There must be some mistake. I arranged to meet with Bingham High School's phenomenal place kicker, Justin Sorensen, but instead they brought out the fullback. No way this kid is a kicker. I was expecting Martin Gramatica; I got Mike Alstott instead.
This kid is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds. He wears a size 13 1/2 shoe. His legs are twin fire hydrants.
"Yep, I'm the kicker," he assures me, pointing to his T-shirt, which bears a picture of a place kicker.
By now you've heard the stories about the Bingham kicker. The Internet blogs are replete with chatter of his prowess. TV stations have shown up at Bingham practices. Radio talk-show geeks are abuzz about his prodigious kicks. BYU fans are delirious at the prospect of him kicking for their team next season. The Deseret Morning News named Sorensen its Athlete of the Month for August.
All of this fuss over a kicker?
"He's stronger than any kicker in the nation at any level," says Dave Peck, Bingham's head coach.
Don't be too quick to dismiss this as hyperbole. How many NFL kickers can drill a 62-yard field goal off grass with no wind aid?
That's what Sorensen did last Friday night to break a 37-year-old state prep record.
Such kicks are becoming routine for the Bingham senior. In a three-point win over Alta in the season-opener, he kicked field goals of 59 and 51 yards.
He kicked a 62-yard field goal in the team's annual preseason Blue-White intrasquad game. He kicked a wind-aided 75-yard field goal for TV cameras during practice a couple of weeks ago.
The NFL record is 63 yards.
"He makes such a difference in this team," says Peck.
Think about it: All the Miners have to do is reach their opponents' 45-yard line, and they're in scoring territory.
So far this season, Sorensen has made 6-of-8 field-goal attempts. His two misses were 56- and 57-yard attempts into the wind, and one of those was doomed by a bad snap. He has 19 career field goals, three shy of the state record.
Sorensen's kickoffs, meanwhile, have become a sideshow at Bingham games. They are booming shots that routinely land 10 to 20 yards behind the end zone. Last season, 81 of his 96 kickoffs were touchbacks. To give Bingham's kick returners a chance to practice returning kicks, coaches moved Sorensen back to the 25-yard line during the Blue-White game. He split the uprights, which means, in order to clear the crossbar the ball traveled 90-95 yards in the air.
"He's basically kicking 100 yards," says Peck.
Sorensen's only complaint: He wishes the high school kickoff was from the 30-yard line, not the 40, "so I can get ready for college."
Here's the kicker about all this, so to speak: "A lot of people don't realize that Justin is kicking off grass," says Peck.
Unlike collegians and professionals, high school kickers are allowed to kick field goals and PATs off plastic tees, raising the ball well above the level of the grass. It gives kickers the same advantage that a golfer enjoys with a tee. Sorensen has elected to kick field goals and PATs without a tee this season to get ready for next year's collegiate season, even though rules allow it and it provides a distinct advantage (last season, he used a two-inch tee for kickoffs and a one-inch tee for field goals).
"Now he's gotten comfortable without it and prefers to kick that way," says Peck.
Says Sorensen: "If I put it on a tee, I can kick farther, but I'd be worried if I changed things now."
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