- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
We are not alone. Quartered in a nearby dorm is a group of slight, bespectacled students, many of them Asian-American. I ask one of them, a girl of about 14, what group they are with. "CAP," she says. "It's an acronym for the Center for Academic Precocity. What group are you with?"
"Kicking school," I say. "We have no acronym."
After lunch today a couple of CAP dudes have the temerity to come over and use our pool table. Think they would try something like that at nosetackle camp? Of course not. But we're kickers, so they think they can push us around.
When Bates—the fellow we met out on the ledge—asks them if he can play the winner, they refuse. A debate breaks out, which Bates loses, leaving him with no recourse but to wreck their game, scattering some balls and stuffing others into the pockets. The intruders return to their dorm. The incident has a galvanizing effect, bringing us closer together as kickers.
We are a wild and crazy bunch ... for kickers. At the afternoon session, for instance, some lunatic sneaks up behind counselor Daron Alcorn, who is teeing up a 45-yarder, and "depantses" him, yanking his shorts to his ankles. Alcorn set several kicking records at the University of Akron and was selected 224th—and last—by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1993 NFL draft. He calmly steps out of his shorts and proceeds with his kick. Nails it, too. Afterward he speaks of the "incredibly liberating" feeling of kicking with no pants.
It is 105° on the field. We drink a lot of water, swallowing some, spouting the rest at one another. At one point Rob hits Alcorn with a stream. Alcorn retaliates, but Rob ducks, causing Alcorn to expectorate cold water onto the back of the neck of Ray, who bellows, "I wish I could find a grown-up goddam staff!"
But Ray can't stay angry at Alcorn. The Pelfreys have been working with him since he was an awkward ninth-grader. Now he has evolved into the John Daly of placekicking. I sit with Ray while his pet booms mammoth rainbows, eliciting OOOOoooh's from the campers. Ray, the professional picker of nits, can only marvel, "That boy has no idea how well he's kicking." (Alas, a month later he won't kick well enough to make the Bucs' roster.)
Another stud kicker, whom I had mistaken for a counselor, is Brandon Najarian, a high school senior out of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. This morning a coach from Arizona Western, a junior college in Yuma, drove up to watch Najarian and offered him a scholarship on the spot, increasing to 175 the number of kickers the Pelfreys have helped obtain partial or full rides in the last four years. (Najarian turned down Arizona Western and will enroll at TCU.) The Pelfreys have also worked with 21 current NFL kickers and punters.
I have noticed a subtle shift in attitude toward the twins. In the beginning they were the camp mascots. Everyone liked them. Familiarity, however, has bred a desire in some of the campers to beat them severely about the head and shoulders. This is evident when the Derdengers rout two older campers in a game of eight ball, then rub it in.