It is a lonely existence as a football kicker.
You are on the sidelines, watching the action played out in front of you by your teammates and you’re called upon for only a few plays a game. But for those few plays, the attention, as well as success and failure, is completely on you to make that kick through goalpost uprights 19 feet apart.
A football kicker must calm himself, knock back the adrenaline and the fear of failure and trust his instinct to send the football through the uprights — all while 11 players on the other side of the ball scramble to keep you from succeeding.
Grays Harbor Bearcats kicker Jadon Carossino has thrived on that pressure over the last three seasons for the local semi-professional team.
But for the Aberdeen grad who bounced from Boise State to Washington State University in pursuit of his dream to kick in college and, ultimately, professionally, he had to overcome his own pressure and doubt to take steps toward his ultimate goal.
“The only person you can blame is yourself for not trying, for not doing it,” Carossino said.
PRESSURE AS A KICKER
The game of football has its glamour positions — quarterback, running back, linebacker — that are a part of nearly every play on the field. The kicker isn’t a glamour position, but it isn’t for the weak at heart either.
“It is one of those positions where you’re not controlling the whole game, like the quarterback,” Carossino said. “You don’t have the chance to make the big play every time. You get five to six kicks in a game. If you mess up twice, it can be huge. You have to be in total control of your body when you kick the ball. Any wrong step, you won’t make the kick. A lot of kickers are head cases. I am a bit. I like to think about it, but not too much. When you have so much time on the sidelines thinking about your last kick, it is hard not to be a headcase. It really is.”
Carossino, who helps run the computer lab as a para-educator at Miller Junior High School, draws some inspiration and lessons from former Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, who graduated as the school’s most accurate kicker in its history and as one of the top point scorers in Division I-A football.
“However, he missed two field goals that took Boise State out of the national championship,” Carossino added. “People aren’t going to remember being the most accurate kicker, they’ll remember him for those two missed kicks. That’s part of the pressure. It isn’t the easiest position to play.”
For the Bearcats, Carossino hasn’t had too many chances to kick this season, sharing time with fellow kicker and friend Kyle Saloma on the field, but the chances will come.
“I love having him and Kyle on the team and so do all of the guys; we’re going to need them down the stretch,” Grays Harbor head coach Todd Hoiness said. “In my coaching career, I don’t like kickers — but I like Jadon. He is unflappable. When something goes wrong, it isn’t an emergency. He never loses his composure and I can treat him like a football player. He earned his chances last year, hitting a 51-yard (field goal) and I’ve seen him hit a 58-59-yarder in practice. He has traits that will benefit him at the next level — the ball gets up quick, he’s accurate and he’s even-keeled, never up or down. I wish I had him on every team I’ve coached. He’s a great kid.”
“You can tell he’s a good teacher, whether it is football or computers,” Saloma added. “He’s a good coach. He’s always helping out with a little bit of everything. Together, we’re always trying to get better, watching film of our kicks and replaying them to see what we’re doing right and wrong.”
During the 2011 season, Carossino’s confidence in his kicking, which had waned when he failed to make the team at WSU, had returned. Booming kicks like he did when he tried out for the WSU football team in 2006, his desire to kick and to pursue his goal to kick in the National Football League got stronger. Also, for his degree at WSU (bachelor’s in Business Administration-Management Information Systems), he was still looking for a gig in an extremely tough job market.
“That fire inside of me was burning a little more,” he said. “I knew this was something I could still do and I was hitting from some pretty good distances. My Dad was pushing me to do it. ‘You know, it is hard to get one of those really good-paying jobs right now. Maybe you should look into the football thing again,’ he said.
“I thought about it, but I hadn’t
“I thought about it, but I hadn’t gotten over the fear,” Carossino said. “I didn’t want to feel that feeling of failure again. That was one of the hardest things I had to go through.”
Carossino’s placekicking career started on the Aberdeen High School Marching Band as a sophomore, watching the Bobcats play on Friday nights at Stewart Field. During the 2000 season, Doug Schaffer was the kicker and Carossino was a choir classmate with Schaffer. He inquired about kicking for the Bobcats.
The next season, Carossino tried out as the kicker. With just experience as a soccer player to draw upon, he had to learn how to kick a football.
“I remember not being able to kick the ball very far to start,” he said. “Extra point kicks were just barely going over the bar and occasionally, I’d hit the 2-inch kicking block and stub my toe. In the final two weeks of preseason workouts, I stepped into a hole and pulled my hamstring really bad. I sat out a week and returned. I added 10-15 yards on my field goals and kickoffs were going farther. It was strange.”
Through his two years at AHS, Carossino made a lot of special teams tackles on kickoffs, but had only a rare chance of kicking a field goal. His only converted field goal came in Aberdeen’s lone league win, 10-6 over River Ridge at Stewart Field.
From there, Carossino went to Grays Harbor College and worked on his kicking whenever he got the chance, even getting chased out of Stewart Field a few times. Watching college football on Saturdays also helped fuel his fire and desire to kick collegiately. When he was ready to transfer to a four-year school, Carossino picked an emerging football power — Boise State University — for the 2005 season.
Unfortunately, Boise State didn’t have open tryouts for the football team. Carossino went early to try out and talk to the coaches, but nothing happened. It was a tough first lesson.
“I didn’t research enough like I should have, which is one thing that bothered me,” he said.
BIG STEP FORWARD, THEN BACK
During his one season at Boise State, Carossino met two guys who would become major influences upon him as a kicker: a freshman kicker, who Carossino didn’t know was on the team until later, and another player who also thought Boise State had open tryouts.
