If hunting alligators in pitch darkness doesn’t make Todd Sievers jumpy, then it’s no wonder he can unflinchingly kick field goals in front of a packed crowd with a game on the line.
Sievers’s calm, easygoing nature, steely nerves and love of challenges have helped him develop into one of the best kickers in University of Miami (UM) football history.
Sievers set several single-season UM scoring records and helped save two games last season as the Hurricanes finished 12-0 and won the national championship with their victory at the Rose Bowl on January 3 against the University of Nebraska.
And he’s done this while adjusting to life with diabetes, which was diagnosed during last season.
"He never says anything about the diabetes, and no one notices," said teammate and roommate Matt Walters. "He’s so valuable to this team. He doesn’t get enough respect."
Sievers, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior from Ankeny, Iowa, kicked four field goals in a game twice last season—against both Boston College and Virginia Tech—and they turned out to help the team win the games. His 119 points, 56 extra points and career-high 21 field goals all are single-season records.
Sievers played his freshman season in 1998 and red-shirted in 1999 before taking over kicking duties in 2000.
Midway through the season, Sievers began feeling tired. He lost weight, color and muscle mass. Pat Sievers, Todd’s mom, who travels to nearly every UM game with her husband, Don, knew immediately what was wrong when she saw her son a few days before the Virginia Tech game.
Pat had been diagnosed with diabetes when she was 31 and pregnant with Todd, and she knew his symptoms were the same as hers.
Todd didn’t panic. He was placed in the hospital for three days. He altered his diet and lifestyle habits. And for the last year he has been adjusting.
He now wears an insulin pump that regulates his insulin, though he takes it off for practice and games, and checks his blood glucose several times a day. During one scary episode before the West Virginia game this season, he was hospitalized for several hours because he did not have enough insulin in his body.
Sievers was treated with IV fluids and insulin, returned to the game to kick and then continued IV treatment at halftime and when the game was over.
But the diabetes has not hindered his performance on the field. If anything, he is more aware of a special role he has in helping to educate others about his disease.
Earlier this year, Sievers shot an informational video for the American Diabetes Association with Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999, who also has diabetes and spent her year of service educating the public about diabetes.
"I’m really watching it now and taking care of myself," Sievers said. "You hear all the time about people with diabetes not taking care of themselves and having their feet amputated—that sticks with me. I might as well start taking good care of myself now because I’d like to go to the pros."
Before he can think of professional football though, Sievers still has some more memories to make at the University of Miami.
His two biggest games of the season came on the road in hostile environments, and he was named Big East Special Teams Player of the Week following his four-field-goal performance in the Hurricanes’ 18-7 win against Boston College on November 10, 2001. "Somebody asked me what we would have done without him," coach Larry Coker said. "Well, we would have lost without him."
If it comes down to a last-minute field goal, the Hurricanes will be rooting for Sievers, too. And they can rest assured that he will be calm, relaxed and ready to win the biggest game of the season.