When Pro Bowl placekicker Billy Cundiff first met Derek Dimke four years ago, Dimke was a high school kid with a big leg and even bigger goals. "He wanted to make it at Illinois and be an All-American,'' Cundiff said. One down. One to go.

CHAMPAIGN -- When Pro Bowl placekicker Billy Cundiff first met Derek Dimke four years ago, Dimke was a high school kid with a big leg and even bigger goals.

"He wanted to make it at Illinois and be an All-American,'' Cundiff said.

One down. One to go.

Heading into his senior year, Dimke, a Rockford Boylan High School graduate, earned second-team all-Big Ten last season after setting a single-season school record with 24 field goals. After taking over the job late in his sophomore season, Dimke is 29-for-34 on field goals, and his career 85.3 percent accuracy rate is on pace to surpass the school record of 84 percent set by Peter Christofilakos, of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, from 1999 to 2002.

Dimke made 10 consecutive field goals in the middle of last season, and he's perfect on all 55 extra-point kicks in his career. Dimke also logged 22 touchbacks in 79 kickoffs last season.

"He's got a chance to be the best kicker in the country,'' Illinois coach Ron Zook said.

No pressure there. While Dimke must adjust to a different holder this season after the graduation of punter Anthony Santella, Dimke is a good insurance policy for an offense that lost powerful running back Mikel Leshoure.

Like most college kickers, Dimke relied upon specialists, including former Ohio State kicker Tim Williams, and there's a special bond between Dimke and Cundiff, the former Drake star who met Dimke while running a camp in Des Moines.

"He was a kid who crushed it,'' said Cundiff, the Baltimore Ravens kicker. "His form was really raw, but I was absolutely impressed.''

Williams often handles the technical side of it, and Dimke leans on Cundiff for the stuff between the ears. Dimke visited and trained with Cundiff in Phoenix during spring break, when Cundiff advised Dimke to "approach his kicking a little more professionally,'' Cundiff said, by filing daily reports in a journal.

Sort of a kicker's diary. Chart the day, such what's on the diet, how many hours of sleep, how he kicked in a game or practice.

"It's trying to get you on the right track to knowing your body as best you can,'' Dimke said. "Billy is one of the most mentally well prepared people. Everything he does in life is based around kicking and how he prepares himself. Everything is tied into feeling good on gameday. It's hard to be as disciplined as he is."

Dimke must also get to know Tim Russell, a sophomore walk-on wide receiver from St. Charles who took over the duties as holder.

"We call him the Renaissance Man,'' Dimke said. "He has great hands. We took him out one day. He was snagging  balls one-handed out of the air. We said, 'That's the guy.' ''

Dimke might not be done after this season.

"Right now, I'm just worried about Saturdays,'' he said.

His mentor wouldn't be surprised to see him on Sundays in the NFL.

"He's the first kid I've come across who has the potential to kick at the next level,'' Cundiff said. "He has the extraordinary leg strength to kick in the league. His technique is really good. He's worked at it. He's always trying to get better. He's very disciplined and driven. Those things lead to having success at the next level.''

That's down the road for Dimke, who still has more to achieve at Illinois.

John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.

Derek Dimke file

Class: Senior
Size: 6-foot, 180 pounds
Notable: Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season, when Dimke was 8-for-11 on field goals from 40 yards or longer. Ranks second at Illinois with 115 points in a single-season, trailing only Mikel Leshoure's 122.
Home work: Finance/business major is a two-time academic all-Big Ten.
Quote: "With his work ethic and the way he kicks, he's a pretty special guy.'' -- Illinois coach Ron Zook.