Life as a kicker, even a good one is tumultuous at best. If you aren't the hero, you're the goat and if you are neither of those, you are a kicker and nobody cares.
This year, however, it seems that kickers are striking back.
Not in a good way mind you, rather the other way around, the collegiate football fan-bases witness to some of the most horrific special teams' debacles in recent memory.
Virginia Tech lost a game on a last-second field goal missed and for a brief time it looked like Tennessee would do the same. Actually, it was a missed extra point, James Wilhoit of the Vols shanking the kick with just over three minutes to go. Fate would have it that Wilhoit would get another chance, this time booming the game-winner from over 50 yards away.
Goat to hero, hero to goat-that's how it goes with being a kicker, people only appreciating one when some other one fails.
If there is one particular kicker at the prep-level that one person feels that this philosophy of ‘we don't need you until we REALLY need you' applies, it's Saint Augustine's, Jordan Congdon.
A 5'11" – 170 lbs. Special teams star, Congdon has been so good, that during his final year with St. Augustine high school, he will probably own a couple San Diego Section records and maybe even a state record or two.
The state record for most field goals in a career is 34. Jordan has 24 right now.
The San Diego sectional record for most conversions in a career is 120. Jordan currently is sitting at 119. In fact, the career points total for the section is 205, which Jordan needs just 14 more points to tie.
Don't take my word for it though and don't look at his stats and say ‘yeah, he's not bad'. Rather listen to someone that actually would know.
Evan Arapostaphis is a former NFL kicker and current teacher of NFL kickers as well. Kickers like John Carney, one of the most prolific kickers in NFL history. Add to that an estimated 16 players that Arapostaphis has personally taught that all actually made it in the NFL and various other players that still play in football's toughest league.
He's also ran a kicking camp (The ABCD kicking-camp) that teaches young players the fundamentals of what makes a great kicker and what great kicking is all about.
You know one thing that he's learned after 20 years of teaching young kids and older professional football players as well?
Jordan Congdon is better than them all.
"He's hands down the best kicker I have ever coached." Arapostaphis said. "He'll definitely be playing in the NFL one day."
That's pretty lofty, even from someone that should know what it takes to get there. There's a reason Evan says that though and no, it's not because Congdon can boot the ball through the up-rights on kickoffs all the time or that he can hit 60-yard field goals over and over again. According to Arapostaphis, he's the best because he doesn't have to.
"I've seen I don't know, maybe six guys total that can adjust to the ball on that last step." He said. "It's in that last step, if it's a bad snap, a bad hold, Jordan can adjust. Most kickers, once they get into that last step, they are committed and just have to swing away."
"Not Jordan. He can see it right up until he's almost right on top of the ball."
Why is that important? For your non-kicking aficionados, what's the big deal of being able to see the ball from one foot versus right before you even start to get into your motion.
Simple, says Arapostaphis, because you aren't always kicking a perfect ball. "If you give me a good snap and a good hold, I could put a monkey out there and have success." He said. "It's when you don't get that good snap and hold, what kickers can adjust, what kickers can see that right before they kick the ball and still manage to get it through the up-rights?"
"That's a good kicker and honestly, there's a lot of good kickers out there, but they just aren't being taught the right things to do."
That's what Arapostaphis has been doing with Congdon, since he was not even a teen. And, since that time, he's seen someone who was potentially good become probably a star to be. "A year after he was at one of our camps, Jordan asked me if I would teach him." Evan said. "I did and of course, he was raw at the start, but he's something special right now."
Special to everyone, except Jordan himself. He sees what his progress as just that, but for him, it's just doing what he knows how to do. "I've never really thought about how I do things I guess." He said. "You just concentrate and stay consistent."
Consistent is something that we haven't seen around the country this year. College kickers missing field goals and even extra points. For Congdon, he's not finding it easy to fathom how the fundamentals have slipped so much. "I don't know what's wrong." Congdon said of the special teams' woes. "It's pretty hard to understand."
Hard because if you want to find someone who absolutely refuses to accept anything but the best, look no farther than Jordan. Heck, you need to only ask his mother about the simple things meaning the most in this game. "You see these kids that all the schools want and they can boot the ball into the stands on the kick off." She said. "Well, that's great, but what good does that do your team if you can't make an extra point?"
It's all about fundamentals, but if you think this young man is sound on the field, off the field, his kicking prowess falls well short indeed.
The perfect kid?
The humbleness of players should not come as unexpected. Even in this day and age of players more concerned with individual awards versus trophies earned by the team, at the high school level, many are still concerned more with what's good for all, versus what's good for just them.
Cogdon, however, this is a young man that takes being humble and character to a level that few would want to even try to attain. "We have to laugh sometimes about him." Jordan's mother Gayla said of Jordan. "He actually called me from the San Diego State game and asked permission to leave, because he was bored."
