Getting a kick out of life
Student joins varsity football team to be punter
October 22, 2014
Lights beam down on his back causing sweat to drip from his hairline to the base of his neck. The crush of shoulder pads make a uniform beat. His body quivers and shakes on the inside, threatening to shut down as nerves rumble dangerously.
Distant cries from the cheering crowd are a steady pulse of encouragement as he takes his first steps. His cleat connects with the football in perfect timing, and the ball soars. His mind clears.
Senior Aaron Sesler made his debut for the varsity football team this year as their new punter after a year off.
“My job is to whenever we are pushed back on fourth down, and we’re not necessarily in field goal range, I am supposed to ‘kick the ball’ wherever the coaches really want me to,” Sesler said. “I don’t just kick it, they tell me what to do depending on how far back I am and where we’re positioned at on the field. My main job to help the team out as a whole is to push the other team back as far as the can to where they don’t have a good chance of scoring on us again.”
A chance encounter led to Sesler’s opportunity to play this season. After only a few practice kicks, the coaches agreed he should join the team.
“I was in the indoor with cheer doing cheer escort and StuCo stuff when Coach McClure, the freshman coach, came up to me and asked me if I could punt,” Sesler said. “He had me go punt in the net a couple times and he said that I was it. Coach Norton came down and said he needed me to help him out here. I said I’m fine with it. It’s senior year and I’m helping the team out, and he said he needed me, so I said okay.”
Despite the new position, Sesler is a veteran to the football team.
“I’ve played since freshman year technically, but the beginning of junior year in the summer, I quit because I didn’t want to go through junior year playing football because I was more focused on grades,” Sesler said. “Talking to my coaches and all the rules [was easy] because I didn’t have to go through all of that again. The only thing I really had to adjust to was in practicing and kicking, but everything else I had already been there, done that so that was the easiest part.”
Even with the simple transition back into the sport, Sesler struggled to reconnect with the other players and find the rhythm he once had.
“The difficulty with me coming back would probably be all the new people that I didn’t know, and I was worried I wasn’t really going to know anybody,” Sesler said. “It was kind of hard getting back into [football], and it still kind of is, because I didn’t do it for so long. I didn’t kick a football for almost a year and then they had me do it all of a sudden all over again, and it’s still kind of hard adjusting to it. It’s harder than it looks, getting back into the technique of doing it and making sure everything is perfect and all that.”
Sesler proved that he didn’t want to let the school or the team down by accepting his new position.
“The reason I decided to [play] was because I knew that even though it’s not a big deal like some of the other positions, but they needed a punter,” Sesler said. “I wanted to make our team better and instead of just being in the stands, watching them and watching a position go bad then I can actually help them and benefit our team and maybe further us in district and going to the playoffs.”
Seeing his friends in the crowd may sometimes sway Sesler’s decision, but he is content with his choice to play this year.
“It might sound selfish, but I loved hanging out with the cheerleaders, hanging out with StuCo and cheering [the team] on,” Sesler said. “That’s actually the hardest part about it all because every game I look up there and see them having a good time, but I like being on the field with the team. There’s that little tug of ‘I wish I could be up there with them on Friday nights,’ but when I look back at where I am in the game, I’m happy that I’m down [on the field.] I’m going to be with my friends at other events. ”
Every time number 29 steps out under the lights to punt, the newest cheer, “Sesler, Sesler,” is heard throughout the student section.
“I like [the chanting.] I think it makes me do better because it makes me realize that they’re all up there watching me and cheering me on,” Sesler said. “They actually stopped for awhile. I mean there’s going to be a bad punt every now and then. They were doing it one time, and I had a bad punt, so then they completely stopped because they thought it ruined me. It actually makes me feel better, it kind of calms me down. Instead of it all being quiet and thinking they’re all looking at me, I can actually hear them and know they’re up there supporting me. I feel like ‘Oh yeah, I can do this.’”
Sesler makes his job look like a breeze, but behind his face mask, the pressure to be perfect for his first year is etched in his determined face.
“It’s the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve done. I didn’t punt until this year,” Sesler said. “It is the most scary, nervous thing, especially being out there for the first time, never done it before in a game, having all my friends scream for me. It’s kind of like my whole body goes numb. The technique that you have just goes away, and you kind of just kick the ball. You just want to get it out of your hands. I’m still getting used to it. It’s just that I haven’t done it before. With punting, it’s either good or bad, perfect or terrible. There is no in between.”