MAPLE PARK – Last season, Kaneland kicker Matt Rodriguez kicked a field goal in practice, step 10 yards back and try another.
One day, he ended up getting all the way to his own 47-yard line, and booting a 63-yard field goal, the equivalent of the NFL record.
“This year, [Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly] knows I can kick it, so we never even went that far,” Rodriguez said.
Before each contest, Fedderly watches his kicker work, and decides how long of a field goal he’s willing to try during the game.
In last week’s 66-23 win against DeKalb, Rodriguez booted a 43-yarder, a career-high, and Fedderly said it wasn’t even a good hold. Fedderly wasn’t afraid of trying his kicker from a farther distance, saying he was willing to let Rodriguez attempt one from 50-plus yards.
“He lets me know what he thinks he’s comfortable with,” Fedderly said. “Last game I think he made one from 52 (in pregame), so we were going to go back that far if we could.”
Rodriguez has only made three field goals this season, partly because of Kaneland’s high-powered offense, which has the propensity to score touchdown after touchdown.
With three games left in the regular season, a possible long playoff run and his senior year ahead of him, the junior is starting to get looks from Division I colleges. The fliers and brochures have started to come in, and Ball State and Cincinnati have wanted him to come out for a game this year and meet their coaches. He plans on heading to Muncie, Ind., to visit Ball State in November.
Rodriguez said he also has received information from Wisconsin and Nebraska about signing up for the recruiting process online. He expects more Division I interest to come after the season, and wants to kick for a Football Bowl Subdivision team in 2014.
For now, he could be a key player in the Knights’ drive toward a possible state championship.
Every day in practice, Rodriguez is working his way toward college, trying field goals and kickoffs. Kicking is pretty much all he has to worry about.
“Pretty much practice kickoffs, practice field goals, go through steps of the kickoff, go through steps of the field goal and then pretty much rest for a little bit and then do it again, and then just stop,” Rodriguez said of his daily routine. “Just watch the rest of practice.”
Rodriguez might not have a high field goal total, but Fedderly has seen Rodriguez give Kaneland a huge advantage in field position.
Many of the junior’s kickoffs fly into the end zone, and opposing kick returners aren’t allowed to bring the ball out by rule.
With the Knights’ strong defense and quick-strike offense, Rodriguez’ kickoffs can be a huge help to Kaneland’s chances.
“We feel really fortunate having someone like Matt being able to kick off. That field position throughout the game plays such a big difference,” Fedderly said. “Especially when we have such good defense. ... If we get the ball back on a short field with our offense, that’s to our advantage, too.”