Austin Firestone wasn’t ready to give up on his dream of playing college football. He could get his chance with the Missouri State Bears.
The 5-foot-7, 180-pound Firestone, who graduated last spring from Belleville West, learned this week that he had made the team as a walk-on. The Millstadt native isn’t sure whether he will play this season, but he is wearing a uniform with the No. 60, and that’s good enough for now.
“I didn’t think I did that well, but I guess I did better than I expected,” said Firestone, who turns 19 on Friday. “I worked all summer and kicked almost every single day, as long as I could. It was my goal to try my best, and I ended up making the team.”
“That made me want to work even harder,” Firestone said.
Firestone traveled with the Bears the first two weeks of the season — one-sided losses at Missouri, 72-43, and No. 11 North Dakota, 34-0. But he was not in uniform and not eligible to play. He will dress and be on the sidelines in Missouri State’s home game against Murray State at 2 p.m. Saturday, but will not participate.
The Bears use sophomore Zach Drake as their No. 1 placekicker. Drake is 5 for 5 on PATs and last season was 29 for 30 on PATs and 7 for 11 on field goals.
Missouri State’s No. 1 punter is redshirt sophomore Brendan Withrow, who has averaged 44 yards per kick in the first two games.
“There’s one other kicker (freshman Levin Shinn), but I think if I keep working, I’ve got a pretty good chance (to play) eventually,” Firestone said. “I’m mainly a placekicker, but they’ve also been teaching me how to punt, and I’ve been getting better at that.”
Firestone, the son of Ken and Traci Firestone, acknowledges the possibility he doesn’t play at all this season. He still isn’t on scholarship, but he could earn one next season and still have four years of eligibility.
“That’s why I like this,” said Austin Firestone, who last season had 26 PATs and field goals of 38, 28, 30 and 33 yards. “Even though I’m not playing, just showing up and kicking every single day, and weightlifting is just going to get me better and better.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm