Names like Denver Broncos' kicker Jason Elam and Jacksonville Jaguars' punter Chris Hanson are some of the notable players that have attended the Auburn Kicking Academy and Camp Director Carol A. White says that the goals established by Dr. Edward J. "Doc" Storey are still in place and that keeps the continuity that players relate to year in and year out.
"The Auburn Kicking Academy is in its 23rd year," White tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "It's unique nationally as well as in the South because it focuses on the actual body development of the athlete, not on the productivity with the football. The group sizes are small enough that each camper is receiving personalized instruction over a long period. We do nine total practices while we're here. That means they actually could make change happen here. Most of the time when you go to a clinic you find out 'what could I do when I go home?' We force them to do drill work, enough repetitions and practices, that they actually are starting to feel the difference in the body."
Success of the Auburn Kicking Academy is easy to track. In addition to the kickers who have gone on to successful professional performances, there have been hundreds of players over the years who have had successful college performances. That's what keeps White and her nearly 30 camp instructors coming back to the Plains for four days each summer.
"To me the Auburn Academy is the center of the universe," White says. "Although I teach people other places, we try to find the younger ones and get them started. We only invite rising 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th graders here because the talent pool is so rich that if we had 7th and 8th graders they would stand there and get very bored. We teach them elsewhere and as they get older they come here as campers.
"The reputation is that this camp turns out people that have a chance to help their high school teams for a large number of years and a fair number of these kids move on," she adds. "Last year there were campers from the last five years playing on 134 college teams. That's a list where Auburn campers were playing as kickers, snappers and holders. That's a pretty darn good total."
One of 180 campers at the 2004 Auburn camp practices kicking into a very sharp angle on the makeshift goal posts.
The numbers are something that White and the Auburn Kicking Academy use to their advantage each year when they send out information to high schools in Alabama, Georgia and the Florida panhandle. In addition to pointing out the success of former campers, White says the information about the history and goals of the camp is something coaches and players have responded well to over the years.
"We don't just send camp brochures, the letter that goes to the typical high school coach explains the history of the camp and the goals of providing small group sizes," White says. "There is an ongoing return of many of the guys that were here for years and years. Most of the staff guys have been here. It's founding principles, what Doc Storey wanted us to do and teach, I don't think he was thinking in terms of quite as many people as it has been expanded to include, but we're still doing it that way. The world is in to quick fixes and fast food, but we're still doing it the old-fashioned way. We really teach."
While names like former Auburn and NFL standout kicker Al Del Greco and current NFL player Todd Peterson are regulars at the camps to see how things are going, the camp itself is instructed by former college kickers and graduate students looking to give back to White and the camp for what it has done for them in the past.
"We don't sell the camp on the later lives of the people who were here, we're selling it on the quality of instruction that is going on, but somehow you have to have a line of demarcation," White says. "Other folks who run camps want to tell you what a pro athlete is teaching. Does that mean those guys can teach? It just means they're pro athletes. That normally means that mommy and daddy will pay more money to see Sammy The Great Kicker, but it doesn't mean they are in small group sizes in places where their attention span is captured. It just means they are seeing someone who already knows how to kick."
When he started the academy 23 years ago, Storey was one of the few who specialized in the kicking game. Despite his background in science and the study of the body, Storey realized that he could make a difference in what kids were doing in regards to kicking and punting the football. At the time someone who liked Storey's commitment to teaching kids and his methods was Auburn head football coach Pat Dye.
"What you have for sale here is that this place is open enough, has facilities enough and is receptive enough that a camp of this nature can go on," White says of Auburn. "People aren't pushing us out of the way. They welcome us to come and create a quality product. That's why it was here in the beginning. Doc could have put that product any place, but Pat Dye asked him to come here and put together something that would last for generations and it has.
"It was Pat's genius that created that building (football complex)," White adds. "It's a very functional building. It was Pat's genius that put this program here. No matter what anyone else does to copy it, they can't produce what we produce because they don't understand what our goals are."
Heading into a quarter of a century on the Auburn campus, White has been through three different coaching staffs, but one thing remains constant and that is her respect and admiration for Auburn. While it's true that things always change, she says that the spirit of Auburn remains the same in her camps and that's what makes them so special every year.
"Although we've changed coaches here several times the ambiance is still the essence of Auburn," White says. "It's a great place to come and you can become whatever you want to be here. You are encouraged to grow.
"A lot of places that run camps it's a contest to see how many kids they can cross off their recruiting lists. When Tommy (Tuberville) comes to the field here he comes unannounced. He doesn't wear Auburn clothes. Unless the kids know what he looks like they don't know he's there. He circulates among them and soaks up that feeling because he's glad they're on his campus, not like he's trying to use them to make him be a better person. That's the difference between Auburn and a lot of other places."
The kicking camp was the end of the summer football camp season at Auburn. The various programs attracted several thousand young football players who will soon be playing for the their high school and junior high teams.