Sharp wins AU’s kicking camp
by Erich Hilkert
HARPERSVILLE— Coosa Valley Academy’s kicker Zachary Q. Sharp recently added another kicking title to his resume at the Auburn Kicking Academy held at Auburn University in June. Sharp won the kickoff portion of the competition after capturing the field goal crown at Auburn High School last year.

“It was a pretty awesome feeling,” Sharp said. “I was going up against a lot of good kickers. They combine your hang time and distance. I won the competition with a 71-yard, 3.8 [second] hang. That added up to 109, because they just do 38 plus 71. The guy below me had a 108 for his score, so it was pretty awesome. We had been kicking against each other all week—he won, I won, he won, I won. But when it came down to it at the end of the camp I just got one point higher than him.”

The lifelong Auburn fan felt this particular win was especially memorable.

“After I won, the [Auburn] special teams coordinator, Scott Fountain, came up and talked to me and invited me up to his office,” Sharp said. “That was pretty special to sit in the office with him.”

Sharp’s previous win, which, while it wasn’t actually on the Auburn University campus, occurred in Auburn, was similarly a close competition.

“About a year ago, down in Auburn at Auburn High School I won the field goal competition and that was pretty awesome,” Sharp said. “I won with what I thought was a 60-yarder, but they charted it at 57 yards. This other guy and I were going neck and neck, and I actually kicked two of them in a row to win the camp. So, I’ve won in field goals at one camp, one in kickoffs at another camp, so now I’m looking to win in punts.”

Sharp may have a chance, as he will head to Wales, Wis. later this month on July 20-21 for the Kohl’s National Invitational Camp, a kicking camp that featured 430 participants. Jamie Kohl puts on multiple kicking camps throughout the year and was behind the Auburn Kicking Academy in June. To go to the National Invitational Camp, participants must: receive an invitation from a Kohl’s staff member, submit a letter of recommendation from the high school football coach vouching for collegiate potential, and average 37 yards a punt and hit a 40 yard field goal in a game.

“It’s some of the 450 top kickers in the nation,” Sharp said of the upcoming camp. “From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot of kicking. So, you’ve got to condition your leg pretty strong. I’ve been training for that—just kicking every day, working in the weight room, stretching and that kind of stuff. That’ll definitely be huge because one kid told me there’s two charting sessions a day. Most of the camps I’ve been to have had at most one charting session a day. Two sessions for a two-day camp—so four charting sessions—it’s going to be insane.”

Last season on August 24, the Rebels traveled to Prattville to play Autauga Academy. That’s when the scouts first took notice of Sharp.

“At the start of last season, there weren’t any scouts there specifically for me,” he said. “It actually came down to the Autauga [Academy] game and O.J. Howard. We were playing against Autauga and he is known for his kickoff returns. They were three or four schools there to look at him. I kicked all the kickoffs over his head into the end zone, so he didn’t have a chance to return them. They all went for touchbacks. So, those schools actually turned around and contacted me, so that was pretty cool.”

Howard, the five-star tight end, went on to join one of the top recruiting classes in the nation at the University of Alabama, but Sharp has already received a full scholarship offer from Troy, a preferred walk-on spot at Auburn, and interest from several other Southeastern division I schools.

Sharp hasn’t been attending kicking camps from a young age, at least not in football. He made the transition from soccer to football after showing some kicking potential.

“Actually, I was up in Ohio at a family reunion,” he said. “We were all just sitting around. There was a football field about 100 yards away. My dad said ‘Hey, we’ve got a football here, field goal posts and you’ve played soccer your whole life. Let’s see if you can kick one.’ I went out there and without anyone ever showing me how to kick a football—I had just seen kickers take three steps back and to the side—I just tried it out. I kicked a 40-yarder that day. It wasn’t huge, but for never kicking before my dad said ‘You have potential.’ That was when I was a ninth grader. The first time I kicked on a team was 10th grade year at Briarwood. That was my first time, then I transferred 11th grade here at Coosa Valley and I’ll finish out my senior year here.”

Sharp noted that kicking in soccer and football involves the same muscle groups, but are markedly different in the overall approach.

“With a soccer ball, you have to get more over the ball to get it in the goal whereas football everything you’re doing is trying to get it longer and higher,” he said. “If you kick a soccer ball just like a football it’s going to look like a football and it’s just going to skyrocket over the goal. I have to say my favorite kick in soccer—I’ve been a center midfielder my whole life, but my dad just switched me back to sweeper this year. I get to take all the goal kicks—goal kicks are definitely my favorite thing in soccer because you’ve got to try to get it as long and as high as you can.”

The CVA soccer program won the AISA state championship in their first year as a program. Sharp, who finished the season with 16 goals scored and six assists, was named the AISA All State MVP for his efforts. He gave his father, head coach David Sharp, a lot of credit for the team’s success.

“My dad’s a great coach—I’ll give it to him,” Sharp said. “When I was little, I used to say ‘I want a different coach. I want to go out and see what there is.’ Coming back to him was definitely good because I realized what a good coach he actually was.”

© 2013