Ethan Mooney had no idea he was on the verge of cementing his legacy in North Texas football history until he was well into his final year with the Mean Green this fall.
The senior kicker has always flown under the radar, largely because he’s been so consistent.
When UNT needs a field goal or an extra point, the Fort Worth Timber Creek product calmly jogs on to the field and connects.
There are times his teammates don’t even bother to watch.
“We know Ethan is going to make it every time,” safety Quinn Whitlock said. “There isn’t a doubt.”
That consistency has Mooney on the verge of making history when UNT plays its regular season finale at home against Rice on Nov. 26 following a bye this week. Mooney has 313 career points, putting him in a tie for the program’s scoring record with Trevor Moore, who kicked for the Mean Green from 2014-17.
“I never saw it coming, honestly,” Mooney said. “I was told three or four weeks ago that I was up there close to the record. I had no clue. It’s a huge honor. We have had some legendary kickers.”
That history makes the chance to become UNT’s record-holder for points all the more meaningful for Mooney.
Former Cowboys punter Toby Gowin enjoyed a long NFL career from 1997-04 after playing for UNT. Punters John Baker (St. Louis Rams, 2000-01) and John Starnes (Atlanta Falcons, 1987) as well kicker Curt Knight (Washington Redskins, 1969-73) all played in the NFL after getting their start with the Mean Green.
Knight was a Pro Bowl selection in 1971 and played in Super Bowl VII. Baker played in Super Bowl XXXVI.
UNT’s last two kickers — Cole Hedlund and Trevor Moore — spent time with NFL teams in the preseason.
“I didn’t know about North Texas’ history of kickers before I got here,” Mooney said. “I met Trevor on my official visit. Through the season I realized how good he was and saw him hit three game winners. He had an insane senior season.”
Mooney has built on UNT’s kicking legacy. He made 134 straight extra points, a run that ended when he had one blocked two weeks ago in a win over Western Kentucky. The only two extra points he’s missed out of 168 were blocked.
Mooney has been accurate when it comes to field goals as well. He’s made 49 of 63 for a 77.8% success rate that ranks second in program history behind the 80.3% Moore made. A few of those kicks have come in clutch situations. His 27-yard game-winner last season against UTEP helped spark UNT’s five-game winning streak to cap the regular season.
Mooney also kicked a 22-yard game-winner against Middle Tennessee in 2019.
“I view every kick as a must-have, but I don’t put any pressure on myself,” Mooney said. “When people scream from the sideline, I don’t think about it.”
That approach works for Mooney and has earned him the trust of his teammates and coaches.
“Ethan’s been huge for us, not only this year, but over his career,” UNT coach Seth Littrell said. “He’s made a lot of big-time plays.
“It makes life a lot easier knowing that you have an experienced guy who is confident and playing at a high level to where you know if you get into a certain spot on the field, or a certain number that, for the most part, you feel very confident about getting points on the board. That’s huge. It takes a lot of pressure off you offensively.”
That’s certainly been the case this year.
Mooney’s consistency is just part of why he has stood out in his time with the Mean Green. Kickers and punters are typically a different breed. They work on their craft on their own and are often a bit distant from teammates.
That isn’t the case with Mooney.
“Hs definitely more engaged than most kickers,” linebacker Kevin Wood said. “That’s what makes him different. He doesn’t stay on himself or with the specialists. He’s talking to the defense, to the offense and is around the guys a lot.
“We hang out with him outside the locker room.”
That approach has helped Mooney develop a rapport with his teammates. He considers himself an athlete, not just a kicker. Like most kickers, he started out as a soccer player.
Mooney tripped up Jayleen Record in the second week of the season on a kickoff after SMU’s return man had broken free for 48 yards.
“He’s a kicker, but we don’t look at him like a kicker,” Whitlock said. “He’s just Ethan. He runs around and dances and is hype on the sideline. Most kickers are kind of chill. He expressed himself. He jokes around with people on the practice field and in the locker room.”
Mooney’s hope is to be around the game for a whole lot longer after finishing his college career.
“The dream is to make it to the NFL,” Mooney said. “If that doesn’t work out, I have plans with my finance degree and real estate. There’s also coaching in the back of my head.”
UNT special teams coordinator Chris Petrilli is trying to convince Mooney that he should follow in his footsteps and go into coaching. There’s a chance Mooney could end up back at UNT as a graduate assistant coach.
“I hope that I leave a legacy and that someone will come after me who does it even better than I did,” Mooney said. “Maybe I’ll help coach him. We’ll see.”
Mooney has shown leadership qualities during his time at UNT that point to his potential as a coach.
“Ethan’s a great leader,” Wood said. “He leads by example and won’t tell you to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. He’s always encouraging guys, pulling them along with him and doesn’t leave anyone behind.”
There always seems to be a great kicker in the UNT pipeline. Mooney’s the latest. After the Mean Green’s next game, he’s almost certain to be the best when it comes to points scored.
“I’m honored to have a chance to break the record, but I’m not focused on it,” Mooney said. “It’ll be a nice bonus.”