Collected on four fields with eight goal posts were nearly all of the top kickers, punters and long snappers in the nation. As the place kickers prepared to do their kickoffs, Jamie Kohl shouted out to them that college coaches would be seeing these kicks. He then preceded to a high point where he videotaped the kickoff session, a tape that would eventually be seen by college coaches across the country.
Kohl has been running Kohl’s Kicking Camp for the last ten years. He and his brother Andy were both All-State kickers in Wisconsin. Jamie then went to Iowa State before a stint with the Seahawks. Andy was an outstanding punter for New Mexico State and had tryouts with several NFL teams. Joined by their father, John, the brothers have developed a reputation as the first family of kicking.
“We’ve built this program with a family atmosphere,” Jamie says, “My dad, my brother and myself, we’ve seen guys go from high school to college and now beyond college. We’ve grown these camps with the personal touch we try to provide.”
The camps have grown from three locations the first year to 38 this past year. At each of the 38 camps, the Kohl’s find the best kids and invite them to Whitewater.
“It’s the summation of the summer,” explains Jamie, “we invited the best kids we’ve seen to get them on the same field and it’s a competition, to let them compete and see who does the best based on the numbers. It takes a little bit of the subjectivity out. It’s very number driven.”
Last year, one out of every three kickers at the Scholarship Camp signed with an FBS (Division 1) school. This year, the Kohl hopes that ratio will increase to one in every two. Part of accomplishing this is building a rapport with the college coaches.
“It’s a process where we really are doing the ground work for the college coaches,” Jamie says, “Make accurate observation on kids, that’s the goal of our program. The numbers make it cut and dried, where they are currently, but as a kicking coach, I’m able to see potential in certain athletes. I think a big thing is coordination, rhythm and then the obvious one is leg speed, how the ball jumps off their feet. Through video training and video analysis, we’re able to see how efficiently they’re using their body to create energy on the football.”
Over the years, the camp has had many success stories. Thomas Morstead was, as Jamie said, “a guy nobody wanted.” Now four years after he came to the camp, Kohl says Morstead has a good chance of being drafted and is one of the top punters in the nation.
This year, the scholarship camp featured many of the nation’s top prospects. Several, like Illinois products Dan Orseske and Mitch Ewald, have already committed to FBS schools (Minnesota and Indiana respectively). Those kids are here for the tutelage and the competition, many others are hoping for exposure.
Dustin Hopkins, a Florida State commitment from Houston widely considered to be the top kicking prospect in the country said, “I have a lot of respect for Jamie Kohl, I’ve known him for awhile, that’s the biggest reason I’m here and also I like the competition, there are a lot of good kids here.”
For kids like Hopkins who have a long way to travel, Kohl actually drives back and forth from O’Hare airport, the closest airport to Whitewater’s campus, ferrying campers to the site. It is those types of gestures and dedication which has made this camp as successful as it is.
Jeff Budzien, a kicker with several scholarship offers, put it simply. “This is the best camp in the nation,” he said, “Every kick you hit is charted, so you can’t take any kicks off.”
Scout.com will have more on Kohl’s Kicking Camp over the next few days including interviews with all of the top participants and full results.