SEATTLE — Romeen Abdollmohammadi grew up in Western Washington, first in North Seattle then on Camano Island, but he has never been to a football game at Husky Stadium.
Yet on Saturday, depending on the outcome of a coin toss, the Stanwood High School graduate could kick off the 100th Apple Cup in front of more 70,000 fans when the Huskies and Cougars meet for their annual rivalry game.
A one-time soccer player who never kicked a field goal in high school, Abdollmohammadi is now Washington State’s kicker, making him what has to be one of the Pacific-10 Conference’s unlikeliest scholarship football players.
Prior to his senior year at Stanwood, Abdollmohammadi was a soccer player with little interest in football. Despite living relatively close to the University of Washington, he never did get to a game at Husky Stadium, and didn’t feel like he was missing much.
Big sporting events for Abdollmohammadi at the UW consisted of pickup soccer games with his dad, Mostafa, when they would make the hour-long trip south to campus.
The road from high school soccer player to Washington State football player began simply enough. Prior to the start of his senior year, a few friends who happened to be football players suggested Abdollmohammadi give kicking a try.
“They were short a kicker so I kind of got peer pressured into trying out,” he said. “I tried out and ended up making the team and did some kickoffs. I had one field-goal attempt and I missed that, so I never made a field goal in high school.”
That’s right, a guy who is now on scholarship as a kicker never made a field goal in high school. He’s made 14 this season for the Cougars, however, including his past eight attempts. He became the first WSU kicker since 2003 to make four in a game when the Cougars played Stanford Nov. 10.
Who says peer pressure is a bad thing?
Abdollmohammadi still has a hard time believing he’s a college football player.
“If somebody would have told me two years ago that I was going to be a Pac-10 scholarship athlete, I would have never believed it,” he said.
After graduating from Stanwood in 2003, Abdollmohammadi went to Everett Community College and Shoreline Community College, playing soccer at Shoreline. He then enrolled at Washington State in the fall of 2005, thinking his days as a competitive athlete were over. By the time spring football rolled around in 2006, however, he decided to give kicking another shot.
“I definitely went there just for school,” he said. “But just seeing the atmosphere of athletics at this university, I just thought, ‘Man, that would be a pretty neat thing to do.’ They didn’t have a soccer team so I figured I’d give kicking a shot.”
Initially, Abdollmohammadi though he had made a mistake.
“There were maybe eight or nine guys out there, a couple of guys from (community college), and I was thinking ‘What am I doing?’” he said. “But I just kind of went out there and it ended up working out for me.”
Playing as a walk-on last season, Abdollmohammadi took over the kicking duties for the last four games of the 2006 season after an injury to Loren Langley.
“We didn’t come across him, he came across us,” Washington State coach Bill Doba said when asked how Abdollmohammadi became his kicker. “Gosh, he’s been great for us. He struggled a little bit early in the year and missed a couple, but he’s been real solid the last couple of weeks.”
During fall camp prior to this season, Abdollmohammadi was awarded a scholarship, and he has held down the starting job this season.
“It’s amazing how much I’ve improved,” he said. “I kind learned everything myself until this summer. I feel more confident. I got a couple games under my belt last year, so that was good for me. And I’ve kind of started to settle down now towards the end.”
Settled down and feeling confident, the Stanwood graduate will take in his first game at Husky Stadium on Saturday, walking onto the field with his Washington State teammates in front of a near-sellout crowd. It’s something he never could have imagined four years ago, when his only high school field-goal attempt missed the mark at the end of a Stanwood three-point loss.
“I’m still having a hard time believing all of this,” he said. “It’s a dream.”
Contact Herald Writer John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on University of Washington sports, check out the Huskies blog at heraldnet.com /huskiesblog.