Kicking with Reese Hinkle

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Kicking with Reese Hinkle

Josh Lasser

Josh Lasser

Josh Lasser

Aaron Rosenthal

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Football fans continually watch professional kickers sink 50-yard field goals like it’s nothing. Reese Hinkle, Wilson’s all-state kicker, has made field goals of up to 44 yards in game and 57 yards in practice. I wanted to find out how skilled these athletes actually are, so I took to the turf with Hinkle to see how an average Joe measures up.

Before I asked Hinkle for any advice, I wanted to watch him knock in an extra point. He was wearing a pair of jeans and no shoes, so I didn’t expect him to split the uprights, but I wanted to get a feel for his approach. I volunteered to hold the ball for him.
I grabbed the ball, knelt, and held it up with my finger. And then Hinkle pointed out that I was positioned on the wrong side for a right-footed kicker. “C’mon bruh, I know you watch some football,” he laughed.

I can’t lie. I was embarrassed. I watch an unhealthy amount of football, but I had never thought about the positioning of holders. After the rough start, things continued to go downhill. On Hinkle’s first attempt, I let go of the ball way too early. It was practically lying flat by the time his foot made contact. It didn’t go in.

Following a quick demonstration of proper holding technique, we tried again. During his run-up, I closed my eyes and prayed he wouldn’t break one of my fingers. I felt the ball leave the ground and opened my eyes, watching the line drive kick sneak in over the crossbar. I was glad that my hand remained intact, but I hadn’t learned anything about kicking field goals. Because my eyes were closed.
At this point, my confidence was wavering, but I still needed to see how well I could kick. I asked Hinkle for some pointers before I gave it a go. “You should definitely be trying to kick the ball right under the middle,” he said. He also explained, “I calm myself down before I take my steps.”
I internalized this advice and lined up for the extra point. As I stared down the ball, I decided that I was going to implement some of my own strategy as well. I was always a crappy soccer player as a little kid, but I remembered that the ball always traveled the farthest when I kicked it with my big toe. I was going to toe the bottom part of the ball and hope for the best. Heeding Hinkle’s advice, I took a deep breath and began my run-up. Much to my surprise, I made it on my first try. My big toe was throbbing, but my sense of accomplishment outweighed the pain.

I was feeling myself, so I thought it would be a good idea to attempt a 55-yarder. I lined up with a smirk on my face, took a breath, and launched my big toe at the bottom of the pigskin. My smirk transformed into a grimace as the ball sailed far right and fell 25 yards short of the goal post. I watched my dreams of becoming an NFL kicker disappear. My ego was bruised. And so was my toe.
My epic failure on the long field goal attempt left me with questions about how kickers increase their distance. Hinkle’s suggestion was short and sweet: “definitely squats.”

These two little words opened a world of possibilities for me. I’m a decent squatter. If I keep grinding, obtain thighs of steel, and magically improve my accuracy, who knows what I’m capable of on the football field. My NFL aspirations might not be so dead after all.