the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, May 15, 2014

When I Became a Kicker

Most began at an early age, kicking the round ball. 

Then in junior high or high school, most made the career transition to kicking the pointed ball. 

But every kicker's story is unique. 

Following are eight such stories, in their own words.

John Carney, NFL kicker 1988-2010
"I went to Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach Florida. We had a very rich tradition for our football program. It was led by coach Sam Budnyk, who ended up coaching over 35 years and retired as one of the winningest high school football coaches in the state of Florida. So it was more or less a rite of passage for the boys at that school to go through the football program. I thought I’d be a wide receiver, but sitting on the bench as a wide receiver wasn’t that much fun. I felt like guys punting and kicking the football, but they were football guys and not soccer guys. I felt I could kick a soccer ball, so I went home and worked on kicking a football. I actually went to a Garo Yepremian Soccer and Kicking Camp (to date myself) and learned some more about kicking a football from “the” Garo Yepremian. I ended playing JV my sophomore year and varsity my junior and senior years as a placekicker and a punter."

Nick Folk, New York Jets
“Going into high school I didn’t know may people. I knew one guy (he’s actually the backup catcher for the Florida Marlins right now)… I played soccer with him growing up and he was going to my high school as well, and he was gonna go play football. I said, ‘well, I guess I could try kicking and see how that goes’. I ended up kicking. After the first 45 minutes of practice after they had special teams, then I’d go to soccer practice. That was how I did it my whole high school career.”

Taylor Rowan, AFL & UFL kicker 2008-2011
“Back in my junior year of high school, the head football coach for our school was my P.E. teacher. Two days before their first game the kicker got hurt and quit. So the coach came up to me, knowing I played soccer, and said, ‘Do you wanna kick for us Friday?’ I wasn’t interested, because of the pressure of doing it after never having practiced it and having to kick two days later. But he ended up coming to me again and saying, ‘If you want to pass my gym class you’re going to be out at practice’. So I was out at practice that afternoon before soccer, and ended up kicking the ball that afternoon and did extremely well. I kicked in my first game Friday night and kicked a 32 yard field goal. That was before I even knew how to step off or anything.”  

Fred Mitchell, Fred Mitchell Outstanding Placekicker Award
"When I was a sophomore in high school, I was a skinny kid at the time – maybe six feet and a 150 pounds, when I was 14 years old and a sophomore. I was kicking in gym class outside from about second base over a high fence that we had in right field on the baseball diamond. The physical education teacher, who happened to be the head football coach (Bob Stearnes), was watching me and said ‘you’re gonna be on out football team’. This was 1962. So he put me on the varsity right away. There weren’t kicking specialists, especially at the high school level, back then like there are nowadays. Most schools would run for the extra point. So he listed me as a six foot, 150 pound tackle in the program initially to try to fool the opponent into not knowing that I would be a kicker. Our team wasn’t really that good, but I won maybe three games on field goals in my short career there."

Billy Cundiff, Cleveland Browns
"Our high school did not have a soccer team - everybody in my small town wanted to play football. I had been playing football since junior high, where I was the quarterback and also happened to be the kicker because of my soccer background. It was a natural progression - I just kind of fell into kicking."

Julie Harshbarger, Chicago Blitz (CIFL)
“[A friend in school] was a junior tackle and a free safety, then she played in high school as well. She wanted to keep playing, but she was too small and the guys were getting too big. She knew that I could kick a soccer ball really far and she wanted me to help her learn how to kick stuff. I tried working with her and she couldn’t do it very well, while I could do it very well. She said, ‘well, maybe you should try out for the team’. One of my other friends double dared me, ‘I’ll give you ten bucks if you can get on the team.’ Freshman year of high school."
Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
"I kicked a couple footballs in eighth grade, just messing around once with my friends, but that was just one day only. I played soccer in high school and in my freshman year at college. Then I started kicking footballs, to try to win a position on the football team, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. I started like mid-July, so I really only kicked for about four weeks before training camp. I remember the difficulty of kicking this oblong object compared to a soccer ball. When you kick a soccer ball you can hit the sweet spot every time. But when you’re kicking a football it’s difficult to find that spot at first. And your foot position needs to be in a different place. I’d say the hardest thing for me to get used to at first was just how to hit the ball with my foot. The foot-to-ball contact was really tough to adjust to at the beginning."

Michael Husted, NFL kicker 1993-2002
"Some friends and I were at the mall in the arcade playing video games.  Three girls that we knew from school saw us, came up to us, and told us that the football team that they cheered for needed players and we should go out for the team.  I had never played organized football and like the idea.  We all agreed to go out for the team.

At the first practice, near the end, we were all lined up along the sideline.  The coached asked us if anyone could kick.  I looked up and down the line and didn't see any hands go up.  So, I raised my hand and said that I played soccer.  The coach then said, "You're the kicker."

The initial instructions that I received from one of my coaches was take three steps back, two over, keep your eyes on the block, head down and kick the ball."

It seemed simple enough.  However, on my first attempt, I slipped when I went to plant and fell.  Everyone laughed.  I then tried "toe jamming" it straight on.  I kicked it pretty well, but tried soccer style again and kicked that one well too.  Not knowing which style to use, I asked the coach which way he wanted me to kick it.  His reply?  "Son, I don't care if you kick it with your A___, just put the thing through the uprights.

Thus, the beginning of my kicking career."

1 comment:

Dave Merfeld said...

My brother and I would pass the football for hours, I self taught myself how to throw left handed, Ken Stabler was one of our neighborhood heros. I could throw lefty about 20 yard with a spiral and 50 with my right. One day at our high school football in St. Louis Park field I kicked a 40 yard field goal, I was in my first year of Technical College and when I made it I was saying to myself this could get some of my college paid for. So I ran out and bought the Jan Stenerud kicking tee and there was a book. I followed it and a year and half later walked on a JUCO team and won the starting kicking spot. I won a game and lost a game. The next year I was reaching the 10 yard line on kickoffs but in the middle of the season I blew my knee out unrelated to football ended that dream but I still can kick 30 yard fg's bare foot.That whole process taught me my work eithic in life.

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