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Do kickers get scholarships?

Of course, the answer is “yes”, but it’s often not what you think. Most elite high school kickers get offered “preferred walk-on” status and not a “full ride” — at least initially.

You’ll hear the term “offer” thrown around a lot, as well as an athlete “committing” to a program and signing a “letter of intent”.

To most, it sounds like scholarships are being tossed around pretty easily, but nothing could be further from the truth. And, we believe, getting a scholarship (as cool as that sounds) may not be all it’s cracked up to be). 


A recruiting service called NCSA*, has a page on their website that provides some great informational videos that help explain all of the different levels of commitment that colleges provide.

First, understand that every athlete and every situation is unique. You might be the exception to the “rule”, but my aim here is to honestly inform you as to how the recruiting process normally works — especially as it applies to kicking specialists.

Here’s what typically happens…

If you are an all-conference kicker in high school, the likelihood is that you can play college ball — somewhere.  So if you still have the drive (and the desire to continue to play in front of a cheering crowd), by all means, find a place to PLAY. Far too many athletes choose a school based on it’s reputation without regard for how they might fit (or not) into the program.

When recruiters come calling (sometimes to your games, sometimes with phone calls, emails, letters, connection to your coach and so forth), understand that they are trying desperately to find recruits that will both fill their roster for the coming year (they need “meat squad” guys, too) as well as fill select holes that they anticipate for the next season or two.

If they like what they see in you… and sometimes it’s just potential — like your starting right tackle who’s 6’5 and 250 pounds, but not really that good yet — as they say, “you can’t teach 6’5”. For kickers, that potential might be that you can’t reach the end zone on your kick offs yet, but they like your technique and are willing to help you grow into the position.

Also know, for most of you, you’ve been “the kicker” probably since 7th grade.  You’ve never really had to earn the spot. It was yours for the taking because you were the best choice. However, KNOW THIS, in college, no matter what level you go to or where you play, you will have competition for the position.  YOU WILL HAVE TO EARN YOUR STARTING SPOT — EVERY SEASON.

That said, most higher level kickers/punters will be asked to “walk on” or given “preferred walk on” status. What this means is they want you on the team. Congrats! But, they are not giving you a scholarship… yet. You might never earn the scholarship, or you may kick a game winner in the Big House and receive the offer the next day. 

Know this, FBS D1 football programs have 85 full ride (only) scholarships to give (and FCS schools have just 63). Not per year, but for the team, period. Scholarships can be granted and taken away. It’s a contract and you better look at it closely. Most D1 coaches will not offer a full ride to a kicker directly out of high school. They just don’t trust you… and a missed kick might mean them getting fired from their head coaching job. “I like you kid, just not that much to bet on you.” Our guess is that there are no more than 20 full rides given to specialists directly out of high school in any given year!

If a scholarship is what drives you, then you might want to look more closely at DII.  Why?  Because NCAA Division 2 programs can offer partial scholarships in football (unlike D1).  Money can be divided in a myriad of ways which means more players can be “on scholarship”, just not with a full ride.

Lastly, DIII schools are non-scholarship colleges and universities. That means “no scholarship” for football per se.  But schools can stack academic scholarships, grants and financial aid packages that can make a D3 player feel like he’s on a partial or even full scholarship. What’s more, the level of competition at the D3 level is still very impressive. It may not be the logical stepping stone to the NFL, but the idea right now, is to play in college — not sit the bench or worse yet, push you into quitting altogether.

Worrying about your “pro career” can wait. And I, for one, am proof that if you continue to develop your skills, even in D3, you will be found by the pros… and you’ll have had a collegiate career that you’ll be proud of for the rest of your life. Now go out and enjoy the recruiting flattery and make the very best choice for you and your family!

Here are three examples of kickers and punters who earned scholarships to D1 and D2 programs and one who passed on “walking on” to play D3.  

Chad Ryland
Cedar Crest High School, Lebanon, PA
Class of 2020
Joined varsity football as a high school junior from the soccer team. Then was a “preferred walk-on” at Eastern Michigan University. He was offered a full scholarship after a game winning kick in his junior year of college.

ARTICLE LINK > https://emueagles.com/news/2020/8/13/footballs-ryland-kicks-his-way-to-a-scholarship.aspx

Kristie Elliott
Windsor Secondary High School, North Vancouver, BC
Class of 2021
Track star in high school, she was an “uninvited walk-on” to the Simon Fraser University football program. As a lark, she thought she could tryout for the football team. Late in her freshman year, she was surprised to receive a partial scholarship from the coaching staff. Kristie is the first Canadian woman to score in an NCAA football game!

VIDEO LINK > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3GOR33w7Qw

Mike Farley

River Falls High School, River Falls, WI
Class of 1981
With two older brothers who received scholarships to Big 10 schools, it was all he could think about in claiming his own scholarship after his senior year. However, he was asked to walk on at both Wisconsin and Illinois, but chose not to — eventually opting to play for his father at UW-River Falls (D3). Why? He didn’t think the Big 10 schools were really that interested in him, and he still wanted to play quarterback, as well as kick and punt. Plus, he thought that it might be “neat” to play for his father. The result was a great D3 career starting at all three positions and excelling enough at kicker to be signed by the Green Bay Packers after his senior season. He received some scholarship money for his academics and special grants that were awarded to select athletes. State school admission is relatively low, so Farley graduated in 4-1/2 years with no college debt.

Have your own story to tell?

I’d love to hear it. — good, bad and anywhere in between. Mike Farley’s Kickers Camps have taken great pride to be exceedingly honest about techniques, ability, the prospects to play and the mentality you’ll need to succeed as a kicker or punter. Far too many specialists are being shown and coached in a world with rose-colored glasses. My aim is to arm you with empowering information so that you can make better decisions about your own kicking future.



* DISCLAIMER: Mike Farley’s Kickers Camps do not specifically endorse NCSA as a recruiting service, but we do think that their videos on this subject is good information for new recruits and their families.