Competition brings kickers closer

Senior+placekicker+Sam+Martin+prepares+to+kick+the+ball+down+the+field+during+the+game+against+ECU+last+month.+Amy+Birner+%7C+The+Appalachian

Anne Buie

Senior placekicker Sam Martin prepares to kick the ball down the field during the game against ECU last month. Amy Birner | The AppalachianThere are many sounds that carry through Kidd Brewer Stadium during any given football practice.

You hear the cadence of quarterback Jamal Jackson, followed by the pop of the football hitting the receiver in the hands (THOOM).

You hear the buzz of the scoreboard — indicating a practice session change — and the chatter of a quick water break (BUZZ).

You hear the clash of opposing shoulder pads, the celebrations of a great play, and the bellow of the coaches as they critique their squads (THUD).

Though those noises appear in shifts, the cannon you hear in the background remains constant all afternoon.

That being said there is nothing to fear, you are only hearing the methodical routines of Sam Martin and Drew Stewart.

The Appalachian State University football team’s practice consists of 17 different sessions. The kickers, Martin and Stewart, are only needed for four of the sessions so they have plenty of free time to work on being perfect.

“While the offense and defense are on the field, we are on the sideline working on our kicks, drops, holding and snapping,” Martin said. “Obviously, when we get out there for those 5-minute periods, we just make sure we try and be as perfect as possible.”

Head Coach Jerry Moore said the kickers on the team are strange breeds.

“Nobody misses them or appreciate them until they miss [a kick] or get a bad snap, or get a bad hold,” Moore said. “The thing we are working with are the 23 and 33-yard field goals and kick every one of them straight. That’s so important to know what your limits are.”

A rare breed they are. Martin and Stewart like to play golf in their off time and the competitive nature of the sport, translates to the football field.

Stewart is a scratch golfer. Scratch golfer means he will shoot even (par) in 18 holes.

“That’s a pretty good golfer,” Stewart said. “I been playing for about four years and my golf swing is almost the same as my swing when I kick. It translates to both so the club head of the club being the same as my foot. “

Stewart said that golf allows him to stay calm and help him mentally during a game.

“In golf, you are calm, quiet and by yourself,” Stewart said. “When I’m kicking field goals, it’s me. When I’m on the sideline [of the games], I don’t talk much to people. Not trying to be a head coach, just staying mental and staying focus like my golf swing.”

Even though Stewart uses golf for the mental aspect, there is always that “wide receiver/defensive back” battle going on with the kickers. Like brothers, one always has to be better than the other.

“I’ve played golf with [Stewart] a few times,” Martin said. “He’s good, but I’ll take him in a drive contest any day. Whenever it comes down to smack talk with us, there’s a conversation between power and accuracy. He’s a deadly accurate kicker and accurate on the golf course but distance wise I’ll out kick him and out hit him on the golf course.”

Martin said he could hit the ball further with any club in the bag and the competition doesn’t end there.

During practice, the two of them have friendly competition to earn the crown of being the better kicker.

They play long ball and pig.

In long ball, the kickers line the tee up farther and farther until one of them cannot hit it. The person who kicks the longest wins. Pig is a variation of horse.

Both kickers have ultimately used the competition to make each other better.

“When Drew came in, I was kicking and when I was hurt last year, he came in and did an outstanding job,” Martin said. “We became really close then, just because when he was new, I was helping him and when I became a holder, we started spending a lot of time on an off the field. “

“Being here your first two years in college, is when you make your friends,” Stewart said. “I left them and came here. But this team took me under their wing and I felt like I was one of them within the first week.”

 

Story: ETHAN JOYCE, Sports Reporter, and JAMES ASHLEY, Sports Editor

Photo: AMY BIRNER, Photographer