Anthony Fera isn't just another kicker, and losing him figures to be a big blow for Penn State this season.
Fera, one of the most versatile kickers in the country and in Penn State history, transferred to Texas on Thursday. The redshirt junior, who's from Cypress, Texas, will have two years of eligibility with the Longhorns.
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien now has to find a new place-kicker, punter and kickoff specialist, duties all handled by Fera. In 2011, Fera became the first Nittany Lion kicker to perform all three of those duties since Chris Bahr in 1975.
Fera wasn't just versatile, either. He was reliable.
He made 14 of 17 field goals - with a long of 46 - and averaged 42.0 yards per punt. He was named first-team all-Big Ten punter by ESPN.com and was voted second-team all-conference by the league's coaches and media.
Fera issued a passionate statement Thursday expressing his love for Penn State and explaining his difficult decision to transfer, part of which is to be closer to home because his mother has multiple sclerosis.
"The decision to remain at Penn State has been complicated due to an illness in my family," he wrote. "Shortly before I arrived on campus, the most important person in my life was diagnosed with MS, making it more and more difficult to travel each weekend from Texas to see me play.
"The Lord works in mysterious ways, and I've been afforded the opportunity to give back to my family and make their lives a little easier by transferring to a university much closer to home."
Fera also said in his statement that he promised Joe Paterno and his family the day he arrived on campus that he would get a degree from Penn State. Even though he's going to Texas, he plans to keep that promise and earn a degree from PSU in the next year.
"I will always proudly say that I am a Penn State alum!" he wrote in his statement.
One of Fera's finest moments of the 2011 season came when he drilled a 69-yard punt that pinned Purdue at its own 2-yard line with 2:36 to play in what turned out to be a 23-18 win. He also kicked 46- and 43-yard field goals in a late-season 20-14 win at Ohio State.
Fera had some off-the-field issues at Penn State and was suspended for the first game of the 2011 season because of an alcohol-related incident in the summer. He also was charged with underage possession of alcohol in April of 2010, but those charges were later dismissed.
"The past few weeks have been extremely difficult as I've wrestled with the decision on my future," Fera wrote in his statement. "It's been tough to endure, not only for me, but for my entire immediate family back in Texas, and the Penn State football family I have grown so fond of over the past three-and-a-half years.
"It has been hard to separate the two as my family and I have been accepted and treated so wonderfully by everyone in the Penn State community. For that, we are all truly grateful."
Fera and his family visited the Austin campus over the weekend.
"A new chapter in my life begins next week," he wrote, "and I am very excited to play for such a well-respected coach in Mack Brown, and a Longhorn football program that is traditionally one of the finest in the nation."
With Fera gone, sophomore Sam Ficken is expected to take over place-kicking duties. He was 1 of 2 last season, making a 43-yarder against Eastern Michigan.
Junior Alex Butterworth is a contender for the punting job - he averaged 38.5 yards on eight kicks last year -- while Ficken also could compete for that spot.
Nowicki to Illini
Of all the Penn State transfers thus far, redshirt freshman guard Ryan Nowicki's move to Illinois on Thursday is uniquely controversial.
Nowicki isn't a big loss from a personnel standpoint - he wasn't even listed on PSU's summer depth chart - but the fact that he's going to another Big Ten school won't sit well with some Lion players. One of them expressed frustration over it Thursday.
"One thing u don't do is Jump from big ten school to another big ten school," senior cornerback Stephon Morris tweeted.
Penn State plays at Illinois on Sept. 29, and it's a good bet Nowicki's name will come up quite a bit for the PSU players that week.
Senior receiver Justin Brown, who's being recruited by Oklahoma, has yet to confirm if he will remain at Penn State. His 35 catches for 517 yards last season are tops among returning receivers, and Brown would be a big loss for the Lions as he's expected to be the primary receiving target this season.
The list of PSU transfers so far: RB Silas Redd (USC), LB Khairi Fortt (Cal), QB Rob Bolden (LSU), TE Kevin Haplea (Florida State), S Tim Buckley (N.C. State), PK/P Anthony Fera (Texas), OL Ryan Nowicki (Illinois), DL Jamil Pollard (Rutgers).
O'Brien was interviewed Thursday on "The Goon Show" radio program with former PSU players Keith Conlin and Tim Sweeney and was asked about the players transferring.
"[They] made individual decisions," he said. "Do I agree with their decisions? No. But at the end of the day, I respect them."
Penn State's players will report to campus Sunday morning, and preseason practice begins Monday.