Matt Philichi sees the obvious parallels between his current job (kicking for Air Force) and his hoped-for future job (flying for the Air Force).
In both roles he could be called upon at a moment’s notice and thrust into a high-pressure situation with a game — or eventually much more — on the line.
“I do think the pressure definitely correlates to that,” said the senior, contemplating how his role could prepare him for what’s to come. “Or, I assume. I’m not a pilot.
“Hopefully, I’ll be ready for that if somebody knocks on my door and tells me it’s time to fly.”
At this point, Philichi is only asked to kick. And he’s handling that pressure just fine. He’s hit a 48-yard field goal, cleanly handled seven PATs and at Florida Atlantic his onside kick was recovered by Air Force in the final minute as it tried to erase a six-point deficit.
His lone misfire came on a long-shot 61-yard attempt on the last play of the half in the season opener.
In spot duty last year he was 1 for 1 on field-goal attempts and 2 for 2 on PATs.
“He’s going to do a really solid job for us,” coach Troy Calhoun said.
That’s become the norm for kickers under Calhoun, as Philichi takes over for Luke Strebel, the all-time leading scorer in program history. Strebel had taken the reins from Will Conant, the 2014 Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year.
Conant and Strebel rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, in field-goal percentage in program history.
“Definitely big shoes to fill,” said Philichi, who waited for three years behind Strebel.
Philichi chose Air Force over preferred walk-on spots at UCLA and Stanford for several reasons. First, school was paid for, as it would have been at Army, which also presented an offer to the Gig Harbor, Wash., native. Second, Air Force offered the potential to fly.
So far, Philichi has completed only the soaring program, the sophomore class that put him in a glider above the academy.
“I’m excited about the Air Force and what it has to offer,” Philichi said. “That’s what led me here in the first place.”