Once in a while I receive an inquiry from a parent or high school coach who wants to know what it takes for a kicker to get a college scholarship. How is recruiting different for a kicker? How does he get exposure? If you're a kicker with potential, how do you get recruited?
It's a logical question. Kickers and punters have become a very important part of the game but they aren't recruited like quarterbacks and running backs. Remember, the greatest punter in football history, Ray Guy, didn't get a college scholarship and isn't in the pro football Hall of Fame.
There aren't many scholarships available for kickers. Of 119 schools in Division I, at the most 40 offer scholarships each year. Half the kickers and punters in Division I are walkons from the soccer team.
Most of the time, college coaches like to see kickers in person. They don't get a good look at a kicker's skills on film. Instead, they prefer to evaluate a kicker during a one-day camp on their campus during the summer. They like to get them as preferred walkons, then offer a scholarship after they prove their worth.
At Notre Dame, Charlie Weis had three scholarship kickers and ended up using a walkon. Obviously, Weis didn't do a good job of evaluating them.
Former St. Rita star Ryan Donahue got a scholarship from Iowa. He chose the Hawkeyes over Notre Dame. The Irish chose Indiana product Ryan Burkhart over Donahue. Both kicked at a one-day camp at Notre Dame and Weis and his staff thought Burkhart was better. It helps to explain why Weis isn't in South Bend anymore.
College coaches look for kickers with leg strength who boot the ball into the end zone and consistently can convert field goals from 40 yards and beyond. As far as punters are concerned, they look for kids who average more than 40 yards per punt with great hang time.
If you think you qualify and you are anxious to get exposure, attend as many one-day camps as possible. Let the college recruiters see you kick in May, during the evaluation period, when they are visiting the high schools.
College coaches are always looking for a big-time kicker or punter. They remember Scott Bentley from Denver, who was named Parade magazine's player of the year and went to Florida State. But he was a major flop. He coined the phrase "wide right" when he missed a field goal that would have won the national championship. Eventually, he was benched. And he was supposed to be the best kicker ever.