Kicking for Southern Miss football team not in the cards

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 17, 2008

January 17, 2007

The University of Southern Mississippi on Wednesday is hosting an open tryout for students who believe they can play on the school’s football team.

Seems like only yesterday that I answered an advertisement in the Southern Miss student newspaper looking for kicking prospects. I punted fairly well by street ball standards, and could kick a field goal on my Nintendo game box.

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The morning arrived and three of us showed up. One had a powerful leg and banged through 30-and 35-yarders with little effort. One was a member of our intramural sports trivia team and could recite Ray Guy’s career stats, but couldn’t kick a cold.

Then there was me, a 5-foot, 7-inch kicking phenom with a Goodyear tire around my waist and enough leg extension to fit two stacked credit cards between my kicking foot and the field. The turf then was natural grass and no tees were allowed (as if that mattered).

We were instructed to kick 10 extra points — a mighty kick of 20 yards from straight ahead. Wearing a gold Southern Miss T-shirt, a Buffalo Bisons baseball cap and a pair of Denver Nuggets sweat shorts — I still have little clue where those came from — I took my stance, soccer style, behind the holder, a senior long-snapper named Mike Iosia.

Mike pretended to take a snap, put the ball cleanly on the turf and waited for my first sneaker-kick. It sailed low and wide. I chose the popular cyclone kick — it rises slightly above the ground and spins like a cyclone until finally landing on one end. It’s much easier than the normal end-over-end variety, but the results are much worse.

After the first kick nearly decapitated a photographer from the Hattiesburg American newspaper, the special teams coach scoffed and headed in the other direction.

Eight more misses from 20 yards away never hurt my confidence, for I booted that 10th one, oh man was it nice. It traveled end-over-end like real kickers and it was higher than the crossbar. It was dead accurate. And, klunk, off the crossbar — AND OVER. The kick is good. With arms extended in ecstacy, I looked for the special teams coach about what uniform number I would be wearing as the newest member of the Golden Eagle football family. But wait, field goals were next.

First from 30 yards out from the hashmark. The ball cycloned and almost reached the 5-yard line. From the other hashmark, similar results.

Finally, from dead on, 30 yards out, I connected on the best kick of the day. It hung in the air for an eternity.

It tumbled over and over trying to muster enough ooompf to reach the crossbar. Slowly at first it descended, picked up speed and landed three yards deep in the end zone.

“Automatic from 23,” I told Iosia. “Thirty? That’s a stretch.”

The call from the coaches never came. The market for an overweight kicker with a 10-percent average on extra points just isn’t what it used to be.

I still have that front page picture from the Hattiesburg American, with a personalized message from then-new coach Jeff Bower. It read, “Keep on kicking the keys for Southern Miss.”

It should have concluded, “but please, no footballs.”


Sean P. Murphy is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. E-mail him at