Baylor’s Henrique Ribeiro was the state’s Mr. Football kicker and is still hoping for a college football scholarship.Staff File Photo/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Baylor’s Henrique Ribeiro is still trying to learn all the components involved when it comes to properly kicking a football. But it’s likely more so for other reasons that most major college football programs still haven’t learned about him.
A high school player coming off a standout senior season is usually rejoicing Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA’s national signing period for football. Ribeiro was not among them.
Not only did national signing day come and go with out Ribeiro signing a national letter of intent, the two-month signing period may go by without it. Baylor coach Phillip Massey said Ribeiro is the best kicker he’s coached in his 26 years, but notes reactions toward kickers are much different than that of position players.
Massey and Ribeiro have been counseled by instructor Carol Davis of Kick-Aid Inc., and were braced for the expectation.
“Typically about 30 Division I kicking scholarships are about what’s offered,” Massey said. “Those kids commit prior to their senior year. For Henrique, forget that he had a fantastic year, there wasn’t going to be anything.”
Ribeiro, who said he began playing soccer about when he learned to walk, kicked a football for the first time as a Baylor junior. He returned home last summer and took some footballs with him.
“We don’t have goal posts. You could probably find one in the whole city,” Ribeiro said of Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere. “I’d just have to find a soccer goal and kick over it.”
Massey said Ribeiro returned a more accurate and powerful kicker. Of his 53 kickoffs last year, 49 were touchbacks. He also made 40 of 41 extra points, and not only made 8 of 11 field goals, he had makes from 57, 52 and 51 yards.
In comparison, Calhoun’s Adam Griffith, an Alabama signee on Wednesday, made 67 of 70 extra points and 17 of 25 field goals with a long of 50 yards. Tennessee signee from Knoxville West George Bullock, who Ribeiro beat out for the TSSAA’s Mr. Football kicker in 2011, made 32 of 34 extra points and 5 of 8 field goals with a long of 41.
Former Vols kicker James Wilhoit has been Ribeiro’s coach less than a year. He said teams like Middle Tennessee State and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are “crazy not to sign him now.” They, along with Ole Miss, Miami and Nebraska, are teams that have shown some interest.
“He is definitely a Division I kicker,” Wilhoit said. “One of the things you find with kickers and punters, its about being in the right place at the right time. Opportunities are limited.
“He’s just slipped through the cracks and is a little bit of an underdog story, which is ridiculous considering the amount of talent he has.”
A goalkeeper since he was 8, Ribeiro will play soccer for Baylor this spring. Then it will be all football.
“I probably first saw football on TV back in Brazil when they would show it at 12 on ESPN, but I wasn’t really into it,” Ribeiro said of a late-night viewing offering when he was growing up. “I really enjoy kicking now. I can’t see myself doing anything else the next four years, if not more.”
Wilhoit has recommended Ribeiro attend the National Camp Series Super Kicking Camp in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 18 and 19. It’s designed for unsigned high school kickers, punters and long snappers seeking high-level instruction with the goal of playing college football.
Massey said Ribeiro could first be a walk-on, but thinks a scholarship will eventually come.
“Somebody’s going to get a great kicker,” Massey said, “and not have to spend a year recruiting him.”
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.