MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University senior kicker Rockne Belmonte, a full-time member of the NMU Army ROTC, appeared to have his top five destinations for next semester all set for Uncle Sam.
After four years in the Upper Peninsula, Belmonte was leaning toward warmer climates, requesting to be stationed in Hawaii, Kentucky, Georgia or Italy.
Already used to the cold, he figured he'd throw Alaska in his top five for the hunting as well.
Northern Michigan University senior kicker Rockne Belmonte follows through on an extra point while junior quarterback Cody Scepaniak holds against Wisconsin-La Crosse on Sept. 6 at the Superior Dome in Marquette. Belmonte is four field goals shy of breaking the NMU record for most field goals made in a career of 41 by Kyle Marotz from 2002-05. (Journal file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
That list has grown as of late, however, with not only the United States armed forces interested in the services of 2nd Lt. Belmonte.
Like his teammate Zach Anderson, a senior defensive tackle, Belmonte may very well have a professional football career in front of him.
"I've always wanted to serve, and this college career of being ROTC and playing college football, representing Northern, has been truly one of the best experiences anyone could ever ask for," Belmonte said.
"It's unfortunate I can't do both at the same time. I'm definitely not going to opt out of my military contract, unless there is a really good shot. Even if I do, I'll go back later on."
Belmonte was scheduled to begin his career in the U.S. Army's transportation corps following the fall semester, but just this week he requested to delay the start of his service to August in order to take a shot at professional football, whether it be in the NFL, Canadian Football League or Arena League.
Belmonte plans to hire an agent at the conclusion of the season and could play in up to three all-star games for college seniors, including the Beyond Sports Network Showcase in Akron, Ohio, the D2 vs. NAIA Senior Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Euro-American Challenge in Warsaw, Poland.
"It's going to be real interesting," Belmonte said. "If I get the chance and make it, we'll see what happens from there.
"There's no guarantees with the Army. There's definitely a chance if I do get the luck to go play professional football, you can get a delay of my contract or opt to buy out of it. There are certain ways around it.
"I didn't want any regrets down the road saying, 'I would've or should've.'"
While the former Eastern Michigan University student and Grand Rapids Catholic Central Class B all-state high school kicker is being forced to address his future now, he's still very focused on the present, starting with a 1 p.m. game Saturday against Saginaw Valley State at the Superior Dome.
It's the first of Belmonte's final two chances at breaking the NMU record for most field goals made in a career.
"If it means we can win, I want to see it happen, but I'm not going to sacrifice touchdowns for field goals," said head coach Chris Ostrowsky, whose 'Cats are 3-6 overall and 2-6 in the GLIAC in his first season. "We're not going to run the ball three times at the 10-yard line and hopefully kick the ball.
"I hope he gets it. I'm rooting hard for him, but in my mind, I'm not saying 'Let's kick so Rock gets the record.'"
Belmonte entered the season 10 back of the 41 made by Kyle Marotz from 2002-05. He now is 7 of 12 this season heading into the game against SVSU (7-2 overall, 6-2 in GLIAC) and Northern's Senior Day finale against Ferris State at 1 p.m. Nov. 10 in Marquette.
Belmonte began the year missing four of his first six kicks in four games. In his last five outings, he's 5 of 6 with his lone miss being from 51 yards last week in a 21-13 win over Northwood.
"It means a lot to get that, leave another record in the books, but more importantly get a couple wins," Belmonte said. "I'd love to beat Saginaw one more time. It's where my brother went to college and I'd like to get a home win on Senior Day.
"It has been one of the best teams to be on since I've been here. The way we've played the last few games has been absolutely outstanding."
Last season, Belmonte broke the NMU record for most field goals made in a season when he made 15 of 19 attempts and was named a second-team special teams All-American by Beyond Sports Network.
This year, Belmonte was named GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week after breaking the NMU and Superior Dome record for longest field goal made when he hit a 58-yarder just before halftime of a 38-10 win over Grand Valley State.
His previous long was 51 yards in 2010 against Ferris State at the Superior Dome.
"That was probably one of the best kicks I've ever hit in my life," Belmonte said. "It was the best kick ever here at Northern. It was right down the middle with room to spare."
Belmonte has been doing more than just kicking this season, adding punting duties to his repertoire and coaching duties as he works with four freshmen who are battling to replace him next season.
He's also been a reliable player for Ostrowsky in his first year as head coach of NMU after two years as offensive coordinator.
"He's been a source of comfort when you are building a program and you're really building it from scratch," Ostrowsky said. "There are at least some things you want to rely on and that was at least one thing we didn't have to entertain much."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.