Kicking it during summer practice

By Gus Bode

Saluki punter and field goal kicker work to perfect their special skills during summer

On a football team, all every player has a specific role. The full back blocks for the quarterback when he drops in the pocket for a pass. The wide receiver ensures he will be open for the pass coming from the long tosser.

Extreme stress can accompany the punter and field goal kicker roles, even though the players only step onto the field for a few seconds at a time.

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SIU field goal kicker Craig Coffin and punter Zach Kettelkamp have held these positions for the past two years, but Kettelkamp said the pressure doesn’t get to him.

“I go out there, relax and swing away,” Kettelkamp said. “I try to clear my mind of any thoughts so I don’t go out there and get nervous.”

Coffin, whose job could be considered highly nerve-wracking, said he routinely practices his form during the game to ensure his kicks go as smooth as possible.

“I go out on the field, pick my aiming point, somewhere off in the distance … and then put it through,” Coffin said.

To guarantee every kick is on, both players spend the summer, months before the season begins, practicing daily.

Coffin said he and the team lift weights three times a week and run five times a week.

Although the kicker’s job doesn’t entail blocking or running the ball, Coffin said the coaches treat them as if they were nose guards.

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“We do everything everybody else does,” Coffin said. “The coaches don’t feel we are different than anybody else.”

Kettelkamp, who was allowed to spend the summer at home working with his father, said he works out five times a week, despite not being in Carbondale for the summer.

Kettelkamp said he goes to the local high school and uses the practice football field for his summer workouts. He also said even though he doesn’t have a coach to guide him along, he has other means of getting through his workouts.

“I attend camps over the summer to sharpen my skills … it’s kind of like golf, you have go out and practice it,” Kettelkamp said.

Kettelkamp also said he moves around the field and puts himself into game-type situations so he can practice how hard or how soft to kick the ball.

With 65 days until the first kick of the 2005-2006 football season, both players agreed the summer is going to be full of sweat and pain, but they are looking forward to it.

“I just have to keep myself mentally and physically prepared so when I go out on the field come game time I will be ready for anything,” Kettelkamp said.

Reporter Matthew McConkey can be reached at [email protected]

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