Warhawk kicker's career a study in perseverance

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Tim Wester, Special to The Gazette
Saturday, September 28, 2013

WHITEWATER—UW-Whitewater kicker/punter Eric Kindler started his college football career in perhaps the worst spot on any football roster—as the backup kicker.

Then starting kicker Stephen Guelff missed three straight extra-point attempts in the Warhawks’ season opener against Adrian in 2010. Frustrated Warhawk head coach Lance Leipold had no choice but to turn to the true freshman Kindler to turn things around.

Kindler went on to boot two field goals and an extra point in the Warhawks’ 35-0 victory that day and has continued making kicks ever since.

In Saturday’s 65-0 nonconference romp past visiting Waldorf (Iowa) College, Kindler converted a 50-yard field.

That is just another accomplishment for the four-year starter who has become one of the most prolific kickers in school history. Kindler earned preseason honorable mention All-American honors, a first team all-conference 2012 honor and two national championships.

“Eric is a case where you learn you don’t know as much as you think you do,” Leipold said after Saturday’s victory. “I wasn’t even going to invite him out to try out for the team in 2010, but he kept begging me to get him in camp. Sure enough, with an injury to one kicker and another kicker where it didn’t go his way, Eric earned the job and has never looked back.”

Kindler agrees his career has been interesting.

“It’s been a long run with a few ups and downs, but now it’s becoming steady from here on out.”

Saturday’s 50-yard successful attempt was just two yards short of the school record held by Bryan Mader (1997) and Jeff Schebler (twice in 2007).

 “I told coach Leipold that going with the wind, I probably would have the range to as far out as 55 yards,” Kindler said. “I actually didn’t even hit it (the 50-yard kick) that well.”

Field-goal kicking isn’t the only thing Kindler does well. The talented kicker also is the team’s punter, coming off a successful 2012 season where he led the WIAC in kicks inside opponents’ 20.

Kindler’s strong leg and impressive versatility has drawn interest from a handful of NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers.

“It’s nice to have some guys (scouts) looking on at practice,” Kindler said. “I’m sure they’re not all there to look at me though.”

Whether or not Kindler impresses the scouts enough to earn the ultimate goal of making the NFL, he already has had a storybook career at UW-Whitewater.

“It’s been a long ride, but sadly it’s coming to close soon, but hopefully not too soon.”

Several other Warhawks made notable contributions to Saturday’s easy victory.

Evansville High graduate and junior safety Andrew Keister stepped in front of a pass and sprinted 88 yards down the right sideline to increase the Whitewater lead to 34-0 with just 1:30 left in the first half. The interception return for a touchdown is the second longest in school history, behind only Daryl Schliem's 92-yarder in 1982.

The 65-point difference is the second-largest winning margin in school, trailing only a 70-0 win over UW-Eau Claire in 1958.

Whitewater's defense limited Waldorf to 189 yards, and forced six turnovers. Thirty Warhawks registered at least one tackle, led by senior linebacker Cole Klotz with nine, plus two tackles for a loss.

The 3-0 Warhawks open WIAC play next Saturday, at UW-La Crosse.  The next home game for Whitewater is Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. against UW-Stout.

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