playing in the NFL since high school, recently he said he has come to the realization that if he wants to play football, he may have to give up that goal.

“I’m going into (the Danger) trying to help the team out as much as I can,” he said. “Everyone dreams of playing in the NFL and I’m no different, but I’ve been trying for a little over a year, and you realize how tough of an industry it is to get into. It’s a great experience and opportunity to play professional football, and if it leads to something else, great. But I’m not going into the season saying I already want to leave.”

Danger coach Mike Davis said often, making the transition from outdoor to indoor football can improve kickers’ accuracy. Because they are less worried about kicking the ball as hard as possible, they are able to focus on launch point and trajectory, he said, which helps to make them “all-around” better kickers.

“I expect him to come in here and be the man,” Davis said.

Demos will make the 20-hour drive from Scottsdale to Grand Island in the middle of February. He has already done his research on his new home of 44,000 people in central Nebraska.

Though NU upset Nebraska this past season, Demos said he is not concerned about living in Husker territory. In his mind, playing in Grand Island will be similar to playing in Evanston, where local fans are invested in their hometown teams.

“I’m actually really excited,” he said. “That small-town feel-to have that as a team, you can develop a relationship with the fans and get them interested in the team.”