Teammates sometimes give Kyle Clark a hard time for living "a kicker's life," during practice.
Clark and fellow Beaufort High School kicker Mitchell Stewart toss a football back and forth, go kick at the stadium and sometimes run routes during receiving drills. But Clark is otherwise immune to the rigors of football practice.
That doesn't mean he hasn't put in the work.
Clark's emergence has played a big part in the Eagles' success this season. He routinely booms kickoffs for touchbacks and pins opponents deep with precision punts. Last week against Summerville, Clark's first punt traveled 66 yards. He also kicked the game-winning field goal, an 18-yarder with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Clark recently talked with The Beaufort Gazette/Island Packet about his improvement, his routine and the reaction to his latest clutch kick.
Question: What did you do during the summer to get better?
Answer: I just came down here to the field and kicked a little bit. I went to one of the Ray Guy camps in Summerville, at Ashley Ridge. That was the only camp I went to. I think this year I'm probably going to go to the national combine, if I can, and a few more Ray Guy camps. I might go to the USC camp up there in Columbia, the Steve Spurrier one.
Q: What things did you pick up at the Ray Guy camp or maybe from working on your own?
A: I really wasn't much of a punter before this year. Mostly, I didn't really care about it. Coaches told me I was going to be punting, too. I had to really work on that. And I got it down. I worked on my kickoff length, a little bit, on getting touchbacks this year. Coach (Mark) Clifford gave me someone to compete with, Mitchell Stewart, so that's been a big help.
Q: Can you compare your kickoffs from last year to this year? It seems you've had a lot more touchbacks. What have you been doing differently?
A: This year, I have steps down, instead of going back soccer-style and kick it. I have steps and can get it almost every time now and just kill it.
Q: Was there a moment you finally nailed it?
A: Yeah. I was doing different steps. My kicking coach, Mark Walker, he was like, 'Try doing your field goal steps and then just put a piece of tape there and go back and do your steps.' I said, 'OK,' and did it and did it about five times. It worked perfect. I take eight steps back and six steps over. And field goals, I take three back and two over.
Q: Have you gotten stronger since last year? What have you done in that respect?
A: Oh yeah. We have a class, and I've been working out in there trying to build myself up. Because I wasn't really much last year. I try to really build myself up, doing squats and benching and all that. Coach Ray (Jones) has been real helpful with that.
Q: Now that you've had the success this year, is it something you look at and say, 'I can do this in college?'
A: Yeah. I have a lot of people just telling me I can really go far kicking. I do what I do. I try to be humble. Once people tell me I could really go far and stuff like that, I kind of looked into it -- stats of kickers in college and the NFL and stuff like that.
Q: If you kicked in college, do you think it would be more as a punter?
A: I think it would be more as a punter and kickoff specialist instead of more of a field goal kicker. Maybe if another kicker didn't have such a strong leg, I could do 50-plus.
Q: When did you get started kicking?
A: Eighth grade year, in middle school, Coach Gentry ... He wanted me to come out for quarterback. I wasn't really much of a thrower. He said, 'Who can kick?' I said, 'I can kick. I play soccer.' That was what got me started. I came out ninth grade year, just to be a kicker. I played B-team. About the third week, they were like, 'Let's bring him up to varsity.' So I stood on the sidelines for varsity. And then sophomore year, they let me do field goals and kickoffs.
Q: What's your normal routine during practice?
A: A typical practice, we go down there, just warm up, throwing back and forth. We go and stretch. Me and Mitchell and our coach pack up some balls and come down here (to the stadium) and kick. Then we go back and just hang out. And then Wednesday practice, we do all special teams over at the practice field. On Wednesdays, me and Mitchell go with the receivers and run streaks and catch it.
Q: What do you remember of those last moments against Summerville? What was that process for you going into that last kick?
A: I was just trying to calm my nerves. Everybody was telling me, 'It's an easy one, man. Just kick it.' I got out there and was like, 'Alex (Gregory), hold it good.' He said, 'I got you, man.' Perfect snap, perfect hold, perfect kick.
Q: Did you get any feedback this week?
A: I got some Facebook messages -- 'Good job,' 'Way to kick' -- stuff like that.