As soon as the competition was over, Jared Zirkel beamed while he snapped a selfie in his Georgia kicking camp shirt and sent it to Brent Grablachoff.
“Got that dub,” Zirkel proudly informed his kicking coach.
Georgia special teams coordinator Scott Fountain had invited Zirkel to attend Georgia’s kicking camp this past weekend. The Tivy kicker extraordinaire impressed at the event, continuing to sky deep kickoffs with long hang times, eventually triumphing over 150 high school kickers to win Georgia’s kickoff competitive. Needless to say, Zirkel was rather excited about the competition, immediately sharing the good news with Grablachoff and some of his comrades at Kicking World.
“He was stoked, for lack of a better word,” said Grablachoff, who owns Kicking World, an organization that hosts 50 annual kicking camps in 34 major cities for kicking prospects. “It was a pretty big accomplishment, especially with 150 campers. … After the camp, we all sort of congratulated him as a group.”
It was merely just another day in what has been a crazy last nine months for the Tivy senior. Even before Sept. 7, Zirkel’s leg had attracted interest from several Division-I programs. But his 59-yard field goal during Tivy’s win over Fredericksburg instantly catapulted him into the spotlight. The video of his field goal went viral, collecting nearly a half million views across social media platforms. A few days later, Division-I coaches began reaching out to Zirkel.
In the last few months, Zirkel has taken recruiting trips to Georgia, UTSA and Texas. During that time frame, College football coaches have casually called Tivy coach David Jones, wondering if they could watch his player kick. In April, the Steelers starting place kicker Chris Boswell visited Kerrville to work out with Zirkel.
“After that field goal, colleges would kind of come to me instead of me having to go them,” Zirkel said. “They started inviting me to stuff. It’s kind of made (the college search) easier.”
He’s continued to improve since nailing that field goal on Sept. 7, focusing on polishing his fundamentals and technique. It paid off last weekend, when he proved that he was worth the hype. During the kickoff competition, he competed against several Division-I prospects. Still, he turned out to be the best, launching 70-yard kickoffs with hang times eclipsing four seconds, an impressive time even for NFL kickers.
“Coach Fountain said that there was a tremendous amount of talent, so it was no layup by any means,” Grablachoff said. “I think it validates his legitimacy as a true Division-I recruit. … He sort of shook up the recruiting circuit by besting 150 kids at a Top-5 Division I football program.”
And that’s the next question: When will Zirkel receive his first offer? Grablachoff expects his student to receive offers in the near future, even as early as sometime next month.
But he also suggested that other colleges might wait to see how Zirkel performs during his senior before giving him an offer. Zirkel only attempted seven field goals last year, splitting kicking duties with his older cousin, Jasen Zirkel, who attempted short-range field goals for Tivy last season. The colleges recruiting Jared regularly engage in high-stake game. Before extending an offer, they need to be certain that he can routinely connect on field goals in clutch situations.
Zirkel isn’t too stressed at the moment, though. After he returned from Athens, he went fishing with his family in Port Aransas. He also plans on attending several more kicking camps in the summer.
In the meantime, he will continue to work at his craft, trying to become the best kicker he can be.
“I really do want to play college football,” Zirkel said. “I just want to play it somewhere that really works for me to go to school too. Hopefully, I get an offer from one of the schools that I want.”