West's junior kicker already has his foot in the door at several colleges

News-DemocratFebruary 4, 2014 

— His kickoffs routinely travel through or past the uprights and out of the end zone. His punts have enough hang time to qualify for frequent flier miles.

And when Belleville West junior kicker and punter Austin Seibert really gets his leg into a football, it makes the kind of sound that draws collegiate special teams coaches from all over the country.

Although just a junior and unable to participate in Wednesday's national signing day, few football players in the region have attracted as much recruiting attention as Seibert (5-foot-10, 200 pounds).

Two national kicking and punting recruiting combines -- Kohl's Kicking and The Kicking Coach --have Seibert rated as the No. 1 kicking prospect in the country among juniors.

One has him rated as the No. 1 punter in the country as well, while the other has him No. 2.

"He's going to be the highest recruited kid we've ever had there at Belleville West," West coach Cameron Pettus said, and he's not kidding.

Kickers rarely receive scholarship offers, especially before their senior year, and right now Seibert and his nuclear right leg have drawn offers from Miami (Fla.) and Northwestern.

Missouri visited recently and is extremely interested. Seibert made a visit to Oklahoma last weekend, with the Sooners ready to travel to Belleville this spring for another workout.

"I'm happy that I'm No. 1," Seibert said of the national ranking. "I guess it comes with all the work I've put into it. I stay modest because it's just as easy for me to lose my spot as how I got it."

Pettus fields calls from major college programs interested in getting Seibert into one of their uniforms, including Kentucky and Purdue. As a junior last fall, Seibert kicked nine field goals and made 41 extra-points, also averaging a whopping 46.8 yards on punts and close to 75 yards on kickoffs.

"He's so good at punting and kicking they wouldn't have to have two different players," Pettus said. "He's so good he could do both duties and do them very well."

Seibert's longest field goal in a game was 45 yards last season against O'Fallon. He missed wide left on a 57-yard attempt against Edwardsville and last August drilled a 65-yarder during a workout with O'Fallon High kicker Tucker McCann.

On his Youtube.com highlight video, Seibert blasts a 60-yarder and displays some booming punts and kicks.

The 17-year-old Seibert has been attending the nationally known Kohl's Kicking camps since the summer before his freshman year. He has participated in a number of showcases, camps and other events where he's gone head to head against the nation's top kickers and punters.

In one of the Kohl's sessions, Seibert crushed five kickoffs through the uprights and hit eight of 10 field goals from varying distances.

While many high school kickers or punters have to make do with "preferred walk-on" status as a college freshman before later earning a scholarship, Seibert appears to be in a rare higher category.

"A lot of colleges are beginning to recruit kickers, but not every college does it," Seibert said. "Mizzou doesn't scholarship kickers, but they came to West the other day and said I might be the first kicker they scholarship. I'm just happy to have the offers that I have because most kickers only get one offer and that's the school I have to go with.

"Most colleges, that's the very last thing they offer is a kicker."

Seibert is going to have some excellent options. He plans to make a verbal commitment some time this spring.

Seibert described what it's like to compete at one of the elite national kicking showcases.

"You'll go to one of those and compete against the best, everyone will do eight to 10 field goals and go on accuracy," he said. "Then you'll do four or five kickoffs and 10 punts, and you'll do that three times in like two days. It gets tiring, but I've gotten used to the pressure."

Seibert said most of the competition is friendly, but occasionally it can get intense.

"I'm good friends with a lot of them," he said. "When we're kicking, you can tell some of the kids that don't like you, but a lot of them are very nice and most of them are humble."

Seibert's father, Mark Seibert, was a punter at Belleville East. Mark Seibert and Austin's mother, Dawn, travel to the kicking camps with their son and Austin said they know the techniques and routines almost as well he does.

He credited both for their help and devotion through the years.

The younger Seibert began his kicking interest through soccer, where his strong leg made it obvious to at least try football kicking and punting.

Once he did, he was hooked.

"At the age 10 or 11 I'd be in the backyard kicking until it was dark," said Seibert, whose family lives between Belleville and Millstadt near Concordia Road. "My dad would have to turn his headlights on sometimes."

After watching the Arizona Cardinals punter try an extremely rare free kick in an NFL game this season, Seibert decided to try one the following day at Belleville West.

Using a holder and kicking off of the kickoff block, Seibert put one through the uprights from 71 yards away.

"We were just messing around and Coach Pettus had us do it," Seibert said.

"Wind conditions were very minimal that day," Pettus said. "It wasn't like he had a gust of wind behind him."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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