Eric Hewitson is a Varsity Blues football kicker. He is a second-year English major at UTM, balancing football and contributing to The Medium in his spare time as the associate sports editor. His job as a kicker is in no way as glamorous as that of the other players on the team. Often called in to convert on an extra point or score a field goal, a kicker’s role is highly specialized yet often criticized as a low-risk position that has minimal impact on the outcome on the game.
But this isn’t always so, and especially not in Hewitson’s case. He led the Varsity Blues in points in the 2013 season and is currently the team’s leading scorer. “If you were to ask a coach what the most important aspect of football is, they would say field position kickers, since we are responsible for giving the team the best field position possible,” he says.
Despite playing a less physical role, what Hewitson and kickers across OUA and CIS football are able to accomplish takes skill and practice. “To be a successful field goal kicker, you have to be calm and confident,” says Hewitson, who has played with the Blues in both of his two years as a student.
Hewitson believes that entering a calmer mental state aids in delivering a precise kick. Each kicker is unique in their approach, and Hewitson works on getting his heart rate low, like an Olympic sharpshooter’s. “You need to focus on the uprights and where you’re positioned on the field,” he says.
By taking three steps back and two steps across in a perfect right angle, the kicker is positioned at an appropriate distance from the ball that provides them with enough of a running start to kick the ball with enough force to send it soaring over the uprights. Positioning himself in this way also gives him enough distance to kick before the other team has a chance to block his attempt.
“Once the ball is snapped seven yards away from the kick spot, I only have 1.2 seconds to kick the ball perfectly,” he says. In the 1.2 seconds Hewitson has to score for his team, he must be precise in every movement. “I take a small jab step, then a small second step where I essentially leap two yards until my plant foot is placed directly beside the ball about six inches away,” he says. The plant foot provides him with the stability he needs when kicking the ball, but also propels his body forward.
In this whirlwind moment, a kicker must drown out the distractions that surround him: the sound of the fans, the shouting of the coaches and players, and even the threat of the opposing players. The kicker must focus on nothing but the ball, maintaining his position and being ready to leap, so that after the snap is made and the booming sound of a cleat hitting the pigskin echoes throughout the stadium, the kicker can look up to see the ball rotating through the air past the rusty metal uprights, and feel satisfaction knowing that he has done his job.
Hewitson has had the privilege of showcasing his skill in an instructional video on field goal kicking, which the OUA asked him to complete for their YouTube channel.
Only two of the four remaining games in the regular season will be played at U of T, but you can still catch Hewitson and the Blues on their road to the playoffs when they face the University of Ottawa on September 27 at 1 p.m.