Little Kicker Bringing SU Big Leg


Ricky Krautman, a little-known high-school freshman kicker, trots onto the football field with a few seconds left on the clock.

Krautman's team, Ramapo High, trails its rival, Wayne Hills, by three. He needs a 42-yard field goal to force overtime.

The team's hopes ride on the kicker's little foot. Nobody can expect much of him, because, after all, he is only a freshman, and no one in school history has ever kicked a field goal that far. But Krautman calmly boots the pigskin through the uprights — tied ballgame.

Real clutch.

Krautman, who will be a freshman on the Syracuse football team this fall, smashed records in New Jersey for the most career kicking points (249), most consecutive PATs (61), most PATs in a career (186) and most kicking points in an 11-game season (79). Krautman was also named a PrepStar All-American and an All-State third-team member as a freshman in high school — the first freshman in New Jersey to do so.

Even as a freshman, it was apparent to then-Ramapo coach Mike Miello, now programs coordinator for Rutgers football, that Krautman was no ordinary high-school kicker.

"Miello told Ricky as a freshman that he had great potential to get a Division I scholarship," Krautman's father, Jeff, said.

When Miello talks, people usually listen. Miello has worked with a number of football players who have gone on to have outstanding college careers. Most recently, Miello tutored Texas quarterback Chris Simms, son of former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms.

When Krautman, who was wavering between playing soccer or football, heard this news, he decided to focus on the latter.

Krautman immediately started working with Pat Sempier, kicking coach at St. Peter's Prep. He's coached NFL kickers like punter Greg Montgomery — who played with the Houston Oilers, Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens — and Brad Costello, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Krautman still works with Sempier three days a week practicing technique and consistency — a trait Sempier said is Krautman's forte.

"He kicks the ball exactly the same every time," Sempier said. "In his mind he thinks every kick is just as important than any other, and as a result he's able to concentrate on the quality of his kicks."

Krautman has been working with Sempier the past two years on kicking the ball off the ground, something high-school place kickers do not practice (national high-school rules allow a 2-inch tee).

Sempier said starting Krautman early on kicking off the ground has let him gain confidence. It should allow him to relax more when he has to do it at Syracuse.

Depending on how his leg feels, Krautman said he kicks anywhere between 18 and 25 balls, focusing on quality, not quantity.

"I just have to be as consistent as possible," Krautman said. "Kicking long field goals are great, but consistently making the closer ones is what college football coaches want."

Sempier, Krautman's father and Krautman all said he consistently makes 40-45-yard field goals. Krautman said on a good day he could put the ball through the uprights from 60 yards-plus.

Apparently his consistency was noticed, as Syracuse, Hofstra, Rutgers and Marshall offered Krautman full scholarships — unique, considering most schools let their kickers walk on.

But, as Krautman and his father say, he's no typical kicker. Krautman insists on working out with the team, so he can shake the "kicker's reputation."

"A lot of kickers do not work out with the team," Krautman said. "So the rest of the team looks at him and says, 'We don't respect this kid.' Well, I go out and work just as hard as every other player, because my main concern is to help the team win. You have to work as hard as them so they'll respect you."

"All coaches will tell you he's the biggest team player," his father said. "He always chooses to be with the team and work out with them."

Afterward, Krautman works out with his personal trainer, John DeFranco, three times a week. DeFranco is a trainer at the Parisi School of Speed, Strength and Quickness, a facility that trains New York Giants and Jets players, along with some collegiate athletes.

Krautman has worked with DeFranco since eighth grade on flexibility, leg speed and abdominal strength. Krautman has also started Syracuse strength and conditioning coach Will Hicks' strength program.

Krautman works hard in hopes of earning a starting position on a Syracuse team that was 11 of 20 on field goals and 38 of 41 on PATs last season.

"I want to start as a freshman," Krautman said. "I'll do what I have to do to win that position."

Sempier thinks he could do it.

"I've seen other college kickers kick," Sempier said. "Ricky's got the technique and consistency to make an impact as a freshman."

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