By: Matt Rothman
Parkland native James McCourt kicked the game-winning field goal for the University of Illinois, helping his team pull off one of the biggest upsets of the college football season over 6th ranked University of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin was 30-point favorites heading into the game, but it all came down to a 39-yard field goal to secure the win.
“You are really like the hero or the villain,” McCourt said. “I was pretty locked in and ready for the task at hand. I was focused on my routine and my steps back. I treated it like an extra point. You can’t be too distracted, and I just have to do my job.”
The Fighting Illini were down two points with four seconds remaining in the game. After a timeout, McCourt lined up the kick and converted it before being lifted onto his teammate’s shoulders as they rushed onto the field.
Born in Ireland, McCourt considers Parkland his home when he is not in school. He has lived in the city since he was eight-years-old and played a lot of soccer and rugby before learning about American football.
For much of his youth, he enjoyed flag football before playing for the Parkland Rangers during middle school. McCourt also played a bit of soccer as well for the Parkland Predators, which helped him develop his skills for both kicking and punting.
McCourt attended high school at St. Thomas Aquinas, where he played on the varsity football team before choosing Illinois. While he is unable to make it home frequently during the school year, when he does visit, he tries to give back to his family that has done so much for him.
“My family means everything to me,” McCourt said. “They always drove my brothers and me to three different practices every day of the week. They set aside a lot of things in their life for all the success of my siblings and me. They mean the world to me.”
He has one older sister that graduated from Notre Dame University, as well as two brothers that play soccer and football.
When he is home, McCourt likes to spend time practicing kicking at Pine Trails Park during his free time. For him, all the hard work he put in helped him out when a moment like Saturday came.
It’s been a crazy couple of days for him ever since the field goal. He said it has been “tons of fun” lately with the number of people who have congratulated him.
While he still has another year left at college, he hopes to one day kick in the NFL. It is something he has always dreamed about.
For him, professional football is the next goal he can set, as he always wanted to play college football. He is now doing it well on one of the biggest stages in the world.
- Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is now attending the University of Florida as a graduate student. Matt also covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writer, the New York Mets for Last Word on Baseball and Florida Gators Athletics for ESPN Gainesville. He has also worked for the Naples Herald, Collier Sports Insider and was an assistant sports editor for his school newspaper.
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