COLUMN: Got to love a kicker

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By John Herndon

I never dreamed of throwing a touchdown pass or making a game-saving tackle in the Super Bowl.


I just wanted to kick the game-winning field goal.

Maybe it was because the first time my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys, made it to the Super Bowl, they came up short. A rookie kicker, Jim O'Brien of the Baltimore Colts – THAT designation is showing my age – split the uprights from 32 yards with only five seconds to play.

It was that day that I learned just how valuable a guy who might never get dirty really is in football. And, over the next few years, I realized just what kind of pressure-packed spot it really is.

As a kid, my backyard turned into 15 different stadiums as I perfected the old two-steps-and-kick straight ahead method by driving a football over the basketball goal in my yard. I never missed.

If I did, there was undoubtedly a penalty.

Friday night, the cruel fate of the job reared its head.

Anderson County's Joe Rose had become so automatic during his two years as the Bearcats' number one kicker that I rarely even look up during extra point attempts. The electronic age means that often I am on the sideline taking notes, shooting pictures and getting ready to update my Twitter feed.

And, of course, Joe Rose has been so automatic that I take that shortcut.

As the Bearcats were driving for what looked to be a game-winning touchdown or game-tying field goal Friday night, two thoughts kept popping through my mind.

One was that Rose had missed only one kick – field goal or extra point – in his career at Anderson. That's outstanding at any level, unbelievable in the high schools.

The other was a quote from former University of Kentucky coach Jerry Claiborne: “A kicker can win a game for you, but he can never lose one for you.”

I could not help but feel for Joe Rose last Friday night. Earlier in the game, he had made a heads up play from punt formation when he kicked a bad snap through the end zone to give up a safety but preventing a momentum-changing touchdown by Boyle County.

Yet in the moments following Friday's game, I saw several tweets from the statewide media referring to the fact that Anderson County lost when it missed a last second field goal.

Such a characterization is at best inaccurate. It is certainly unfair.

Anderson coach Mark Peach seemed to be echoing those words from Claiborne Friday when he said, “This game did not come down to just one kick. We could probably make a list of 20 mistakes.”


In other words, if a team is in a position that one kick is the difference between winning and losing, there have been many other things happen over the course of the game that put a team there.

As I was walking to my car, I ran into Anderson defensive coordinator Duane Hammons. We were trying to remember the only previous kick Rose had missed. We could only recall that it was a freak thing. “He has been automatic for us,” Hammons said. “I would send him right back out there if we had it to do again.”

So would I.


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