By LARRY VAUGHT
Andy Smith knows more than just a little bit about kicking a football.
He was an all-state punter at Franklin-Simpson High School and was an all-Southeastern Conference selection at punter for Kentucky in 1999 when he averaged 43.7 yards per punt and was fourth in the nation in net punting. He currently serves as an instructor for Ray Guy Kicking Camp, one of the nation’s top kicking camps.
Still, even Smith was more than just a little proud when his eighth-grade son, Jackson, made a FIFTY-ONE YARD field goal for Boyle County in the state middle school championship game against Corbin.
“He played great. It was a big game with cold, windy and really nasty weather. But he also made kicks of 39 and 25 yards,” said Andy Smith, an assistant coach on the middle school team. “We couldn’t move the ball as well as we normally do, so his field goals were all big for us.”
Jackson Smith, age 14, not only did the kicking, but he also played receiver and linebacker.
“He has played football since first grade and has played all over the field,” his father said. “He showed an interest in kicking and punting, so I worked with him and he has gone to camps where he has got some of the best instruction possible that has really helped with his technique and form. He has a strong leg and good leg speed that is crucial for that kind of distance. He has a bright future.”
So bright that Jackson Smith (5-10, 165 pounds) is ranked as the No. 1 combo kicker in the 2022 recruiting class.
“If he hits the ball well, he can punt it 50 yards easily,” Andy Smith said. “He probably averaged 40 yards per punt, but we only punted five or six times all year. His kickoffs are really good. He had a lot of touchbacks.”
Andy Smith’s longest field goal in high school was 39 yards. He only attempted one longer than that. His freshman year at Western Kentucky he did not try a field goal and after he transferred to UK he was only a punter.
“He has me beat (on field goal distance) but he has a long way to go to beat me in punting,” Andy Smith said. “But for us, the 51-yard field goal was not that big a deal other than a lot of people just happened to see it. He has hit from 56 yards in pregame with ease. So it was not that big a surprise he made it from 51.”
It was a bit more of a surprise to him that Kentucky beat Tennessee 29-26 the day before his son hit that historic field goal. Andy Smith was not at the game because of the middle school football championship weekend. He follows the team and has two season tickets and believes coach Mark Stoops is building the program the right way with his successful recruiting.
“I certainly watched the game. None of the teams I was on at Kentucky beat Tennessee,” Andy Smith said. “Any time we beat Tennessee, it’s a good day.”
Smith, who played in the Outback Bowl and Music City Bowl at UK, is a fan of Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis.
“Kickers can be one of two ways. They can love the spotlight and pressure or they can fade away from it,” Smith said. “The clutch kicks MacGinnis has hit over his career have been unreal. If he misses field goals against Mississippi State or Louisville last year, the whole season would have had a different look. He’s had a phenomenal career under pressure that any kicker appreciates.”
Soon Jackson Smith will have to make a decision about his future. Former UK assistant coach Chuck Smith is again the head coach at Boyle and has the Rebels ready to challenge for a state championship this season.
“We are going to talk about him playing multiple positions in high school or maybe just focusing on kicking,” Andy Smith said. “He has always played soccer. This year he’s playing basketball as well, something he has not done the past couple of years. But will just have to see what’s the best route for him in high school and what exactly he wants to do the most.”
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