Archive for Saturday, October 6, 2007

Former soccer player finds niche on gridiron

Doerfler already re-writing record books

October 6, 2007


Three Questions with ... Baker University kicker Derek Doerfler

Baker University kicker Derek Doerfler, a former soccer player at the school, discusses the ins and outs of kicking. Enlarge video

Baker kicker Derek Doerfler set a school record with a 57-yard boot earlier this season. The junior hopes to break that mark before his Wildcat career is over.

Baker kicker Derek Doerfler set a school record with a 57-yard boot earlier this season. The junior hopes to break that mark before his Wildcat career is over.

— In the middle of his sophomore season as a forward on the Baker University soccer team, Derek Doerfler suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot. Although he had corrective surgery, the pain was too great, and his brief collegiate soccer career came to an end in 2005.

Two years later, though, Doerfler's kicking prowess still is on display on the Baker campus ... on the Liston Stadium gridiron.

Doerfler traded in his Wildcats soccer kit for football pads prior to the 2006 season and eventually used his right foot to kick his place into Baker football history. He booted a school-record 57-yard field goal this season in the home opener against Culver-Stockton.

The transition from soccer to football was not automatic for Doerfler, however. When he knocked on football coach Mike Grossner's office door to introduce himself and tell the coach he was interested in kicking for Baker, he never even had played organized football.

The Lee's Summit North (Mo.) high school product played only soccer and tennis in his prep days. So when Grossner asked Doerfler for some film of him kicking, he had to think on his feet.

With literally no footage of him playing football in existence, Doerfler grabbed a football and a buddy and headed to an open practice field on a windy day in Baldwin City and started kicking the pigskin while his friend shot the footage Grossner needed.

"It was hard to judge how far he was kicking it," Grossner recalled of the video, "but you could tell he had a live leg."

The video evidence won Doerfler an invite to camp, where he would have to unseat incumbent kicker Ryan Smith if he wanted to get playing time.

Initially, Smith was the clear favorite.

"(Doerfler) was inconsistent," Grossner said. "It was going to take a lot to have Ryan's job taken away as a kicker."

Smith tutored his understudy on the finer points of kicking - from field goals and kickoffs, to pooches and onside kicks - and the former soccer player started transforming into a football kicker.

Grossner made note of the improvement. As Smith, who also is Baker's punter, struggled a little with his kickoff and field goal duties in the last two weeks of the 2006 season, Grossner told Doerfler to be ready just in case.

In the season finale against Lindenwood, Smith missed a field-goal attempt, and Grossner made up his mind.

"I pulled the trigger right there," Grossner said, and he told his backup kicker to get ready.

Doerfler's first field-goal attempt, ever, came from 46 yards out in the second half of a tight game. He nailed it. Baker won, 23-10, and in the offseason Grossner knew he had a new kicker.

To this day, Doerfler still is appreciative of Grossner, not just for giving him the opportunity, but for even listening to him when he knocked on his door.

"I couldn't have done it without coach," Doerfler said of his rise to the starting spot.

That appreciation was readily apparent in the offseason. As Doerfler traveled to kicking combines and scouting events in Houston, Las Vegas and Tampa, Fla., to develop his new-found skill, his powerful right leg brought him recognition.

The father of a Florida University punter in attendance was so wowed he got Doerfler on the phone with Gator coach Urban Meyer.

Paul Assad, who ran the events and has football contacts throughout the country, told Doerfler he might have an opportunity to play for the Colorado Buffaloes.

But the NAIA kicker shrugged off the idea of moving to an NCAA program.

"I had to stay at Baker. Coach let me on the team, and I can't thank him enough for that," Doerfler said. "I would feel terrible leaving."

The loyalty was not lost on Grossner.

"We kept him here, and he's just a great threat," the Baker coach said, boasting of the record-long field goal Doerfler kicked: "57 is a school record anywhere."

While Colorado and Florida have national name recognition, Baker's coach said kicking is a unique football job that is not about what level the athlete is playing at, but his ability to perform.

Doerfler has the ability. He has hit seven of eight field goal tries this year and his lone miss - a 58-yarder against Benedictine - would have broken his still-fresh record.

Smith, now Doerfler's holder, has been kicking for eight years and was blown away at his roommate's development.

"It takes time to really get into it, and he's gotten better faster than anyone I've ever seen," Smith said. "Derek's come a long way. He's almost lights out."

The now-confident Doerfler rarely feels he is out of his range.

"Coach, I'm good from 65 today," he told Grossner at Lindenwood on Sept. 15.

His coach didn't laugh. He just nodded his head.

"If he tells me that, then it's stuck in my mind," Grossner said, explaining that if Baker needed a game-winner he would have no problem lining it up from whatever distance Doerfler felt comfortable with on a given day.

The junior's comfort and confidence levels also were developed during the summer, when Doerfler had a sales and marketing internship with the Kansas City Chiefs. At the end of his workday he would head over to the Chiefs practice facility to hone his skill and once - on turf, indoors, with no conditions - nailed a 72-yard field goal.

With that in mind, Doerfler aspires to be a pro kicker one day.

"Hopefully, I'll get a tryout somewhere after I'm done here at Baker," he said.

Grossner thinks Doerfler has unlimited potential and could have a future as a pro.

"He's got a good leg. He hits it between the two poles. There's a need for that at all levels," Grossner said.

"The Record-Breaker" - as a handful of teammates has dubbed him - isn't too concerned with the professional ranks right now. The junior has this year and next to keep kicking for the Wildcats (2-3) and possibly erase his 57-yarder from the Baker record books.

"If coach gives me the chance," Doerfler said, "I'd love to go out there and beat it."


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