Football: Lyons Township’s Elliott getting kicks for the summer
Lyons Township placekicker Jake Elliott has been keeping busy this summer. | Ruthie Hauge~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 13, 2012 6:15AM
LA GRANGE — Though it could be up for debate, placekickers are football players too.
Just like many of his teammates, Jake Elliott is touring the country this summer while attending college football camps with the hope of gaining a valuable scholarship.
Only in Elliott’s case, the competition is particularly fierce. The Western Springs resident doesn’t boast the typical football size at 5-foot-11, 150 pounds. He is not a defensive back or even a running back. He’s a kicker.
Scholarship offers are rare for placekickers, but Elliott hopes to become one of the lucky few.
Elliott never played football before his junior season in 2011 when he earned statewide honors as the kicking representative for the Chicago Sun-Times’ all-area team. He was the only kicker named to the All-West Suburban Conference team and was named specialist of the year. Elliott does not punt and is learning how to perform kickoffs this summer.
“For this summer, I have been working off the ground,” Elliott said. “In high school, you are allowed to use a (kicking) block. In college, you are not allowed to. That is what my working situation is and that’s going well.”
Before last football season, Elliott was known as a tennis player. He went 4-2 in the spring as a singles player in the state meet and lost in the sixth round of the consolation bracket to Lake Forest’s Peter Tarwid, 6-4, 6-3. He was the No. 1 singles player for LT during the season.
But Elliott became a kicking sensation last fall with two game-winning kicks, including a record 52-yard field goal to beat Oak Park-River Forest Oct. 1. He converted 10-of-11 field goals on the season and went 28-for-28 on point-after attempts.
In May, Elliott attended the Midwest Showcase at Maine South.
From July 21-22, Elliott will participate in the National Invitational Scholarship Camp at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The event is sponsored by Waukesha, Wis.-based Kohl’s Professional Camps and is billed as the biggest national high school camp of the summer.
According to the event’s website, last year’s camp included 415 specialists, mixing kickers with punters and even long snappers. Participation is by invite only and the top competitors will be invited to the Under Armour All-American Game in January.
Elliott returned home Sunday after attending camps at Harvard, Dartmouth and Cornell last week.
“You go around and see the competition. The travel is really fun. A lot of it is specialist camps and you see the top kickers and compete with them. There is a lot of competition.”
The Whitewater camp features the best of the best as the organizers claim many of ESPN’s recruitment rankings are based on performance at the camp. Only varsity players are allowed to attend.
In order to attend, punters must average more than 37 yards, kickers must hit a field goal of 40 yards or better and long snappers must be timed at below nine-tenths of a second at 15 yards depth.
Elliott’s travels are not done this summer. He hopes to visit Penn later this month. In addition to last week’s Ivy League schools, Elliott has already attended camps at Minnesota, Michigan State and Northwestern this summer.
“Minnesota I really liked,” Elliott said. “It’s huge. The facilities were incredible and I like the city feel (of Minneapolis) to it. I did well at that camp.”
Elliott expected to join his LT teammates this week for the final two weeks of high school camp before preseason double sessions begin in August. Elliott said LT coach Kurt Weinberg plans to focus on special teams in upcoming Tuesday and Thursday workouts. Due to his busy schedule, Elliott has not been able to spend time with LT previously this summer.
Even as workouts continue, Elliott’s time with the team may be brief and he plans on practicing in a back field at the Western Springs campus away from the rest of the football team’s drills.
“Kickers are a special breed. You can’t work continuously for three hours the whole time,” Elliott said. “If you do that, you’ll tire out your leg. I will usually kick on a back field and you can only kick 20 times a day.”