Nebraska Kicking Camp - 2005

The kickers hit the inside of Cook pavilion and the grass field in and around Ed Weir track for the University of Nebraska's annual kicking camp. 55 specialists from eight different states converged on Lincoln to show what they could do and pick up a lesson or two. Some learned a few, some probably gave a few, but it made for an enjoyable and competitive experience for all.

From the freshmen to be to the seniors to be, kickers from all parts of the country hit the inside of Cook Pavilion to test themselves and learn some new tricks of the trade.

 

In a one-day that even that was part classroom-part competition, kids of all ages, sizes and demeanors started kicking and for the better part of two hours, didn't stop. Even after the camp was over and

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Cody Bausema

special teams coach Scott Downing was addressing his group, he remarked that most had probably kicked the ball a hundred times or more.

 

That meant for some tired legs, even for one of the biggest legs in the competition: senior-to-be, Cody Bausema. Throughout much of the day, Bausema exhibited a leg of monstrous proportions, kicking field goals from around 50 yards and in practice, punting just as far. At the end of the competition, however, as the kicking wore on, the larger-than-life specialist (Cody is approx. 6 foot, 3 inches tall and around 215 pounds) feeling it in the end, taking second in the field goal portion of the competition. "I just got tired at the end there," Cody said following the conclusion of the camp. "I had the distance, but the aim wasn't very good."

 

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Reggie Stecher

Another that had the distance was Reggie Stecher, another going on his senior year, Reggie out of St. Mary's high school in Bismark , North Dakota . In the kickoff portion of the event, Stecher averaged a whopping 61 yards per kickoff, his average putting the ball one yard into the end-zone on each attempt.

 

The older kids had their time, but the underclassmen weren't to be outdone, especially one that came to this particular camp just as a learning tool, his focus being on the first session of Nebraska's regular summer camps; those starting today.

 

Listed on the Parkway West roster in Balwin, Missouri as a middle linebacker, freshman-to-be Hans Steinert took top honors in the punting competition, averaging right around 30 yards per attempt. Following the even, his father just smiled, shrugging his shoulders at the performance of his son in an event that was basically a stop-over until the "real" camp tomorrow, saying ‘what are you doing to do?'.

 

Just a grade higher, but certainly no less impressive was Louisville, Nebraska's own Tyler Johnson, who took the kickoff title for the underclassmen. Even at his young

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Tyler Johnson

age, you can imagine and you would be correct: Johnson is his team's kicker, punter and from what his father stated, just about anything else he has time for during a game.

 

That's the role of the athlete in a small school, the best athletes playing multiple positions, something that junior-to-be Michael Kuss will probably become accustomed to at Holdredge high school. On the day, he was the reigning punting champ for the upperclassmen, one of his punts traveling 52 yards.


There was one particular competitor there that won't have the problem of being demanded to play multiple positions, but it had nothing to do with his athleticism. Rather, it had to do with the school he attends.

 

From deep in the heart of Texas, out of South Lake Carroll, Kevin Ortega proved to be all kicker and a darn good one at that. It's probably a luxury to many of the local products around Lincoln, most having to play multiple positions, but when you play from not just the defending state champion in Texas , but THE national champ, according to the USA Today, you've got your job and that's what they expect you to do.

 

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Kevin Ortega

Ortega did that last year, scoring 91 points on the year as a sophomore, establishing a new state record and if you can establish any kind of record in Texas , you've done something special indeed.

 

Ortega didn't falter in Lincoln either, taking the field goal competition, the rather diminutive athlete knocking in one of his 50-yard attempts. What didn't surprise you was his technique, but to see a young man that stood perhaps no taller than 5 foot, 5 inches tall, to see a ball travel 50 yards and straight through the uprights, yeah, I have to say that was surprising.

 

As you can imagine, his prolific ability has not gone unnoticed, Ortega getting the invite to this camp, but also getting letters of interest from other division 1-A programs. That's all well and good, but after the competition, his father noted that if Kevin had his way, he knows where he would be kicking.

 

"He wants to come here," Mr. Ortega said of Kevin wanting to kick for Nebraska . "This is such a great program with the tradition and it was an easy choice to come up here for the camp."

With two years yet to play, you can bet that once his senior season arrives, Kevin will have attention aplenty. And if he should happen to add a couple of inches, aplenty will turn into obscene. Even if he doesn't, however, the kid is already pretty darn good.

 

As I am want to do, I had to save the best for last; the cream of the crop, the uber-specialist of the day. When it was all said and done, there was no climactic finish as just his presence alone was enough to douse the competition into non-existence.

 

Ok, they actually didn't exist, John Henry Pace the lone long-snapper for the kicking camp, but as anyone will tell you, if you are a good long-snapper, you've got a career in the game. There are players

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John Henry Pace

in the NFL, who's sole job is to do just that and because they are good, their careers are set.

 

Perhaps Pace will follow suit one day, but he was satisfied in knowing that he was the top dog this year. Before you don't give him his due credit, Pace attended last year's kicking camp at Nebraska as well, that time going against a variety of long-snappers. This year was his second consecutive camp coming out on top.

 

I guess he scared the competition away.

 

This experience wasn't about competition, though many thrived on going head-to-head with kids from within this state or from a couple of thousand miles away. It was a camp and like any camp, it was a chance for those inexperienced kids to learn and for those more experienced to hone what they already knew. And in some cases, possibly RE-learn how to kick the right way.

 

Perhaps the next Josh Brown, Kris Brown or Jordan Congdon is amongst this group. Jordan Congdon actually was, coming by almost as you might expect. Was there another like him, potentially making the Parade All-American list along with being a U.S. Army All-American?

 

Only time will tell, but a camp like this isn't about seeing who's best, it's about making all those there better than they were when they came in.


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