13 for '13: John Becksvoort focused on tee, not 'T'

13 for '13: John Becksvoort focused on tee, not 'T'

July 16th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Top 13 kicking specialists (listed alphabetically)

Jim Arnold (Dalton, Vanderbilt, NFL) -- He was a three-time All-SEC punter and later earned Pro Bowl status. He punted for Detroit from 1986 to '93, and his worst season with the Lions was 1990 when he averaged 40.6 yards on 63 punts. His career average was 42.7 and he retired after a personal-best 44.5 average in 1993. He was inducted into Vanderbilt's athletic hall of fame in 2009. He made six All-America teams including The Associated Press squad in 1982 and is the only Commodores football player to be named all-conference in all four of his playing seasons. He spent 12 seasons in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Lions and the Miami Dolphins.

John Becksvoort (Red Bank, Tennessee, NFL) -- He was an All-America at UT, converting 161 consecutive point-after attempts and at one time holding SEC and NCAA records for that.

Scott Blair (Calhoun) -- Following a stellar prep career in which he was later named to the Georgia Class AA Team of the Decade, he was Georgia Tech's kicker for three seasons, making 115 of 119 PAT tries and 41 field goals to rank in the school's top 10 all-time in scoring.

John Bonner (City, UT-Chattanooga) -- A player for Don Shockley at now defunct City High, Bonner was a well-rounded man about campus at UTC, serving not only as the football team's punter but also as president of the Student Government Association. His 44.4-yard average in 1970 ranks No. 3 on UTC's all-time single-season list. That average also led the nation's college division. He had a 74-yarder that year against Vanderbilt. His 41.5-yard career average also is third on UTC's all-time punting charts.

Josh Davis (Rhea County, Middle Tennessee State) -- during his time in Evensville, Davis lettered in football, soccer and baseball and posted a school record 45.2-yard punting average as a senior. He hit two 66-yard kicks and also dropped 22 of his 42 punts inside opponents' 20-yard line. In 2010 he set school and Sun Belt Conference records with a 59.8-yard average on four punts at Memphis. That included a 78-yarder, which is third-longest in MTSU history. He also had a career-high 10 punts for a 46.8-yard average against Troy. He was the backup punter in 2011 but still punted 13 times for a 42.1 average. He punted twice against Tennessee for a 49.5-yard average. Last season he returned to the starting role as a junior and averaged 40.2 yards on 42 punts despite struggling part of the year with a groin injury.

Damon Duval (Central, Auburn, CFL) -- He signed contracts with Jacksonville's Jaguars and Atlanta's Falcons in the NFL but moved to the Canadian Football League in 2004 and made an immediate impact with the Montreal Alouettes. He led the league in scoring with 191 points. He remained with Montreal through the 2010 season as the Alouettes claimed back-to-back CFL titles (2009 and '10), and he set the CFL scoring record with 242 points in 2009. He finished his career with the Edmonton Eskimos. In 2001, he was named to the Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association All-America teams as a kicker after connecting on 16 of 26 field-goal tries during his junior season. Duval kicked three game-winning field goals for the Tigers in 2001, including a 44-yarder with 10 seconds left in driving rain to help them upset top-ranked Florida, 23-20. A finalist for the Lou Groza Award, Duval also was named to the Coaches' All-SEC team at both kicker and punter, becoming the first player with that distincction.

Bobby Etter (Central, Georgia, NFL) -- An All-SEC player at Georgia, Etter led the Atlanta Falcons in scoring in 1968 and '69, earning a Pro Bowl spot in 1969. He's the son of legendary high school coach E.B. "Red" Etter and the brother of former Central and Tennessee standout Gene Etter, who also played pro baseball. At Georgia in 1964, Etter hit all 16 of his PAT attempts, and he stands sixth on the Bulldogs' all-time field-goal-percentage list (.7143). He also played shortstop on the Bulldogs' baseball team. Etter, who is a retired college professor, is recognized as a Grand Life Master, the highest attainable honor in bridge.

Rafael Gaglianone (Baylor) -- Still with his senior season of high school ahead of him, Gaglianone is being recruited by Arkansas, North Carolina State, Duke, Brigham Young, Ohio State and LSU, according to Rivals.com. He was a state Mr. Football finalist last year after making 12 of 15 field-goal tries with one from 51 yards, another from 50 and three others from more than 40. He also put 98 percent of his kickoffs into or through the end zone.

