UCLA Kickers: Odd Men Out?
Oct. 2, 2008
By Stephanie Sampson
UCLA Assistant Sports Information Director
Kickers have often been thought of as odd men out, or a little bit off. However, for the three UCLA kickers - redshirt senior Aaron Perez, redshirt junior Jimmy Rotstein and redshirt sophomore Kai Forbath, they believe that stigma should be attributed to all positions.
'I don't think there's anything really odd about any of us,' said Perez. 'Just because we're a little isolated during practice, doesn't mean we're weird. There are plenty of players across the country in all different positions that are a little bit weird. Not just kickers. They just aren't off to the side, so no one notices.'
All Fun And Games?
Typically isolated during most of practice except during the special team periods and two-minute drills, the kickers are usually off to the side working on their kicks or participating in traditional `kicker games,' which have been passed down throughout the years by one kicker to the next.
Aside from the games and kicking, the special teamers also pass time through a plethora of conversational topics, ranging from politics to girls to previous games.
'We're all really close friends,' said Rotstein. 'Kai and I are roommates, and we always talk about what's going on in our lives.'
Although there is a lot of down time for the kickers, the guys never lose their focus. For the 10-15 minutes they get into practice, they make themost of it. Whether it's drilling the ball through the uprights on a field goal drill, kicking off into the end zone, or working on getting that perfect, coffincorner punt, these special teamers always try to make practice perfect.
'We might not be out there running schemes or hitting, but we try to be as productive as possible during the time we have on the field,' noted Perez.
All He Has Left To Beat Is The Kicker...
For most kickers, if they have to make a tackle, it's not a good thing for the team. It means the coverage is blown or their kick went horribly wrong, but in that off chance the kicker needs to make a tackle, it might be good to have a little practice.
'I joined a drill once at practice and made a tackle, and it knocked the wind out of me, so I'll never do it again in practice,' said Rotstein. 'I did make a tackle in the Las Vegas Bowl, so at least I was able to do that.'
'You kind of know the basics of tackling, so if it happens, it happens,' added Perez. 'I just try to focus on the kicking, and if the opportunity is there to make a tackle, I hope I'm able to do it.'
How To Become A Kicker
Most little kids don't grow up thinking they want to be a kicker. Most kickers grow up playing soccer and somehow find their way onto the football field. For Forbath, coaches asked anyone who thought they could kick to come out and try. Once out on the field, Forbath found a new level of talent that could take him farther than soccer could. Rotstein made a bet with the football coach overseeing his mandatory weight class that he could kick a field goal, and the rest is history. Perez had a friend call him at the last minute because the team was in need of kickers, and within days was on the varsity squad.
For all three, their talents began on the soccer field and transferred over onto the football field, where all three have excelled, with two of them being named to award watch lists. Perez has been named to the Ray Guy Award list for the nation's top punter, while Forbath is up for the Lou Groza Award for the NCAA's best place-kicker. However, both men believe without the rest of their team, including theirlong snapper Christian Yount, those accolades would not be possible.
'We just want to do what we can do help the team,' said Perez. 'Whether it's kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime against Tennessee, or pinning the opposing team deep in their own territory, we just want to help the team out.'
'It's an honor being mentioned,' noted Forbath. 'But it's not just us. Christian is a big part of my success, and I get great support from Jimmy. He always helps me with my technique. The support from everyone is what helps us get noticed.'
For the UCLA kickers, `no man is an island,' they're just off to the side, waiting for their time to come and help the team on game day.