Kicked to the wayside

Alec Lippman, Staff Writer

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The kicker has the power to make or break a teams chances of winning a game under the Friday night lights. The University of Texas football team beat Oklahoma 48-45 from a field goal made by kicker Cameron Dicker. The first play of every football game begins with a kick-off, but the kicker is a position that has considerably less playing time than the other positions in football.

As the LBJ football team finished the season losing in the playoffs to Cedar Park, fans came out to support the players on the team. LASA senior Ian McIntosh, an outside linebacker during his sophomore year, and varsity kicker during the 2017 season, believes that most fans tend to be biased against smaller roles in the football team such as the kicker.

“The kicker is generally underappreciated because they are not nearly as athletic or flashy as the quarterback and wide receivers are.” McIntosh said.

LASA freshman and kicker Lonnie Glasscock thinks kickers have a significant role in determining the success of the team.

“The kicker is important because on kickoffs their kick determines where the other team starts from, or if the kicking team can recover the ball.” Glasscock said.

The kickers are a part of special teams, which also includes punting. Athletic Director amd Football Coach Jahmal Fenner finds special teams to be important even though they are not on the field as much as the other parts of the team.

“Special teams is just as important as offense and defense because they can change the game.” Fenner said.

While the kicker may not be in on every play or all of the action, they still have a large role in most scoring plays except for touchdowns, where they impact the distance the other team must go to score points. Field goals are taken by the kicker when the team has little options left and is within distance for the kicker to kick the football through the field goal poles.

“Field goals are also important because they can have a big impact on the outcome and possibly decide who wins or loses.” Glasscock said.

Field goals were especially important for Fenner against Cedar Park.

“Even when I look back at our Cedar Park game we had the ball on the five and I went for it on fourth and I could have kicked a field goal but I did not have the confidence that I needed to have,” Fenner said.

The responsibility of the kicker is to complete kickoffs and take extra points along with field goals. Each of these brings different ways that a kicker can help their team. Normally the kicker is associated with getting the extra point or taking a field goal as their major significance, but the kickoff is another way the kicker can change the game.

“A good kicker can make the opposing team go an extra ten or twenty yards to score,” McIntosh said. “A good punt or kickoff can make it much harder for the opposing team to get in a position where they can score.”

The special teams this year exceeded expectations, according to Fenner.

“Defensively, we did not give up any touchdowns this year which is huge when your kickoff team can kick the ball off and they don’t run it back for scores. Our punt team was pretty good also, we blocked well and we didn’t get any of our punts blocked and we covered well. I would say if I had to grade it out this year I would give our special teams a B plus.” Fenner said.

The kicker is typically not noted or appreciated by fans during punts or kickoffs, but Fenner claims the kicker is very important in certain situations.

“You can’t just leave points out on the field because you are talking about us losing 10-7 in overtime and that could easily be the other way where we win ten to seven,” Fenner said. The kicker has the ability to push one team on top of the other in crucial situations such as overtime.

McIntosh feels the kicker is blamed for losses because they are seen less throughout the game and their kicks being missed is more noticeable than the offense not scoring.

“A lot of the times the kicker is tossed aside or even used as a scapegoat when their team loses.” McIntosh said.

He connects the general shift of blame on the kickers for a poor result to their underappreciation.

“Kickers don’t get nearly as much playing time as the offensive or defensive players and a lot of the time people stop paying attention when special teams takes the field.” McIntosh said.
Glasscock thinks kickers are overlooked when they step onto the field.

“I think the kicker is valued by the team and the coaches as much as they should, but I do think sometimes when fans hear the word kicker they think it is a lesser position.” Glasscock said.
Fenner believes the kickers are not undercredited, but just forgotten by fans.

“I don’t think the kicker is underappreciated but there are so many aspects to the game so that sometimes special teams is put to the side because it is a transition phase of the game.” Fenner said. Fenner also adds that because the kicker and special teams is associated as a transition phase of the game it can get lost or focused less on than other areas of the game.

Understanding the importance of the special teams is even hard for Fenner, who sometimes forgot to schedule practices for them.

“I am the offensive coordinator so I always want to focus on the offense,” Fenner said. “This year I made a special teams coordinator which was coach Norton to make that he told me, ‘No coach we need to work on special teams today, we need to do this. We spend more time focusing on offense and defense than the special teams aspect but we really try to make that our focal point because that is where the game can change and the momentum can shift.”

McIntosh thinks the average fan does not always see the effort put into special teams.

“I do not think that every casual football fan realizes the importance of a kicker to the team because as I said, special teams is a very underrated aspect of the game.” McIntosh said.

Fenner believes there is some level of a lack of acknowledgment by the fans concerning special teams.

“People really don’t look at special teams guys as special people.” Fenner said.

Football is a sport with a variety of different positions and while the kicker may be underappreciated by the fans, Fenner says the impact that special teams has on a game can quite literally be the difference between winning and losing.