Adam Griffith (Calhoun) -- He was the No. 1-ranked prospect kicker in the country last year as a prep senior when he kicked four field goals in the state championship game, including the game-winner. More than 80 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He signed with Alabama and is expected to be a contributor for the defending national champions.

Michael Hammons (Polk County, UT-Chattanooga) -- He was a Mr. Football winner in 2007 after averaging 45.4 yards per punt as a senior. He also made five field goals. In four years at UTC during which he was a preseason All-Southern Conference pick and an all-conference academic honoree, Hammons averaged 38.9 yards in on 138 punts in 34 games. He had a career-best punt of 67 yards.

Adrian Mora (Dalton) -- A four-year starter for the Catamounts, he had two 54-yard field goals his senior season before starting four years for Georgia Southern. Mora set an FCS record with 151 consecutive PATs and ended his college career having made 57 of 69 field-goal attempts.

Ricky Townsend (Dalton, Tennessee) -- He starred as a quarterback and linebacker for the Catamounts in the late 1960s before moving on to Tennessee, where his barefoot style twice earned him All-America honors. He scored 171 points for the Vols. He was a 13th-round pick by the New York Giants in the 1975 NFL draft.

Pumpy Tudors (Marion County, UT-Chattanooga) -- He was a three-time all-state player at Marion County, making teams as a fullback, a linebacker and as a punter. He was a three-time All-American and two-time all-conference punter for the Mocs, and his 44.4-yard career average is No. 1 all-time at UTC. He also holds the No. 1, 2 and 4 spots on UTC's single-season list with averages of 45.5 in 1991, 44.6 in 1990 and 43.4 in 1989. He was an 11th-round NFL draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1992.

In his four years as a University of Tennessee football player, John Becksvoort never enjoyed running through the famed "T" along with his Volunteers teammates.

"I realize it now that I'm 40 years old: It was the opportunity of a lifetime for four years," the record-setting kicker recalled. "For me, doing warm-ups before the game, my mind was that I had two minutes from the time we ran through the 'T' to find my kicking tee and a net to hit three or four balls before the kickoff.

"Looking back, if my average [kickoff] was 2 yards less but I could have enjoyed running through the 'T,' then I probably should have enjoyed running through the 'T.'"

The Red Bank alumnus touched a football in recent months but only because he happened to find a bunch that had been stored in the garage.

"Really, it's been about 10 years since I kicked one, but in my mind I still think I can do it," he said. "But I'll leave it at that."

Becksvoort, a 1993 All-American, led the Southeastern Conference in scoring in 1993 with 95 points and still holds the UT records for point-after attempts and PATs made, going 35-for-35 in 1992, 59-for-59 in 1993 and 39-for-39 in 1994. He retains the field-goal completion-rate record (at least 10 attempts) because of a 12-of-13 showing.

Once the Vols' all-time scoring leader, he remains third on the list with 317 points.

He was recruited by Phillip Fulmer and played for both Johnny Majors and Fulmer during their head coaching tenures.

"Coach Fulmer was Tennessee through and through, and the same with Coach Majors, and both got blows that weren't fair," Becksvoort said. "Phillip was a great coach, a great recruiter, but in a society that demands a fix now, coaches have to win X number of games.

"People writing checks just don't have enough patience. You have to think what Alabama went through. They're on top now, but there was a time when, by Alabama standards, they went through a run of completely unacceptable coaches and records."

Becksvoort seems quite enthused about the beginning of the Butch Jones era, so much so that he has purchased season tickets.

"I feel really good about the program. They reached out and it has been good as a former letterman," Becksvoort said. "[Former Vol] Antone Davis was hired about six months ago, and he's been touching base with former players. This year's golf tournament was actually sold out. They didn't know what to do. They have a full field and actually had to turn people away.

"There's hope with the new administration -- a feel that this group is dramatically different. I ran into Jeff Smith at the spring game. Here's a guy that was a four-year starter and a seasoned NFL vet and a guy you should want to be involved in your program, and he said, 'This is the first time I have felt like they want me here.'"

It's the same for Becksvoort, even if the game has changed.

"We had state-of-the-art facilities back then, but it's nothing compared to now, and the training and even the kickers are so much more advanced," he said. "I remember in high school, the first practice of the summer they took all the quarterbacks and offensive players and had kicker tryouts to see who the kicker was going to be.

"I was one of a handful of high school kids kicking soccer style, and nowadays there are so many camps and the top 10 percent [of kickers] come from a much larger pool. The quality of kickers is just better."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

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