Every night Bryan Pedersen hears this “whuboom” over and over again coming from the basement. Sixty times or so if he was counting.
It’s not the furnace acting up. It’s his son Brock practicing his foot placement against a specialized pad, a sort of punching bag for punters and kickers.
That’s what Brock Pedersen has his sights set on: Being the best football punter/kicker in the nation. He’s already the best in Wyoming, and only 11 high school punters or kickers in all the U.S. are ranked higher.
It’s a goal Pedersen set in seventh grade when he first learned he could kick a football farther than anyone his age.
“I knew I could kick it hard and accurately, and kicking is all that. But it is also mental. The leg part comes with work. The mental part is what makes kickers,” Pedersen said.
4th And Long
There can’t be that many football players that set out to be punters, and certainly not at the high school level. It’s not exactly the most glamourous role to play on a team.
Sure, not everyone can be the quarterback, but a punter? Punters are never, ever cheered when they enter the game. At best, they receive a collective groan when they trot onto the field.
The fans aren’t booing the punter. They are booing a coach’s decision to not go for it. At least that’s what the punter assures himself.
A kicker is barely better.
Hardly considered a teammate by, say, burly linemen who are found on the sidelines muddied and bloodied, slapping each other on the backside. The kicker, by contrast, can be found alone over by the propane power heater. He’s the skinny guy with the least complicated facemask, uniform clean as the day it was issued.
For Pedersen, he just sort of fell into the role.
Now a senior at Cheyenne Central High School, the 17-year-old knew in sixth grade this was his destiny. When tryouts for flag football kickers were held in Cheyenne, Pedersen bested them all.
In seventh and eighth grades, Pedersen made more than 100 PATs (points after touchdown) before he was even in high school.
His freshman year he scored 61 points. Last season, Pedersen kicked converted 48 PATs, breaking a school record that had stood since 1970. He also made 80% of his field goal tries on his way to becoming a 2022 all-state selection. Of the six longest field goal kicks in the state last season, four were Pedersen’s, including the longest.
Now entering his senior year, Pedersen has two coaches he works with as well as a personal trainer. He works out constantly. He has a dialed-in nutrition program. He hasn’t had a soda in three years.
“He treats it like a job,” his dad said.
Mind Over Matter
It might be detested, but punting is hard. And field goals? That’s where 48 minutes of TD passes, fumbles and interceptions all come down to a 3-second play. Hit the game-winner and they’re carrying you off the field on their shoulders. Miss, and that’s all anyone will remember.
“Punting is just a hard job. You have to take it seriously. It gives your defense position, and you want to give them the best possible outcome,” Pedersen said. “Kicking is my favorite part. Everyone watching me, I kind of like that. It’s a chance to show everyone what I can do, and I like all the pressure on me.”
Pressure is the variable every kicker must learn to control. Plenty of big-time kickers in the NFL have crapped out because they couldn’t handle the misses. What’s between the helmet’s earholes is more vital than the leg.
“Kicking is 95% mental. You can have this giant leg kicking 60-yard field goals in practice, but you go out on the field in a game and you are shaking because you’re scared,” Pedersen said. “You have to be able to work through the bad thoughts, and the crowd, and the elements. All of it. You have to know you are going to make every single field goal.”
Preparation Is Key
Preparation is key for kickers. Everything is mechanics for them. The leg swing, foot angle, everything has to be precise. Regimented consistency is comfort food for the kicker.
“I played a lot of soccer. I have a strong leg and would take some goal kicks. In soccer, you can kind of be yourself, freelance your kicks a little more,” Pedersen said. “For a field goal kick, everything has to be exactly the same. There is a lot more technique.
“It’s easier to kick a soccer ball, lots of sweet spots on a round ball. There’s only one sweet spot on a football.”
In addition to constantly stretching on off days, preparation during a game is also crucial. Kickers are creatures of habit. They deal with enough external variables like distance and weather.
When it comes time to kick a big field goal, kickers like lean on constants like their staid routine and the goalposts which, unlike in real life, don’t move.
“I'm always looking at the down and time on the clock,” Pedersen said. “I start getting ready on first down. Depending on which half of the field we’re in, I start kicking or punting into a net on the sidelines.”
When Pedersen gets the call, it’s either a punt or field goal try. That’s up to the coach, who considers the score, the distance and the ever-present Wyoming wind.
“I am very blessed to have this coaching staff at Central. They trust me. They don’t ask me if I think I can make it, they know I can make it,” Pedersen said. “Coach [Mike] Apadaca, Coach [Justin] Clark, they care about the kicker.”
Sharpening The Skills
The skillset of punter and placekicker is similar enough at the high school level, but by the time serious athletes reach college or the professional level, they specialize in one or the other.
For now, Pedersen enjoys both and is good at both.
“For punts, you have to angle the ball. Depending on which of the three different punts you are trying to achieve — there are maybe 10 more, I don’t even know yet — you want an 11-degree angle for that spiral distance ball, nose down for the dropdead moon ball with hangtime, and there’s also a rugby kick which I don’t do very often,” Pedersen said.
Field goals are always kicked from one of two hash marks on the field. Right-legged kickers usually prefer to kick from the right hash and vice-versa.
“I have no preference as to hash. A lot do. To me, it is same kick,” Pedersen said.
Not many kids maintain a 4.5 rating (5 stars is the best) for both kicking and punting at specialized prep camps throughout the country.
Pedersen spends most of his summer at high school camps like the Ray Guy Prokicker Kicking Camps. For more than two decades, camps like Guy’s are the premiere showcase for kickers, punters and long-snappers.
These specialized positions are not often scouted at games. It is at these camps where kids make a name for themselves.
Wyoming Wind, Leadership Training
Two things make Pedersen a special prospect on the field and off.
First, there’s Wyoming, and its wind and weather.
“Brock never kicks in good weather,” his father Bryan said. If it’s not snowing in late season games, there is always the wind.
In Cody, constant wind means the three-time 3A state champs make sure they develop a good running game. Passing is sometimes an adventure. In Casper, the goal posts at Natrona County Field are sunk twice as deep into the ground to keep them from swaying ... or snapping off.
And at Central, where Pedersen kicks half the time, school grounds designers made the rookie mistake of orienting the field east-west rather than north-south. It is one of the few in the state aligned this way.
That means 50% of the time, Pedersen is kicking into the wind.
“Wyoming is different than any other state I’ve kicked in. It’s intense,” Pedersen said. “If the wind is blowing left you have to aim way to the right. If you are kicking into it, it can take 10 yards or more off a kick. You watch a field goal attempt float in the air and then just drop straight down. It’s frustrating.”
But kicking at elevation also aids the travel of a ball, as any local golfer will tell you. For instance, Pedersen was booming 56-yarders with ease at a camp in Golden, Colorado, recently. A few weeks later he was struggling to convert from that same distance at a camp in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Pedersen also has his head and heart in the right place. He’s senior class president. He is working on a congressional medal as cochair for the United Way, helping to raise $1 million for his community.
“Community involvement is super important to our family,” Bryan Pedersen said.
“I take leadership very seriously,” Brock acknowledged.
*Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Pedersen was ranked 12th in the nation. He is ranked 12th in the nation for kickers but for kickers/punters, Pedersen is ranked 4th in the country.
Jake Nichols can be reached at: Jake@CowboyStateDaily.com