The record-setting young man that Arkansas has tabbed to replace kicker Zach Hocker next season got off to a big start with his leg on Friday and then came to see the Razorbacks on Saturday.
Argyle (Texas) kicker Cole Hedlund (5-10, 170), who committed to Arkansas in June after shining at the Razorbacks' kicking camp, boomed a 57-yard field goal as time was running out in the first half of a 38-0 win over Abilene Wylie.
"We were moving the ball and got to about the 50-yard line and our coach started yelling out for field goal team to get ready," Hedlund said. "We got one more play in there and that gave me a chance to get in and kick it.
"Knowing that it was going to be somewhere from 55 to 60 yards, I knew it was going to be a great start to the year for me or a real bummer," Hedlund said. "I got a great snap and hold and kicked the ball and raised my head to see what was going to happen."
Hedlund, who set a national record by making 25 field goals his sophomore season and chose Arkansas over Oklahoma and Texas A&M, was pleased with the end result.
"It looked at first like it was going to go right, but it hooked back inside the uprights at the end and was just a great feeling," Hedlund said. "I've made a 65-yarder in practice."
Hedlund was also 5-of-5 on PATs and missed a 51-yarder as his team began its quest for a second trip to state title game in three years under head coach Todd Rodgers.
"We have a great kicker in Cole and it showed with that kick at the end of the half," Rodgers said told the Denton-Record Chronicle. "His kick was such a huge play and it kept the momentum on our side."
He saw the difference that Hocker – even while battling a groin issue - made for Arkansas on Saturday as he got touchbacks on all of his five kickoffs, made two field goals and all of his PATs.
"He has a really strong leg and his kickoffs are just amazing," Hedlund said. "If he can do that when he is not fully healthy, it's going to be amazing what he can do when he is.
"I haven't gotten to meet him yet, but I hope to do so when I come back up for the Texas A&M game (on Sept. 28)," Hedlund said. "I want to learn as much as I can from him because he has been one of the best kickers in the best conference in the country."
Arkansas was the first school to offer Hedlund, but Oklahoma soon offered as well while Texas A&M and Syracuse had both given him an indication that they were about to when he committed to the Razorbacks.
"I was really wondering how things were going to work out for me and then I got up there to Arkansas, kicked well and they made it clear that I was their guy and they wanted me to go ahead and commit," Hedlund said.
"Even though I was considering Oklahoma and Texas A&M and had been to see them, once I got to Arkansas and they offered, there was no doubt that is where I wanted to go," Hedlund added. "It was about the coaches and the campus. I just feel like it fits me."
High School players can kick off a two-inch tee, but Hedlund does not do that. He used to kick off a one-inch tee and now uses one half that size.
"It's a modified tee that I had someone make for me," Hedlund said. "Instead of a two-inch tee or the one-inch tee I used last season, I am using one that is just a half inch now and I think that will help me make the transition to college next season."
Argyle has gone 25-4 the last two seasons, but they were certainly different seasons as far as Hedlund's opportunities.
After the record-setting 25-of-30 as a sophomore, he was 7-of-10 last season on field goal attempts.
"When I was a sophomore, we had a lot of trouble scoring touchdowns in the red zone and it seemed like I was kicking every time we got down there," Hedlund said. "But last season, we had a better offense and scored so I had the fewer chances. I still just tried to be ready when it was my turn."
Chad Hedlund, Cole's brother, is a redshirt sophomore kicker at Wake Forrest while his dad John is head women's soccer coach at North Texas and played pro soccer for 12 years, including a stint with the Dallas Sidekicks.
Chad Hedlund was 3-of-3 on his field goals last season for the Demon Deacons and is 1-of-3 so far this season.
"I have learned a lot from my brother and dad," Cole Hedlund said.
Hedlund is ranked as the fifth best kicker in country according to Kohl's Kicking.
"One of the best ball strikers in the last five years to come out of high school," Jamie Kohl said, "very productive, been in big games, brother is D-1 kicker, technically sound, rarely misses, has a high clean ball, KOs are at the D-I level…college ready kicker ready to score points and makes kicks, handles pressure well."
He is ranked eighth by Chris Sailer, one of three kickers that held the national record of 22 before Hedlund came along.
"I expect Cole to take his success at the high school level and carry that right onto the field with for Arkansas and not miss a beat," Sailer said. "He is incredibly smooth and consistent. A clutch performer who is beyond ready for the next level. Huge pick up for Arkansas.
"…Perhaps the best part about Cole is the fact that he will only continue to get stronger," Sailer continued. " A fine young man with a great attitude and work ethic. Has all the tools to dominate the D1 level. Big-time prospect."
Hedlund is one of four Division I commits on Argyle's squad along with Texas Tech wide receiver pledge Ian Sadler, Kansas State linebacker pledge Sam Sizelove and Kansas State safety pledge Connor Wilson.
They also have junior tailback Nick Ralston, who rushed for 1,772 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.
"We have a great chance to get back to the state title game and win it this season and I just want to be ready when my name is called," Hedlund said. "I realize how big a part I can be in that and I am not going to let my teammates down."
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