Cameron Carter's best step toward gaining college football recruiters' attention actually begins by taking three steps back, then two wide strides to the left. That's Carter's routine before every field-goal and extra point attempt, followed by digging his right foot into the turf, a quick glance up at the goal posts and a shrug of his shoulders before the snap.
That routine, which the East Hamilton senior follows superstitiously before every attempt, is more for his own mental assurance. What actually grabs the attention of college scouts is the strength and accuracy of his right leg.
And after recently showing off those abilities at the Ray Guy Pro Kicker Camp in Nashville, where Carter earned a top-10 national ranking, the recruiting process is about to take off. He averaged nearly 63 yards on his kickoffs, putting each one through the end zone, and averaged 38.4 yards per punt with a 3.93-second average hang time.
"He took over as our extra-point guy last year and made a few field goals, but you can just see how much stronger his leg is this summer and how much more confidence he has now," East Hamilton coach Ted Gatewood said. "He's worked really hard at becoming good, and it's paying off. There's no question he can kick at the next level, because he has such a huge upside and hasn't even begun to realize his potential."
Carter never played football before last season. Having played soccer since he was 6 years old, he didn't give much thought to switching sports, despite the fact that his dad Craig was an all-state kicker at Dobyns-Bennett in the mid-1970s. But a friend from the soccer team, who also doubled as a kicker in football, convinced Carter to give it a try, and by last fall he had gone from awkwardly slicing the ball to either side of the goal posts to consistently splitting the uprights.
Midway through last season the kid trotted out onto the field against Brainerd and overcame the nerves of his first varsity attempt to knock through a 21-yard field goal. With his confidence then soaring, Carter booted a 42-yarder later in the first half and from that point on was assuring coaches he was ready every game.
"He's going to be a big-time weapon for us," Gatewood said. "If we stall inside the 50 on a drive, we feel confident sending him out there to get us three points, and his kickoffs and punts should pin opponents deep and help our defense.
"The thing that is going to make him special is his work ethic. The kids on the team all respect him because of how hard he works to be the best at what he does."
Carter has never taken a kicking lesson, but he spent countless hours working on his own until he had developed his own style that produced both accuracy and improved distance.
Earlier this week he called his summer select soccer coach to inform him he was giving up the sport to concentrate on football, believing his best chance at a college scholarship will come from the gridiron.
He will attend another Ray Guy kicking camp next week in Knoxville, hoping to improve on the numbers that already put him among the nation's top-rated prep kickers.
"Football started as just something that I wanted to try, and it was rough starting out because the technique is so different than soccer," Carter said. "But it's turned into a passion for me. I was working a lot more on football than soccer after I tried it, and now I'm hoping all that work will pay off.
"Last year, just going out there in front of all those people and making a few kicks was a big confidence booster. I felt like I could be better this year, and doing so well at the Ray Guy camp has only been proof for me that I can be really good at this.
"I'm going to the next camp believing I can do even better, move up even higher in the rankings. I'm pretty driven to be the No. 1 kicker."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...