the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Groza Talk: in the Beginning

"I used to get a kick out of kicking the ball over the telephone wires when we would play touch football in the street."
- Lou Groza

How does someone end up becoming a football kicker? We asked this year's Lou Groza Award semi-finalists, "How did it all begin?" While each kicker has their own unique story, there is also a common starting point. Not surprisingly, each kicked the round ball before they kicked the oblong ball.

Aaron Jones, Baylor
"I started playing soccer when I was about four, so I guess it started then. I didn't start football until 7th grade and I wasn't the starting kicker until about our 4th game. Our other kicker got detention so I kicked for the B team. I was so pumped up that my first kickoff went to the five [yard line] in the air. After that game, I got moved up to the A team. After that, I pretty much knew that I was gonna be good."

Derek Dimke, Illinois
"I played soccer since as long as I could remember. My soccer team was pretty good and we went back-to-back regional champs and national finalists. I always thought I would play soccer in college. My freshman year the football team needed a kicker and our coach asked me to try it out. I kicked pretty well in high school as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. The summer before my senior year I decided to go to a few kicking camps and see how I stacked up against other kickers my age. I surprised myself when I was finishing in the top few guys at every camp, so I decided to give kicking a shot instead of soccer. My dream was to play at Illinois, and I was fortunate to perform well at their summer kicking camp. After that I was always in touch with the coaches, and when the chance came after a visit to commit to Illinois, I took it. I have been very blessed with the opportunities that the coaches and other players have given me. It has been the best decision of my life."

Kai Forbath, UCLA
"I grew up playing soccer and went into high school thinking that is what I wanted to do in college then freshman year of high school my high school had a kicking coach named Chris Sailer come to school every Monday and he saw some potential in me and we started working together and still to this day he is my kicking coach. He was a Notre Dame High School and UCLA grad like me so he had been a great mentor and coach who had taught me everything I know about kicking."

Dan Conroy, Michigan State
“I played soccer for seven years as a kid, and like a lot of my friends, I made the transition to football in the seventh grade. The team needed a kicker, and before I knew it, I kicked a 32-yard field goal as a seventh-grader. I had been a sweeper in soccer, so I had probably the biggest leg on the team since it was my job to get the ball out of the defensive side of the field. I really didn’t do anything special early in my high school career. I got moved up to the varsity for the playoffs as a sophomore. I had the opportunity to play in the state championship game as a junior, but the only year I really had the chance to shine was as a senior when my team returned to the state championship game. I decided to pass on a scholarship offer from Western Michigan to pursue my dream of kicking for Michigan State.”

Blair Walsh, Georgia
"Brett Swenson (former Michigan State kicker) was on the same high school soccer team as me and he got me started kicking. I had always played travel soccer but I decided to give it a try. With the help of my kicking coach Nick Gancitano and guidance from Chris Sailer, I eventually developed into a kicker."

Collin Wagner, Penn State
"Eighth grade. All of my life long soccer buddies wanted to give football a try, so we all decided to do that. The coach knew we were all former soccer players, so he had all of us kick and used a few of us to do that for the season."

Joe Phillips, Utah
"I was in high school and was a junior. I had played soccer my whole life and loved football my whole life as well. I wanted to try out kicking, so I decided to join the football team. I instantly loved it! I played my junior and senior years. I wasn't recruited anywhere and worked for a year and then went on a two year lds mission. I returned in May of 2007 and walked-on at Snow college. It took me six games to earn the starting spot and then kept for the remainder of that season and throughout 2008. I asked coach Hill for an opportunity to walk-on at the University of Utah. He told me I could after the last game of the 2008 season. I came to the U in January of 2009 and worked hard to get a shot at playing. In the second game of the 2009 season I got my chance. I kept kicking the rest of that year and am fortunate to be here still. That's the story."

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