The Missile Takes Off

A.J. Firestone is somewhat of a throwback player for Mercersburg Academy, a private boarding school in South Central, Pa.

A senior this fall for the Blue Storm, the 6-foot, 235-pound A.J. Firestone rarely comes off the field. But it's not any of his work on offense or defense that should get Firestone a college football scholarship.

Firestone, you see, is a punter and field-goal kicker. And he has a powerful leg that was on display at the recent Pittsburgh specialist camp, held in conjunction with Jamie Kohl's Kicking Camp. Firestone was the most consistent punter and field-goal kicker on the day.

Firestone's punts had good distance and hang time, and his field goals sailed through the uprights from better than 50 yards out. In the long-distance kicking, he had a 55-yarder hit the crossbar.

"I kick straight on and off the ground (no tee),'' Firestone said. "So, Coach (Jeff) Hafley was my holder.''

Hafley called Firestone the Missile for his booming kicks that got off the ground quickly and rarely wavered from a straight-on path. After working with the Panthers' specialists and Kohl, Firestone honed his skills.

"I got my steps straightened out, so now I'm more consistent,'' Firestone said. "And I've had a lot of fun. We did some kicking for distance on kickoffs and with field goals, and we did some punting. And think I did pretty well in both.''

Firestone has been largely under the radar so far, but it's a good bet the word's getting out about his abilities. The problem for place-kickers and punters is that they rarely get scholarship offers. Many are asked to walk on to a team and earn a scholarship after a year or two.

Firestone certainly appears to be a kicker worth a second look by a school, and he hopes to hear from more schools after football season begins.

"I've done most of the sending out of information, and I'm just now starting to hear from some smaller schools,'' Firestone said. "But I think I have a better chance with punting. It's not necessarily that I'm a better punter, but I like punting a little bit better. And I've done pretty well.

"I'd like to go to some other one-day, specialist camps, because I think those would be the best for me. I started with the punt, pass and kick competition when I was younger, and I didn't really know about soccer-style kicking. I just learned how to kick straight on, and I've done it ever since.''

And it's that dedication that could help Firestone further his football career.

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