K Valentino Ambrosio back for his second year of football at Rutgers
Kicker Valentino Ambrosio was the new guy last year. Previously on the men’s soccer teams at Fairleigh Dickinson and then Rutgers, Ambrosio joined the Scarlet Knights on the gridiron as a walk-on wanting to play the sport he also played in high school.
The Cranford, N.J. native wound up taking over kicking duties during the season for the final six games and went 9-of-11 field goals with a long of 42 yards three times.
Now in his first real training camp at Rutgers, Ambrosio shared his thoughts on the first week with TKR.
“It's going good. This is my actual first, real camp. Last year was the COVID year and it was a little dysfunctional. It's going well,” Ambrosio said. “A lot of new guys came in and we're all competing. It's going well.”
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Compared to last year, Ambrosio said he’s improved physically and mentally, and he’s as confident as ever.
“It's night and day. Transferring from a soccer player and coming in last year, and then eventually taking over, it was a little different trying to build up that confidence,” Ambrosio said. “But now going through the spring to now, I'm building all that competence up. Just have to keep getting reps and getting more confident. My confidence is really through the roof.”
When Ambrosio came on board, he didn’t expect to be where he is right now. He wanted to play football, but he didn’t expect to be the primary kicker so soon.
“It's obviously something that I wanted. It's the reason why I did it,” Ambrosio said. “I wouldn't have changed over and became a kicker if I didn't want that. It came sooner than I expected. I took it as best as I could, and now we're here and I'm excited for what the future is.”
Heading into the season, Ambrosio will handle kicking duties once again. There is no competition so to speak.
“Val Ambrosio is our kicker and Adam (Korsak) is our punter,” head coach Greg Schiano said on Monday. “There’s really not a competition for the first jobs. Behind them, (Guy) Fava is doing a good job. I’m glad he’s with us. We have some new guys. Let’s see how they do. You know Zach Feagles left the program. We need to find a backup punter for sure.”
When Ambrosio, who also played at Roselle Park High School his first two years and played club soccer for the New York Red Bulls Academy U15/16 team before playing for Cedar Stars Academy-Monmouth, graduated from Cranford High, he didn’t have any football offers. That led him to soccer in college. But he was also good at kicking a football as he made a long field goal from 45 yards out and all of his 21 extra-point attempts as a senior.
During winter break in 2020, Ambrosio went up to assistant coach Nunzio Campanile in the hallway of the Hale Center when the men’s soccer team was still in the building and put the thought of him joining the team in his mind. He eventually met with Schiano and the rest is history.
“It was a tough decision,” Ambrosio said. “I wanted to be a pro soccer player really bad, but I thought I was a talented kicker as well. I wanted to try to make it one day. That's what I really want to do and now I'm doing it.
“(Campanile) kind of knew who I was just from being a Jersey guy and me kicking at Cranford. I just said something to get it into his ear. It kind of just escalated from there, and I eventually made a decision to say I'm gonna do this.”
This past spring, Rutgers soccer held a shortened season, but Ambrosio gave no thoughts about playing.
“I'm locked in all the way with football now,” he said.
Now in his second season with the Scarlet Knights on the football field, the area where Ambrosio has improved the most is his confidence. He has the technique down and the talent.
“I think the confidence part is the biggest thing because that's the biggest thing of being a kicker, just going out there before the kick, telling yourself you're gonna make the kick,” Ambrosio said. “I was naturally nervous, that's just how it is. Just having that confidence is huge. You have to believe in yourself and the coaches believe in me, and that also gives me a boost. Personally, I'm a confident kind of guy. I've always been that way with soccer, very competitive. When I go out there, I never have a doubt in my mind. I'm always gonna go out there and, and give it 100%.”
Last fall, Ambrosio made two 42-yard field goals against Nebraska, tied the game on a 39-yard field goal as time expired and hit the game-winner from 42 yards out in overtime at Maryland, and converted a 28-yard attempt to extend the lead in the fourth quarter in the victory at Purdue. He also made two field goals against Michigan and made two field goals and two extra points against Illinois, his first game.
“That game experience really helped me,” Ambrosio said. “I would also say that having no fans also kind of helped me too, because. I was playing against Illinois and went out there and just focused on my thing. I didn't have to worry about fans and just went out there and did my thing, and kind of just got more confident. Now with fans being back, I think I'm just more than ready to go.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.