In football, the place kicker is a position that is only paid attention to a couple times throughout the course of a game. What people don’t realize is that the position is one of the most technically difficult there is in football. For Rogers High School Senior Rhett Powers, who has Asperger’s syndrome, place kicking came naturally. Because of that ability, Rhett sports a huge fan base from the student body, and on September 15th those fans watched him nail a 27 yard kick. As it sailed through the uprights the roar of the crowd echoed throughout the field as everyone was celebrating his first field goal.
“It was huge,” said Rogers senior defensive back Austin Killen, theRogers High School Pirates’ holder. “He was acting kind of nervous, but I told him to just calm down; this is what he does every day in practice and he knocked it down. He was real excited.”
“It was exciting,” Rogers’ coach Randall Martin said. “We finish up each day with extra points and field goals, so we’ve seen him do it. But for him to do it in a game was special. The crowd went wild and it was a special moment for him and his granddad, who comes out here and works with him every day.”
Asperger’s syndrome is on the autism spectrum and is characterized by a struggle with social and communication skills. While Powers struggles with talking to others, his performance on the field says a thousand words. He went on to kick 3 more field goals throughout the 2017 football season and made 49 of 55 extra points.
Powers always wanted to fit in but being an Aspie made it difficult for him to connect with his peers at Roger’s High School. However, this all changed when the Rogers football coaches invited Powers to join the team as a sophomore. “It just made his day to know that he could be part of something as major as football,” said Trousdale, Power’s holder during one-on-one practice sessions. “To have the friends and fellowship he needs as he’s growing older, he accomplished that by being on the football team. He is delighted to be here. I can’t explain to you in words what it means to the family.”
Powers didn’t dress out for his sophomore year. Instead, he focused on learning and honing place kicking technique…and during his junior year he was the JV kicker. This helped him ease into game situations as there is no defensive rush aloud in JV during kicks.
“Going into this year, we just didn’t know how he was going to handle that,” Martin said. “He’s done a fantastic job. You can seeing him growing in confidence from the beginning of the year to the end.”
Typically, modern day place kickers use a soccer style technique. For Powers, picking up on the mechanics proved a little too difficult. So, he and the coaches went on the internet and researched videos for straight-on kicking style. An old school way of kicking, but effective none the less.
“He’s worked really hard to become a good kicker,” Martin said. “What Rhett has overcome to be here with these guys and be part of a football team is really special. He’s really an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Even though the team did not achieve their goal of a state championship, they had a record of 11-1 and reached the second round of the state playoffs. For Powers the experience of his senior year will be an unforgettable one.
This piece is based on an article by Daniel Boyette for Highschoolsports.al.com and can be seen here.