Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 | midnight
Beyond the Sun
Green Valley junior Nolan Kohorst has the ability to kick 50-yard field goals. Now he wants to make sure college recruiters know about it.
Kohorst will be one of about 450 kickers, punters and long-snappers to turn out for this weekend's seventh annual National Kicking Event sponsored by Nike at UNLV.
"I was looking online for camps and I ended up finding this one," said Korhorst, who hit four 50-plus field goal attempts this season. "I thought it was a good opportunity to get my name out there. I think it's very important to get that exposure because you never hear about recruiters saying, 'Let's go out and get that kicker.' It's always about running backs and guys like that. I want to get myself out there instead of waiting on people to come to me."
Traditionally ranking as the under-appreciated position of the sport, kickers are starting to garner national attention as the competition of football rises at every level. Kicking specialists have become hot commodities in the eyes of college recruiters.
Chris Sailer, former collegiate kicker and founder of the event, said he recognized the need for kicking coaches when he was a player in the Arena Football League.
"When I was a kid, there was nothing like this," Sailer said. "I decided to get involved coaching high school kids when I was playing arena football. Eventually I had a couple Pac-10 coaches ask me to get all the kids together and by word of mouth it spread. Today, it's the biggest kicking camp in the nation."
The camp starts with a training session Saturday before heading into the most competitive high school kicking event in the country. Although the training is a nice touch, all the kids will admit they are there to see where they stack up against the nation's best kickers.
But more than pride is on the line as a spot on Sailer's top-recruit list all but guarantees a scholarship offer from a major football program. Sailer's top kickers last year have received scholarships from Penn State, LSU, Notre Dame and Florida State.
According to Sailer, he sees about 1,000 players each year and has 200 current Division-I football players that went through at least one of his programs.
"The first camp we had, there were about 150 kids," Sailer said. "Now we're anywhere from 450 to 500 and that includes punters and long-snappers. The exposure that these kids get through this camp certainly can't hurt their chances. We have a relationship with every college football coach in the nation. Typically they're looking for a guy every two to three years and they come to us looking for the best national and local prospects to fit their needs."
It's those relationships with college recruiters that attracts special teams players from around the world. Athletes from Canada, France and Australia have participated in Sailer's camps.
In addition to Kohorst, some local players participating this weekend include Green Valley senior punter Jordan Miller, Palo Verde sophomore Garrett Dunlap and Bishop Gorman sophomore Colin Dittsworth.
"This year I did pretty good so I want to see what's out there for me," said Miller, who has already been encouraged by BYU to walk-on for the Cougars in the fall. "I started punting last year and after the first couple games I had a lot of people come up and tell me I was doing a great job. I want to go out and see what else I can do."
Some of the players participating this weekend have already had scholarship offers, including Kohorst who has been offered a full-ride at UNLV. As a junior, however, Kohorst isn't ready to make a final decision yet and is hoping he'll have a better idea of his options after the camp.
"UNLV offered me a full-ride after we played Basic (on Oct. 30)," Kohorst said. "Coach called me into his office that Saturday morning and we got (UNLV wide-receivers coach) Coach Cinkovich on the phone. It was really cool to make an unofficial visit there, but right now I want to keep my options open and not be confined to UNLV."
With NCAA recruiting restrictions preventing college head coaches from over pursuing and attending athletes' games, Sailer says that they often rely on groups like his for their information.
"Usually college coaches attend this camp but now they're restricted from doing so because of the NCAA rules," Sailer said. "That means they are trusting our evaluations more than ever."
While Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost encouraged his kicker to attend the camp, he said he believes it isn't necessary for kids to stress over making too many combines as high school students.
"Kids seem to be going to all sorts of different things – camps and combines," Rost said. "But I'll tell you, if you came into our weight room and saw the cards from schools recruiting from our team you'd see the Big 12 schools and the Pac-10. I still believe it comes down to your performance in the classroom and on the field."
Other coaches, though, do believe that national exposure camps like the one this weekend offer an advantage.
"When you're playing on the field you can't be concerned with those things," said Green Valley coach Matt Gerber. "But I think at this time in the year you need to focus on it, especially with a talented kid like Nolan. It's a different game than it was just five years ago and it's good when the players take it upon themselves to get their name out there. There are a lot of schools willing to offer a scholarship and a lot of kids fall by the wayside. These combines play a big part in that and I'm glad they hold this camp in Las Vegas."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].