Kicker Chris Chalmers helped Carossino get access into the school’s indoor football stadium, where the duo would practice their kicks and improve their form. Cornerback Tony Bell helped Carossino define his workouts and get him into shape for the rigors of college football.
“(Chris) had been to a lot of camps and he was the one who fixed me from trying to find a way to kick a football like a soccer ball to kicking the football right,” Carossino said. “Tony was my workout partner and a huge motivator. I bulked up quite a bit with him, doing speed work as well.”
Chalmers transferred to the College of the Sequoias in California and then went to Portland State to kick for one season under head coach Jerry Glanville. Ball went down to Arizona State and made the 2006 team out of a 90-man tryout and traveled to two bowl games with the Sun Devils.
Carossino transferred to Washington State before the 2006 season, checking first if it had open tryouts and was in need of kickers.
Among 40 other players trying out for the team, Carossino applied what he learned from Bell, running faster than most of the other players, and from Chalmers, kicking 5 of 6 field goals later on. When the position players separated, Carossino and the other kickers drew the attention of then-head coach Bill Doba.
“Bill came up to us and told us he was looking for kickers,” Carossino said. “When (another kicker) went off to kick kickoffs, Bill leaned over to me and said, ‘I’m going to try and do everything I can to get you on the team.’ That sounded good to me. They had two guys with two more years of eligibility and I don’t think he knew how much eligibility I had left. I think he thought I was a freshman.”
Carossino learned another hard lesson at Boise State that he carried over to WSU — once he stepped foot onto GHC’s campus out of high school, his five-year collegiate athletic clock started. By the time he tried out at WSU, he had just two years of eligibility left.
The next day, the WSU coaches posted the names of the players who earned spots onto the football team out of the tryout. Carossino’s name wasn’t on the list.
“I went up there fully expecting to see my name up there,” he said. “From there, I worked out for the next couple of weeks and kept on kicking. I realized I hit my peak in kicking about a week after the workouts. It was gut-wrenching. It was more painful to watch the kickers they had at the time go out there and struggle.”
Carossino admitted to falling into a funk after the tryout, almost leaving school at the end of the year. However, he stuck to it and got his degree in 2009, coming home in time to join his father for a Bearcats game.
“It was a super nice day,” he said. “We were enjoying the game and I started to get that ‘hey, I can still do that’ feeling I had when I watched WSU games. This time, I knew it would be easier to make the team. I worked out a bit, not too hard, because I wanted to just do it for fun and I was looking for a job.”
“You have kickers come out of college and play semi-pro ball, but a guy like Jadon is what this program is all about,” Grays Harbor Bearcats co-owner/defensive lineman Chris Raffelson said.
“Jadon came out of Aberdeen and he was good enough to kick in college. With the Bearcats, he’s had the chance to play and try out for NFL teams, if not the Canadian (Football League). Honestly, I didn’t think we’d have him with us, because he would be kicking in the NFL. By next year, he’ll be kicking on television somewhere.”
Building upon the confidence he gained from kicking during the 2011 Bearcats season, Carossino began looking for kicking camps — ones that were attended by professional scouts.
In early March, he learned of the Aguiar-Husted Pro Camp in Las Vegas, run by former NFL kicker Michael Husted, that would run at the end of March, beginning of April. It was exactly what he was looking for, but it was also time to face the fear of failure and the layers of doubt that had been inside of him since his tryout with the Cougars.
“Two weeks before the camp, I saw that I could do it,” Carossino said. “I was talking with my girlfriend about it and never told anyone this — ‘I’m dead scared of trying to put myself out there one more time to be told I wasn’t good enough.’ I was not afraid of not reaching my goal, I was afraid of failure. It was frightening to think about, scary enough to not push myself. It was hard to trust to get myself good enough to get into a position for that to happen again.”
After talking with his family, Carossino found peace within himself from his confidence kicking on the field and from his relationship with God. He set up a donation site that helped him pay to go to the camp and trusted that he could succeed.
“I had to get into the right place with myself and my relationship with Jesus,” Carossino said. “I grew up in a Christian family and I wasn’t in the right place when I tried out at WSU and I attribute it to that. I believe that God has a timing for everything.”
At the camp, Carossino started off well. On the first of three days of judging, he booted 8-of-10 field goals and was sending kickoffs into the end zone. During that day, he got some instruction from Husted, who suggested a few things to help him get more distance and better form on his kicks.
Carossino struggled on the second and third days, but took the experience in stride. He stayed after the end of the camp days working on his kicks with Husted and absorbed as much as he could. He noted that he was the only kicker there who hadn’t kicked in college and learned what he needed to do for the future.
“I was trying to do the things he showed me to do, really for two reasons,” Carossino said. “First, I wanted to show that I can learn fast. I did miss more than I should have. Second, I wanted to show that I could do what they wanted me to do. It would help me get more distance if I’m able to do (those things), so I’m still working on it.”
On the sidelines, Carossino is talking with anyone and everyone about the game at hand and anything else going on — anything except kicking. He knows he’s come a long way from stubbing his toe on the kicking block as a junior in high school and his road to achieving his goals is clear.
And, he’s at peace with it.
“I feel a nice calming when it comes down to it,” he said. “It is no longer a burden that I have to work out super hard and kick all of the time or I’ll fail. If I fail, it isn’t the end of the world. Now, it is a feeling that I can go out and have fun and enjoy the experience. I’m trying and doing it and pushing for it, holding that sense of hope that I can do it. You do your best and you put yourself in the best situation to succeed.”
Rob Burns is a Daily World sports writer. He can be reached at (360) 537-3926 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org