NEW ORLEANS -- Should the outcome of the 2003 national championship come down to the left leg of Trey DiCarlo, don't expect the Oklahoma kicker to be shaking in his cleats.
That's because to him, this is really no big deal. It's not that he doesn't care; it's not that he doesn't want to win; it's just that this isn't him. Kicking field goals for one of the best programs in college football? It just sorta happened.
"This isn't some childhood fantasy that finally came true," DiCarlo said. "It's just what I do. I'm not all wrapped up in the traditions or the stories or what this kick might mean or that might mean. I'm just not a real big football guy. I just do my job and that's that."
Instead, he's a soccer player. DiCarlo spent his entire childhood on suburban Dallas club teams, with dreams of someday playing professionally in Europe. He only made it to Oklahoma after the Sooners hotshot kicking recruit failed to show up in 2002 and DiCarlo left the Naval Academy.
Yet this season, the Groza finalist tied an NCAA record for PAT makes with 72. And before a pair of misses in the Big 12 championship game, he made 14 straight field goals.
And yet his sporting Nirvana is not kicking the game-winning field goal in the national title game. It's booting the game-winning goal in the NCAA soccer championships.
"And because it's no big deal," DiCarlo said, "I think it takes all the pressure off. I just don't think about it."
He shouldn't even be here. DiCarlo signed with the Naval Academy as a football and soccer recruit in 2002. Since the seasons for soccer and football collide, the plan was for Navy jets to haul DiCarlo between venues on weekends where both teams had a game. But moments before the 2002 freshman induction ceremony, he backed out.
"It just wasn't me," he said. "I rushed into it and then once I got there, realized it wasn't a place where I was going to fit in. I just didn't feel comfortable."
Said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops: "I admire all of those people in the service that go on to serve their country. But that's the part that hit him, 'It could be me out there.'"
About the same time that DiCarlo left Navy, incoming Sooner recruit Josh Roberts failed to show up in Norman, quitting the sport altogether without telling the OU coaches. Freshman receiver Travis Wilson, a high school teammate of DiCarlo, told Stoops about his old friend. And he told DiCarlo about Roberts.
A tryout in Norman was setup, though DiCarlo wasn't sold.
"My dad pretty much dragged me up there almost against my will," DiCarlo said. "I didn't really want to go. I was more interested in trying to play soccer somewhere. But he put me in the car and we went."
DiCarlo, who hadn't kicked a football since his high school season ended some eight months earlier, booted a series of field goals for Stoops, but more importantly, kicked the ball end over end.
"We had three or four other guys who were kicking off the ground and hitting spirals," Stoops said. "And that's hard to do, hit a spiral instead of end-over-end. When Trey came in and kicked it end-over-end, that's when I started to smile a little bit."
Before the 2002 season began, DiCarlo beat out junior college All-American Steve Sarubbi for the starting job. He went on to make 16-of-22 attempts, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.
Now, he finds himself on college football's biggest stage, in one of its most important positions. Though you'd never know it from talking to him.
"I've always been real laid back," DiCarlo said. "I don't get real excited. I'm just a guy who's here to go along for the ride."
Room For Two
Former Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, who took the head coaching job at Arizona earlier this month, has taken a backseat role as a defensive consultant of sorts for Sunday's game.
The two coaches are sort of sharing oversight duties -- and practice field space.
"Yeah," Venables joked Wednesday. "He gets in the way and touches me once in awhile. And I tell him, 'Don't touch me. I don't like that.'"
A Dick Clark New Year
That whole topless drunken Bourbon Street frenzy has already grown old for some players. And with the coaches of both teams tightening the curfew as game day approaches, players made the best New Year's plans they could find -- vegging in front of the TV.
"It's gonna be one of those years sitting on the couch and watching everybody else celebrate on TV," Sooner senior Derrick Strait said. "But that's alright. We're here to take care of business anyway."
Much has been made about LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais post-high school job as a Louisiana prison guard. When asked if he could ever work such a job, Oklahoma tackle Tommie Harris said, "Man, I'd work in a morgue if I had to. You gotta eat."
As for the type of guard he'd be, Harris said, "An encourager. I'd tell these guys -- once you get a second chance, you've got to jump at it. And they'd listen."
LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has spent the better part of the last month dissecting game tape of Oklahoma's defense. And he doesn't exactly like what he's seen.
Up front, an All-American defensive tackle and a pair of ends that rush the quarterback as well as anybody. At linebacker, a Butkus award winner. In the backfield, a Thorpe award winner. Trying to figure out how his team is going to move the football has proved, well, challenging. So Wednesday, he asked for some help.
"Umm, if there's a weakness out there that I'm not seeing," Fisher said, "I wish someone would tell me because I can't find one. There's no question that will be the best defense we face."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.