Nick Tankersley said he couldn’t sleep.
The Manatee High kicker was going to the Hurricanes football stadium the following morning, but not for the usual reason.
This time, Tankersley was participating in a kicking camp that featured Graham Gano and Brandon Fields as instructors.
Both players are in the NFL, with Gano kicking for the Washington Redskins while Fields punts for the Miami Dolphins.
Never miss a local story.
“The guy who taught me how to kick when I was a freshman, he’s friends with Graham,” Tankersley said. “I’d always hear about Graham … how I have to model myself after Graham, and now I actually get to meet Graham. And get to kick with Graham kind of thing. So that’s really cool.”
The two-day Ray Guy prokicker.com Academy had about 35-40 kickers, punters and long-snappers attend each day this past weekend.
Players varied in age and Manatee had the most representation among area high schools during Saturday’s session with seven Coming to Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium was a reunion for camp director Rick Sang.
“Joe Kinnan is my college coach,” said Sang, who has been involved with football camps for 31 years. “I played ball at Eastern Kentucky University and he was the offensive coordinator when we won a national championship in ’79. So I knew him, and I knew he had a great program. And I wanted to be associated with a great program, so that’s why we came here.”
The camp cost $425 for two days, or $300 for one day.
But getting instruction from NFL players and past college standouts as it relates to the kicking game is worth the price tag.
“They have to be self-reliant, because more often than not they don’t have anybody around them that knows how to coach them,” Sang said. “So they’ve got to become their own coach. So that’s the key to it. That’s what makes them successful. We’re not splitting atoms here. This isn’t real complicated, but you’ve got to give them a sound, fundamental base of what they need to learn and then how they can grow from there.”
At the highest level, kicking has become an ultra-important facet to the outcome in football games.
Gano, who parlayed a successful career at Florida State into an NFL career, connected on game-winning field goals against Super Bowl champion Green Bay, the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
Gano’s strong leg – he kicked 64 and 65-yard field goals at Tate High School just north of Pensacola – is rooted in the world’s other football.
“I played soccer for about 13 years and that’s how I got into football,” Gano said. “It just came natural. I felt comfortable doing it, and it was fun, so I stuck with it.”
But demonstrating at Hawkins Stadium was a treat for Gano.
“The field they have here is better than some of the NFL fields we play on, especially Chicago,” he said. “It gets chewed up; they have bad weather up there. Our field in Washington, the guys do a good job of maintaining it. But there’s only so much you can do. The end of the season, it’s just mush.”
Meanwhile, Fields doesn’t look like a typical punter.
He’s 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds of muscle.
Fields, however, punts the ball. And he does it really well.
Last season, Fields averaged 46.2 yards per punt, including a season-long 69-yarder in Week 14 against the New York Jets.
“We want to see them, and how they are,” Fields said about what he does at the camp. “And get them on film. From there, we’ll go over a few basics. Break down the film on them and then just kind of making minor corrections. Every punter is different, but there’s a few things that kind of all of them do the same or all of them are similar.”
Sang said the camp will return in December for the National Kicking Championships.
For more information, visit www.prokicker.com.
Jason Dill, Herald sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at email@example.com.