LAKEWOOD RANCH — Bryan Kirshe is in a unique position this season. The Out-of-Door Academy senior co-captain has seen more action on the field through the first six games of the season than the vast majority of his teammates.
Kirshe, ODA’s punter and placekicker, already has 29 punts this season.
“I enjoy it,” Kirshe says of getting into the game. “The hardest part is when you’re losing so badly and clearly the other team is more powerful. My teammates have blocked well for me so far.”
Although ODA has faced its fair share of struggles this season, Kirshe is putting together perhaps his best season on the field. Kirshe is averaging 47.2 yards per punt and recently was named a 2013 preseason First Team All-American by the Ray Guy Prokicker.com Kicking, Punting and Long-Snapping Academy.
“It’s awesome,” Kirshe says of the honor. “I’ve always had the goal to be the best. I’m very competitive.”
“Bryan’s a self-taught kicker,” ODA coach Brett Timmons says. “Bryan taught himself and developed himself into a First Team All-American by ProKicker.com. He’s a tremendous young man.”
A former hockey and soccer player, Timmons first approached Kirshe about punting when he was in the eighth grade.
But, it wasn’t until his sophomore year that Kirshe decided to trade in his hockey stick for a football.
“I think I had him a long time ago,” Timmons says. “He came to my football camp, he and his brother, Sean, and they actually were the two best athletes of the camp. He (eventually) got the football bug, and I’m glad he came out.”
It took awhile for Kirshe, a lifelong soccer goalkeeper, to transition between the two sports. But, by the middle of his junior year, Kirshe made the decision to focus his attention solely on football.
“Being a goalie kind of makes it worse, because my leg always comes across my body,” Kirshe says. “I had to retrain it to go straight up.
“I just enjoy it,” Kirshe says. “I liked it right away, but I didn’t plan to take it so seriously until I (became) the No. 1-ranked punter and received my first letter from a school.”
During the transition, Kirshe spent time practicing and competing with his older brother, Sean, who kicked for the Thunder before moving on to Hobart College. The two would start at the 20-yard line. Kirshe would punt the ball as far as he could and then Sean Kirshe would kick off. The two brothers would then have to attempt a field goal from wherever the ball landed.
“It definitely forced my consistency to come up,” Kirshe says.
As a junior, Kirshe was named both a 2012 All-American and a 2012 All-State First Team Selection. He also was named the No. 1-ranked punter in the nation by Prokicker.com, after beating former Manatee punter Jonathan Hernandez, who is in his first year punting at Florida State, in the Ray Guy Prokicker.com National Kicking Championship in December.
“I went from not being ranked to No. 1,” Kirshe says. “When I saw that, it hit me that I had a chance to go far.”
Prior to the start of his senior season, Kirshe approached Timmons about a bet. The two settled on wings. If Kirshe averaged 50 yards on punts a game, then Timmons would owe him 25 wings from Buffalo Wild
Wings. And if Kirshe failed in his attempt, then he would provide the same for his coach.
After Kirshe went double or nothing the second game of the season and owed Timmons 50 wings, he delivered punts of 77 and 63 yards against Booker Sept. 12, to offer some redemption.
“It’s kind of hard coming from a small school as opposed to a big school because I’m not surrounded by a group of people who have an interest to do the things that I want to do for football.
“It motivates me to keep working and do it without having other kids around me to do it, too,” Kirshe says.
With four games remaining on the schedule, Kirshe is focused on bettering his punting average while preparing to play at the next level.
“It’s tough day in and day out to get beat,” Timmons says. “This is his senior year. It’s something he’s never going to get back, and to go out like that is tough, so we try to motivate him. We try to play the game within the game and tell him there’s a bigger picture. He has bigger and better things coming down the line.”
Kirshe has garnered attention from several Division I colleges, including the University of Miami, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, the University of Southern Mississippi and Georgia Southern.
Kirshe recently visited Georgia Southern and plans to visit Southern Mississippi in the coming weeks.
Following his official visits, Kirshe will spend the next few months contemplating his future and preparing for National Signing Day Feb. 5, which also happens to be his 18th birthday.
“I’m open to anything,” Kirshe says. “I don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but I’m ready. My coach has been real hard on me to help get me to the next level.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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