By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
Spencer Pettit is considered one of the best high school kickers in the country. The Glacier Peak senior is ranked eighth nationally by Chris Sailer, a well-respected kicking coach.
Yet, unlike athletes at more prominent positions, being ranked No. 8 in the nation hasn’t led to a flood of recruiters making their way to Pettit’s door. In fact, just days from the start of his final season, Pettit is still awaiting an offer to kick in college.
“Kicking is a different ball game,” Glacier Peak coach Rory Rosenbach said. “Sometimes it’s right place and right time where (a college) sees you and you get an opportunity. It’s who needs what.”
When NCAA Division 1 schools hand out scholarships, kickers are near the end of the line.
“We’re the last guys on the list,” Pettit said, “us and long-snappers.”
Pettit said he expects offers to come “later in the fall,” after schools determine which offensive and defensive players they’re going to get.
“Fifteen guys in my age (group) have probably been offered so far,” Pettit said. “The number one guy in my grade hasn’t even been offered.”
While Pettit hasn’t received a formal scholarship offer, he’s been in contact with several schools. Washington, Penn State, California, Nevada, Boise State and WSU have all spoken with him. Pettit said Boise State and Nevada are two of his favorites and he hopes to visit each school soon.
Another major difference in the recruiting process of a kicker is how much of the initiative falls on the athlete. In many cases, the kickers are contacting college coaches to gauge their need at the position as opposed to the coaches contacting the athletes as happens with more high-profile offensive and defensive players. And often times, college coaches aren’t all that interested in what Rosenbach has to say.
“A lot of those guys, they really aren’t even going to ask me about (Pettit),” Rosenbach said. “I’ll say, ‘I have a kicker.’ And they’ll say, who’s he kick with?’ I say Chris Sailer, and they say, ‘OK, I’ll call him.’
“I don’t take offense to that. What can I tell them, he kicks it really far and he’s really accurate? I can’t tell them everything they want to know, whereas when I’m talking about a defensive lineman, I can give football specific things.”
In practice, Rosenbach instructs Pettit on what aspects of the kicking game to work on and makes sure he doesn’t overexert himself, but admits he doesn’t do much else.
“I don’t coach him,” he said. “What am I going to say?”
Pettit converted 11 of his 15 field goals in 2013, with two of his misses coming from 48 yards and another from 51. Of his 11 made kicks, one came from 52 yards and another from 53. On point-after-touchdown attempts, Pettit’s only miss was a blocked kick against Shorewood.
“I don’t worry about him,” Rosenbach said. “There was never one time last year where I didn’t kick a field goal because I thought he would miss it. If I didn’t kick a field goal, it’s because I was like, ‘We’re getting a first down or we’re getting a touchdown right here.’”
Rosenbach is known among his coaching peers for his aggressive play calling, and even with a kicker as talented as Pettit, it’s sometimes difficult for Rosenbach to go against his instincts. Inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, Rosenbach often elects to go for it on fourth down. In a close game, however, he has learned to turn to Pettit in some of those situations, knowing it’s an almost automatic three points.
“It is kind of weird because I have to go against my nature,” Rosenbach said. “But really, in high school who has that luxury? Usually at the 30-yard line you don’t think to kick the ball, you’re going for it because you’re not in (field-goal) range yet.”
When the Grizzlies do get into the end zone, it’s not a given Pettit will kick the PAT. Rosenbach likes to get creative in those situations, too.
“He loves when we go for two on PATs because he gets to do something fun usually,” Rosenbach said. “He’s cool with that because he gets to throw the ball or be an option quarterback or do something fun like that.”
Pettit’s longest field goal in practice is from 62 yards and Rosenbach said he wouldn’t shy away from giving him a chance from that distance in a game if the right opportunity presents itself.
Whenever Pettit’s opportunity to kick in college comes, Rosenbach has no doubt he’ll be ready.
“Spencer is the type of kid with the type of personality and the type of competitive drive that I could see him being an elite college kicker,” Rosenbach said. “I could see him playing on Sundays (in the NFL), which is a big thing to say, but he just has that mentality, which is why he’s such a good kicker.”