I have a secret.

I don’t consider it an earth-shattering secret. You may even find it not a big deal. Actually, you probably will feel that way—I understand.

Here it is: I grew up wanting to be a football kicker.

Don’t misunderstand—I wouldn’t have traded playing soccer in Argos for anything. I didn’t want to play soccer instead of football, I wanted to kick footballs in addition to playing soccer.

In my back yard behind the old two-story brick house in southern Marshall County, we had a swingset. By the time I came along, the frame of the swing set was a rusted brown color and the wooden seats were not really safe enough to sit on.

So I used my creativity to repurpose it.

You see a rusted swingset frame, I see the base structure of a football goal post.

I kicked every kind of football over that thing—nerf, rawhide, plastic, rubber…all of them.

There were no uprights, so it was up to me to determine whether or not the kicks would have passed between them or not.

It was part of the daily imagination exercise the backyard offered. 

Covering Warsaw football for the last 20 years, I have seen a lot of kids play out the dream I had 45 years ago. Harrison and Andrew Mevis are just two examples of kids who played Warsaw soccer but became football kickers.

I have admitted to each and every one of them that my envy meter runs into the “red” in watching and describing on the radio a long and illustrious line of Tiger soccer players who added football kicker to their athletic resumes, and then proved to be really good at it.

So you can imagine how giddy I have been watching the NFL playoffs the last two weekends.

Kickers have lined up and drilled field goals to win games and send games to overtime. It feels like every game has gone down to the final play, and kickers have been asked to clinch and extend games and they have not disappointed.

Consider for a moment the kicker for the AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals, Evan McPherson.

We’re talking about a 21 year old kid—a rookie—who has made every kick in every game in this postseason, including the kick that put the Bengals back in the Super Bowl for the first time in over three decades.

Being a kicker on a football team is hard enough.

The rest of the team spends 59:57 bashing in the skulls of their opponents while getting their own skulls bashed in, only to rely on someone who doesn’t tackle or get tackled running onto the field to perform the only task they are asked to do all week with winning and losing and advancing or not hanging in the balance.

That’s pressure.

You’ve heard me talk about “sports courage” and “real courage” before, but this is pressure is as real as any pressure there is.

If you miss this kick, you lose the confidence of your current bosses and most future bosses. Keeping a job gets harder. Getting a job with a new team gets harder.

Walking into the locker room with 52 other guys you just let down after they gave everything they had for perhaps the only chance they will ever get to play on the biggest stage would be impossible.

There have been efforts made by people pretending to be friends of football to diminish or to eliminate kickers from the game of football.

But, the truth is, it can’t be done.

As macho and tough as football is, let no one ever forget that every football game begin with a kick, and a lot of them in this postseason have ended with a kick.

And while that will never be me being lifted into the air after sending my team to the Super Bowl with a game-winning, drama-drenched swing of my leg, it does put a smile on my face to think about all those game-winning kicks I made over that swing set frame in my backyard all those years ago.