How close have you made it to your dream?

Today, I tried out for a division-1 college football team. Regardless of whether or not I make it onto the team, I’m thrilled I even made it this far.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a professional athlete.

What kid didn’t?

They make tons of money doing what they love and they become famous through the process. People look up to them and want to be them. That’s why I wanted to be one so badly.

Once I started playing competitive high school sports, however, I quickly realized that I was probably never going to achieve that goal.

So, I shifted my sights to college sports.

They’re still admired, right? Sure, they’re not getting paid, but they do get scholarships and some of them actually end up being pretty famous.

If I were to ever make it anywhere as an athlete, I always assumed it would be as a soccer player. I’ve played soccer since I was four years old and I was always pretty darn good at it. I went to camps, won a couple awards, did well in high school, but I was never able to excel at a higher level against better competition.

That’s why I’m so glad that I started kicking for my high school football team in tenth grade. Because I’d played soccer for so long, I knew a thing or two about how to kick a ball. To my surprise, I actually ended up being pretty good.

Me attempting to kick a field goal during a high school game.

My first field goal ever was a game-winner that sent our team to the state playoffs; the next season I broke the school records for furthest field goal (47) and most in a season (14); I even went a couple camps and faired pretty well against the competition, finishing third in a camp at the University of California in Berkeley.

Because I still wanted to live out my dream as a college athlete, I signed up to try out as a kicker at my school, the University of Washington.

I realized it would be tough, but I didn’t want to regret not even trying out when I grew older. I could always say, “At least I tried, right?”

There’s no harm in trying and failing at something like that. I’ve never been an exceptional athlete and it’s not like I grew up being passionate about kicking a pigskin, not like kicking around a soccer ball, at least. There are plenty of other kids out there who have dedicated so much more time than I have and those are probably the ones that make it onto the team.

But I signed up nonetheless.

By the time I’d registered myself for the tryout in the beginning of this past January, I had about three months to train. That meant working out, stretching, and kicking a football. A LOT.

A kicker (like me) must be properly stretch out and limber so that he can do things like this.

So, I worked out at least five days a week for the last few months. I made sure to do plenty of leg and core workouts — these are very important for kickers. Powerful legs mean being able to kick the ball further and strong core muscles help to balance everything out. I also made sure to stretch multiple times a day so that I could be as flexible as possible.

I did essentially everything that I could do to prepare myself physically for the tryout. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to kick a football as often as I would’ve liked to. Because I only had a single football to my name, and it was difficult to find people to hold and retrieve my kicks, I was only able to kick about every other week. Plus, my football actually went flat about three weeks ago, so that really hasn’t helped. At least I played some soccer in between to help keep my kicking muscles at least slightly prepared.

Either way, whether I’ve prepared as much as possible or not, I signed up and followed through with it, and that’s more than most people can claim.

“How’d the tryout actually go?”, you may ask.

Well, I should begin by stating that the tryout was held in Husky Stadium, so that was pretty damn cool. The first day of spring training for the entire team was underway when I stepped out onto the field.

Husky Stadium, looking East.

As for the actual tryout, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, not that I really knew what to expect. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I would be kicking with three other guys who were trying out and there was also going to be someone trying out to be a long snapper.

Once the other kickers and I were suited up and ready to go, we went out to the practice field next to the stadium to warm up and stretch. After doing the appropriate stretches and a few kicks, the coaches called us over. It was time to get down to business.

Here’s where it started to turn away from what I was expecting. We were told that each of us would only have seven kicks from various spots on the field plus a couple kickoffs. That seemed a little on the low side to me, but who was I to argue? We also had the opportunity to try out some punts, although none of us were actually trying out to be a punter.

We each went through our kicks one at a time. It was kind of nerve-racking, but I felt pretty calm throughout the process despite the fact that I missed three of my seven kicks. One of my kicks, however, clanked off the upright fairly high up and the kick was the furthest one of the day — 43 yards if I remember correctly. Although I missed that one, it felt the best out of all my kicks. Even with my somewhat poor performance, I didn’t necessarily stand out as any better or worse than my competition; there was one other guy who also missed three. Nobody was perfect. We all seemed to be around the same level.

Whether that’s particularly good or bad, I do not know.

In the end, we probably ended up doing more punting than field goal kicking. That’s what I thought was the strangest about the tryout. The fact that the UW team only has a single punter on the roster, and he’s a senior, probably had something to do with that.

Current starting kicker, Cameron Van Winkle, attempting a field goal held by current starting punter, Korey Durkee.

Regardless of how I think I did in the tryout, it’s up to the coaches to decide my fate. While I felt my actual performance in the tryout wasn’t the best, I really enjoyed the experience as a whole. I was able to witness a D-1 college football practice, kick field goals in Husky Stadium, hang out with some pretty cool dudes, and I keep myself in pretty darn good shape for the last few months.

I’m proud of myself, and that’s all that matters.

The Rating: 82/100

Pro: I’m glad that I got to experience this. I’ll live the rest of my life without the regret of not trying out for a college sport team. I’m glad that there are opportunities like this for athletes of all kinds to have a chance at their dream.

Con: This tryout was a bit off of what I was expecting and my own sub-par performance has dampened my mood a bit.

About me:

My name is Jack Russillo and I’m a college freshman who just moved to the big city (Seattle) from a small town in the middle of nowhere. Every day I rate something on a scale of 1 to 100.

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