The difference between a kicker in football being the hero or the goat generally lies within a few feet.
That few feet could result in a player raising his arms and being mobbed by his teammates, or hanging his head with a long trek back to the sideline.
More often than not, college kickers have been doing that specialty for years, so their ability to make kicks in crucial situations typically depends on their confidence more than their DNA.facebook
Right now, Henrique Ribeiro has confidence, and a lot of it.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga junior from Baylor School has been named the Southern Conference special teams player of the week on three occasions this season. He's made 12 of 14 field-goal attempts, including his last nine. The highlight of his current streak was a 38-yarder with no time remaining to give the Mocs a 20-17 win over Wofford on Oct. 24, which made defensive tackle Josh Freeman loudly and proudly proclaim that Ribeiro was "the best kicker in the country."
That same evening, Tennessee kicker Aaron Medley missed three field-goal tries in a 19-14 loss to Alabama. Ribeiro and Medley share the same kicking coach, James Wilhoit, and work out together during the summer.
He said that the fraternity of kickers is "really tight," adding that along with Medley he trains with Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich.
"We're really put in the spotlight whether we are terrible or we do really well," Ribeiro said recently. "Aaron is a great kicker, and it's hard to see him suffer, but I know he'll bounce back from it.
"Kicking requires a lot of mental toughness. It's a really important part of the game because it can put points on the board, but it can also flip the field."
Ribeiro has made 31 of his 41 attempts in his UTC career, with 12 consecutive makes last season — his first as a starter.
Maybe it's just a Baylor connection. The long snapper on field goals and extra points is sophomore Emory Norred, while the holder is senior quarterback Jacob Huesman, who also prepped with the Red Raiders.
"Henrique is kicking the ball well. He's hitting it good," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "He's kicking with confidence, and any time you're kicking it with confidence, normally good things are going to happen. It's more than just the kick, though: It's the snap, the hold, the protection — they're all critical. We've got that and have got it most of the time.
"He feels good kicking it. and he's kicking it with confidence."
In addition to his field-goal prowess, Ribeiro has made all 29 of his extra-point tries while also averaging 43.3 yards per punt, which is third in the SoCon.
"It's just a lot of muscle memory," he said. "You repeat the same motion, so if you kick it right, you know it's going to go in."
And this season, it has.
Honest Pint party
The Mocs Club will host a watch party Saturday at the Honest Pint, when the third-ranked Mocs play at Mercer. The game will be shown on ESPN3 and will be seen on the main projector screen at the restaurant.
There is no admission to watch, and specials will be offered to Mocs Club members and friends.
The game begins at 4 p.m.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.