by Taylor Williams
February 4, 2011 – Of all positions in the game, it can be the best or worst, the most over or underappreciated, and most glamorous or the most disgraceful. Yes, we’re talking about being a kicker.
Never was the ambivalence and emotional duality of the position better illustrated than this past year when Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, the leading scorer in school history, missed two field goals from inside 30 yards in a loss to Nevada that ended the Broncos BCS aspirations.
The Bronco community’s reactions entailed both countless threats and declarations of support on its kicker, showing how tough it really is to hold that position. And when the kicker is a team’s arguably the best player, the pressure escalates even further.
Such is the case for the Benjamin Franklin Falcons and their kicker/punter Greg Pittman. A 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior, Pittman has been a rock for the Falcons for two years, according to head coach Ralph Tankersley.
“He’s an all-around kicker who I wouldn’t hesitate to use from 45 plus yards out in tight situations,” Tankersley said. “His biggest thing has been improving his accuracy since his sophomore season; and more importantly, about 60 percent of his kickoffs are touchbacks.”
An inexperienced team hindered by constant academic ineligibilities and player turnover, Franklin went just 2-8 this year, despite moving the ball efficiently and putting up points, only to lose several close games on late turnovers. Defensive maturity, especially on special teams coverage, was the Achilles heel all season, which prioritized Pittman’s touchback and sideline punting proficiencies. Constantly punting out or bounds has hurt his numbers, but it’s undoubtedly what’s best for the team.
Franklin will join Grace King, Thomas Jefferson, and Fisher next season in an LHSAA-sanctioned sub-league with its own schedule and playoffs. It’s an ideal opportunity for Franklin, a team in a state of perpetual rebuilding, to foster a competitive environment, garner community support, and market the few experienced upperclassmen out there.
Pittman certainly qualifies as one of those, and has gotten looks from Ole Miss, LSU, Southern Miss, and UCLA. Though undoubtedly recruited for his kicking skills, he has been equally valuable to the Falcons offense, having played both quarterback and fullback during his high school career.
“He came to me on the first day of practice and said ‘Coach, you know I can throw the ball a little bit,’” Tankersley recalled. “So we put him under center when we wanted to put [senior quarterback / athlete] Stan Smith out wide, and he illustrated his football smarts and ability to understand the offense.”
Franklin’s Wing-T offense prioritizes athleticism, precision, and footwork at the quarterback position, and Pittman exemplified all three. He can read defensive schemes and call audibles without prompting, and can also receive and block out of the backfield at the fullback position. On an inexperienced team, the importance of that kind of intelligence can’t be understated.
Though Pittman has yet to experience the dichotomy of potential perceptions of being a kicker, he knows the feeling of carrying heavy responsibility. For some players and the coaches, the biggest challenge can often be maintaining academic eligibility, and Pittman has done so with a 2.8 grade point average, which according to Tankersley, is similar to a 3.5 on public school curriculums.
“I expect him to be a leader and someone I can count on next season, and I’ll continue working to get his name out there” Tankersley said. “He could kick at a D1 school, and if given an opportunity, he won’t disappoint. I’d stake my job on it.”