Field goals are finally a Dunn deal for Wolfpack

Brett Friedlander

 NC State’s kicking game had become the punchline of a bad joke and Christopher Dunn was the one chosen to stop the laughing.

He knew what he was getting into before he ever arrived on campus.

“I received multiple DMs and messages from fans wishing I was here earlier,” the sophomore kicker said. “Looking back, I definitely knew something needed to change and something needed to happen.”

Dunn was one of the nation’s top-ranked kicking prospects when he committed to playing for State in June 2016. But because he was still only a high school junior at the time, all those anxious fans and friends still had to wait two years before he could start making field goals and extra points for the Wolfpack.

In the meantime, State was in the midst of a kicking malaise punctuated by Kyle Bambard’s missed 33-yard chip shot that would have beaten Clemson in 2016. Over the three seasons prior Dunn’s enrollment, Bambard, Connor Haskins and Carson Wise combined to miss half of their field goal attempts, along with eight extra points.

So in one respect, the bar was set extremely low for their heralded new replacement. On the other hand, the expectations placed on Dunn were astronomically high.

Not that he spent much time worrying about it.

"With the kicking position, you really have to be mentally strong and I think that's one thing I'm good at, blocking out outside noise and outside distractions," Dunn said. "I wasn't really concerned about what the fans thought of me right away as much as I was about being able to go out there and do what I've been able to do for the past few years."

The 5-foot-8, 180-pound North Davidson High graduate got off to a decent enough start by making eight of his first 11 field goal attempts., One of the misses, a 19-yarder at Boston College, was the result of a block caused by a breakdown in protection.

It was also the last time he missed.

Dunn made his next 15 tries on his way to setting school records with 23 field goals and 120 points. With two field goals in each of the Wolfpack's first two games this season, he has now successfully converted 19 straight field goals.

It's a streak he only thinks about when somebody else mentions it to him.

"It's something I've had a conversation about with my dad," Dunn said. "But really I have the mentality of being 1 for 1.  You always hear about the next kick being the biggest kick. Really, whether it's a 50-yard field goal or an extra point I'm going out there with the same attitude. I've done it a thousand times in practice.

"I actually heard one of the announcers on the (Western Carolina) game say 'this is his 18th field goal in a row if he makes it. I hope I didn't jinx him.' But that's not something I'm thinking about while I'm out there."

If anything, he's thinking about others -- specifically his new holder Trenton Gill and new long snapper Joe Shimko.

"Both of them are freshmen, so when I go out there now I'm a little bit more nervous for them than when I go out there to kick," Dunn said. "But I just treat every kick the same. I just pick out my aiming spot, hit it and do my little celebration with the guys out there."