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Kicker: Hey, bro, thanks for leg up
Argyle senior kicker Cole Hedlund (12) watches an extra point kick go through the uprights against Krum in a Class 3A Division 2 Region 2 Bidistrict playoff game, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex in Denton, Texas.
The sixth in a series profiling newcomers on the 2014 Arkansas Razorbacks football team.
Cole Hedlund started kicking footballs instead of soccer balls in the sixth grade for one simple reason.
His older brother was doing it, too.
Cole Hedlund glance
WEIGHT 170 pounds
HOMETOWN Argyle, Texas
NOTEWORTHY Set national high school records for field goals in a season (25) and career (52). … Broke Argyle High School’s record for longest field goal (57 yards) set previously by his older brother, Chad. … Made 101 of 101 extra-point attempts as a senior. … Helped Argyle to a Texas Class 3A Division 2 state championship in 2013. … Named first team All-American by USA Today. … Ranked as the No. 3 high school kicker in the country by 247sports.com.
That's the simple answer when it comes to what started Hedlund's path from suburban Dallas to the University of Arkansas, where he arrived this summer with his sights set on snagging the Razorbacks' starting kicker spot that is open for the first time in four seasons.
"I've always kind of idolized my brother and looked up to him," Hedlund said. "He kind of gave me that inspiration to really start kicking."
Chad Hedlund was the kicker for Argyle (Texas) High School through 2010 and set school records for most field goals in a season, most field goals during a career and for longest field goal before graduating and signing with Wake Forest, where he made 8 of 12 field goals -- including a 51-yarder -- in 2013 in his first year as starter.
Once Chad graduated from high school, Cole Hedlund took over and in three seasons broke just about every record set by his brother. He made 25 field goals as a sophomore in 2011 to break his brother's record, kicked 52 over his career to break another, and as a senior kicked a 57-yard field goal that broke his brother's mark of 53 yards.
"He pretty much had all the records at Argyle until I got there," said Cole Hedlund, whose 25 field goals in a season and 52 in a career also set national records.
Both Hedlunds grew up playing soccer in Argyle, but it wasn't until the sixth grade that Cole started kicking footballs. He continued into junior high and then as a freshman watched his brother finish his high school career. As a sophomore, he stepped into the role vacated by his brother and blossomed into a major-college prospect, eventually choosing the Razorbacks over Texas A&M.
Jamie Kohl noticed Cole's intangibles from the start. Kohl kicked at Iowa State in the 1990s and now runs Kohl's Professional Camps, which are based in Wisconsin and specialize in training kickers and punters. He first saw Cole at one of his camps in Texas and tutored him a bit during his senior season.
What he saw was a kicker with a strong, consistent leg and an ability to block out distractions. Kohl also noticed Hedlund's ability to show "repeatability" and kick a clean ball with plenty of height.
"For a lot of high school kids, that's really hard," Kohl said.
Kohl said he likes to put kickers through simulated late-game situations to see how they react in pressure situations. Do they get better? Do they get worse? Does their movement change? Do the results change?
"He won me over pretty quick," Kohl said. "Every ball looked similar, didn't seem to get affected by the previous kick."
Timing also seemed to be on Hedlund's side when it came to signing with the Razorbacks. Zach Hocker exhausted his eligibility last season, exiting Arkansas as one of its most prolific kickers. Hocker set Arkansas' career scoring record (354 points), made 61 of 79 field-goal attempts and converted 98.8 percent of his extra-point attempts.
Senior John Henson is Arkansas' only returning kicker with experience. He made an extra point against Louisiana-Lafayette last year and was 2 of 2 on field-goal attempts in 2012.
" I'm going to work hard and try to earn that starting kicking spot this year," Hedlund said. "Coaches haven't said anything yet. I'm just kind of expecting that we're going to have to compete and whoever deserves the spot gets it."
Kohl said he wouldn't be surprised if that ended up being Hedlund.
"I think he's going to be successful right away," Kohl said. "I don't want to put that out there and make bold predictions, but I think he has that ability."
Sports on 07/09/2014