The idea behind this story was to explain how a kicker becomes a kicker. I know my 8-year-old isn’t coming up to me saying, “Dad, I want to kick field goals someday.” I wish he would, but he doesn’t. Your 8-year-olds probably don’t, either.
There is a process and a bit of an investment. I talked to Trent Mossbrucker’s dad about that.
Kicker finds the right path
By Marc Morehouse
Trent Mossbrucker Iowa kicker
IOWA CITY — Trent Mossbrucker’s football career started on a soccer field. Sort of.
That part of the story is familiar. Kid plays soccer, kid kicks things well, kid raises his hand at football practice one day and becomes the kicker. Nearly every kicker in Football Bowl Subdivision has a background in soccer. That part you know.
But kids don’t wake up one morning and decide they want to be a kicker. It’s a process. It takes exposure, travel and the kind of skill set that can send a football 50 yards into wind and/or rain, over a defense, in a stadium full of screaming fans and through the uprights.
Mossbrucker raised his hand during practice at Mooresville (Ind.) High School and the journey started. Trent followed in his brother’s footsteps at Mooresville. Kyle Mossbrucker came through as a kicker and quarterback. He eventually walked on at Purdue and is now kicking at the University of Indianapolis.
“Of course, every team needs a kicker,” said Mike Mossbrucker, the boys’ father and athletics director at Mooresville. “They had kicked a soccer ball and so they just stepped up to their respective coaches and said, ‘Hey, I can kick.'”
So Trent Mossbrucker has his foot in the door, figuratively.
At this point, Mark Hagee got involved. He’s a kicking instructor from Plainfield, Ind., just north of Mooresville. Mike Mossbrucker knew him and asked if he’d give his sons some instruction.
“First time I saw Trent kick was in seventh grade,” Hagee said. “Right away, you just knew. You can kick or you can’t. Right away, I knew Trent could kick. He had the form. You have to swing your leg a certain way, hold your foot a certain way. It’s natural. Trent had it.”
Trent Mossbrucker did a lot for Mooresville. As a three-year starter at quarterback, the 6-foot, 190-pounder holds the school record for completions (525) and passing yards (4,208). He threw 39 TD passes and rushed for 26 more.
He was building his kicking resume, connecting on 27 of 38 field goals.
For everything Trent did as a quarterback, the Mossbrucker family thought kicking might be his best option for a football scholarship.
“He was a really good athlete. Really good quarterback. Averaged about 19 points in basketball,” Mike Mossbrucker said. “But 6-foot tall really makes it tough on you. I think they (Trent and Kyle) wanted to play college football and they saw that kicking would be their best avenue to play.”
Mossbrucker could’ve gone 100-for-100 from 60 yards at Mooresville, but that still might not have gained the attention of college football recruiters. He needed camp exposure. That led the Mossbruckers to Chris Sailer Kicking, a nationally known camp for instruction and — this is important — exposure.
Last season, Sailer camps produced 61 college kickers and punters, including Grant Mahoney, a former Linn-Mar prep, now Iowa State’s kicker.
“It became obvious to us that if you want to get noticed, you had to have someone out there promoting you,” Mike Mossbrucker said. “So he went to the Chris Sailer kicking camps, several times.”
These $400 camps are held all over the country. Trent went to ones in California and Las Vegas. He also went to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl combine in San Antonio.
Until February 2008, college coaches were allowed to attend these kicking camps. The NCAA no longer allows them to attend camps, combines or kicking competitions. Coaches attended Sailer camps in the past in “heavy volumes,” Sailer said.
“With the new rule, college coaches now heavily rely upon us for our evaluations,” Sailer said in an e-mail. “We also now film the events and send the film directly to the universities. So the exposure is still there. We have more players sign every year.”
Mike Mossbrucker downplayed the cost of all this, but he estimated that the price tag for travel and camps was more than $10,000. “It’s probably not as bad as some sports with heavy instruction, like gymnastics or golf,” he said.
“You definitely get your money’s worth out of Sailer camps,” Hagee said.
The kicking camps brought a few offers.
“Trent did great at our camps,” Sailer wrote. “He made our ‘Event Elite’ and his name was everywhere nationally. This was an integral part of him signing with Iowa.”
The colleges’ football camps brought more offers and often sealed the deal. Mossbrucker’s tour of colleges included Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Northern Illinois. On campus, coaches could put kickers through whatever paces they wanted.
“They can look at you on tape and see how you do, but they want to see you live,” Mike Mossbrucker said. “They’ll recruit a running back based on what they’ve seen on tape and in a lot of cases, maybe offer them. But I think with kicking, they want to be standing right next to you and actually see you strike the ball. That’s kind of what we found.”
At Iowa and Illinois, coaches put Mossbrucker through a battery of drills. They had him kick from all over the field. They made him run on and off the field, something Mossbrucker, the high school quarterback and safety, never had to do. They ran the clock down, 5-4-3-2-1, and had him kick.
“They tried to put him in awkward situations and stuff like that,” Mike Mossbrucker said. “Trent responded pretty well. But he played all the time, so that didn’t put him out of his element all that much.”
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Mossbrucker’s performance at Iowa’s camp sold him. “We ran him through the gamut, and thought, ‘This guy looks pretty good,'” Ferentz said.
Ferentz said the kicker scholarship is a tough one to give.
“It’s always a little scary,” he said. “Every now and then, guys just jump off the landscape at you, but usually, a lot of times, it’s just the other way. The first one for me that was tough was Nate Kaeding. In the ’80s, we just didn’t do that. We didn’t think about it.”
You know that Kaeding was a smashing success. He left Iowa with a Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker, and is now in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.
Last season, Iowa went without a scholarship kicker. In their first year of competition, Austin Signor and Daniel Murray combined to go 10 of 16 in fields goals (10th in the Big Ten) and 24 of 28 on PATs (last in the Big Ten).
Signor has since transferred. Murray looked solid in Iowa’s opener last week, booting a 44-yard field goal and sending three kickoffs into the end zone.
Mossbrucker is on scholarship; Murray isn’t. But Ferentz said that could change.
“It would be OK with me,” he said. “You hope it’s not two because the first one didn’t work, that’s all. Yeah, I hope it’s not that kind of two. If it ends up being two who are doing well, that’s great. I’m all for it.”
Mossbrucker had scholarship offers from every college camp that he visited. Army and Wyoming also offered. Louisiana State and Michigan State showed interest. A few Mid-American Conference schools offered scholarships at quarterback and safety.
Last Saturday, Mossbrucker kicked two field goals (35 and 33 yards) and hit both PATs in Iowa’s season-opening victory over Maine. He split the duties on a quarter-by-quarter basis with Daniel Murray. That will likely continue, Ferentz said.
For now, it looks as if the $10,000-plus investment has paid off. But it’s early, and no one is more aware of that than Mike Mossbrucker.
“You have to enjoy having the opportunity. I think he has that. He welcomes that, or at least he has in the past,” he said. “He certainly has come through a lot. He’s had some failures, too.
“Trent’s played one game and there’s a long, long way to go. He’s going to have some good days and he’s going to have some bad days along the way. I know that.”