Think of that as only the tip of the iceberg though as the impression Jordan leaves on his own parents probably wanes to that, that he has left on those that barely know his name.
When you and I are celebrating our birthdays, it's probably typical or each fairly similar in what we do, who we invite and what that day is about. Well, it's about us, of course, it's our birthday. What else could it be about?
Try doing what Jordan does on his.
Instead of receiving gifts, he's giving them, part of a toy drive that he started when he was in 7th grade. It's a time where Congdon invites people to his birthday, asking each to bring a toy with them. Not for him, rather for those not so fortunate that live in the inner city. Those toys are then taken to a church where families from those neighborhoods could get toys for their kids whom otherwise would have none.
"My parents have always been there for me and I don't ever need anything, but there's a lot of people out there that just don't get to enjoy something a lot of people take for granted." He said. "I guess that's probably what I learned a lot of and that was just to not take those things for granted, because there's a lot of people that struggle just to buy food."
Being the son of two ministers, his mother actually having written several books on the trials of life in the inner city, you might find all this philanthropic behavior expected. For his mother especially, while Jordan is the kind of kid they raised him to be, he's been that and so much more. "Sometimes I have to laugh." She said. "He just does these things with no prompting from us and I'm like ‘who's kid is this?'."
"Everyday it seems, he's doing something that just makes us proud."
Looking to the future
That pride, that confidence, all of it is reinforced as they as a family look to the future. So much so, that when Jordan decides where his college of choice will be, his mom knows that Jordan will be the one that decides. "He'll just know." She said of realizing his college of choice. "That's how he is. He'll come back and he'll just know. We are going to be involved as a family in the decision of course, but Jordan will know when he sees that place and I know we will trust his judgement."
There were two schools (San Diego State & Nebraska) that just a few days ago loomed as the largest candidates for Congdon's services. Two schools that for Jordan and the family, that truly understood what they wanted.
It wasn't opportunities to be on TV all the time. And, it wasn't necessarily a program that played for titles year in and year out. It was seeing a school for what it was and a community for what they hoped it would be. "I have a strong faith." Jordan said. "It's important to me that wherever I go, I have the opportunity to practice my faith."
Adding to the personal interests, there of course had to be interest in the reason why Jordan would be there. The kicking and not how much that school kicks, but if the program itself understands, at least from the Congdon's perspective, what real kicking is all about. "Those two get it." Gayla said of San Diego State and Nebraska understanding the kicking game. "They know that good kicking isn't about kicking a 60-yard field go every now and then, but hitting every single one of your extra points."
"It's not about putting the ball into the end zone every time, it's about putting the ball where you want it to go. They understand that and that's the kind of kicker Jordan is. He can kick the long field goals, but when you see someone making those, but missing the chip shots, if that's all he can do, what good is he?"
As the records are bound to fall this year in California, most schools might realize very soon just how good Jordan will be. It's too bad for them that if they are just learning it now, it's probably a little too late.
You see, Jordan has a visit coming up this weekend, his impending trip to Nebraska. And, if things goes as hoped, Congdon could very likely be announcing in a week or so after his trip that, that is where he'll be.
For Congdon, it's just a matter of one thing, that major thing that aside from his criteria that you already know, he's hoping he leaves with when his trip to Lincoln is over. "Most of the things people know about Nebraska is a lot of what I know." Jordan said. "Great atmosphere, the state is about nothing but the football program and they have a lot of success. Also, they told me that I would have a real good shot to start all four years I am there."
"You can't ask for anything more than that, but if that place feels like I hope it will feel and I know that as a person I can grow just as I am as a player, than I will know it's the right place for me."
As for San Diego State and their contention for Jordan's services, Congdon visited a game just this last weekend. A game that didn't leave him quite as riveted as he might have hoped. "I just got bored." He said. "I don't know, it's just I kind of know what to expect there. It's not what I expect when I get to Lincoln."
Jordan will arrive in Lincoln for the weekend as he visits what could more than likely be his future school of choice. It does come down to that feeling though, one that Congdon is hoping that he'll get. "You always want to feel like the place you go to feels like it's the only place to be." He said. "If I get that, that will be great and we'll come home, talk about it as a family and then decide from there."
"I can't wait to get there. I'm excited about what I'll see."
He's excited, but NU fans will be excited and yes, about a kicker. We've seen enough problems in college football this year to know that if you have a consistently good one, that could mean the difference between 4 wins or 9.
Just ask Virginia Tech, just ask Kansas, but you probably don't even dare to ask Oregon State. The kicker is the guy nobody wants to recruit unless they have to. The player they don't want to admit they need unless they need to. Well, Jordan Congdon could be the cream of the entire crop this season and if you've never heard about him, take that as a good thing.
When they are good, most don't even know their name.
His name is Jordan Congdon. He could be eventually bound for the NFL and he's probably a Husker to be.