By Rubin E. Grant
Several years ago, James Wilhoit was watching a video on Instagram when young kicker Will Reichard caught his eye.
“I thought he was the best ball striker for a boy that age I’d ever seen,” Wilhoit said. “I contacted him and told him that he’s got talent and I would like to work with him.”
Reichard was in the sixth grade at the time and made the trip to Nashville to work with Wilhoit, a former University of Tennessee kicker who conducts kicking camps and lessons in middle Tennessee, using Brentwood Academy facilities.
Wilhoit’s first impression of Reichard has proven enduring. Now a senior at Hoover High School, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Reichard is regarded as the No. 1 kicking prospect in the nation. He has verbally committed to Alabama.
“He’s incredible,” Wilhoit said. “Alabama is getting one of the most consistent kickers I’ve ever coached. I’ve had kickers at Tennessee and Ole Miss. I’ve had 40 to 50 (NCAA) Division I kickers I’ve worked with, and he’s one of the best.”
Reichard started kicking when he was in the third grade, a year after he had been a wide receiver.
“I had played soccer all my life, so when I started kicking, it was natural to me,” Reichard said. “I got some training and I’ve been kicking ever since.”
Reichard continued to play soccer too, but once he reached the eighth grade, he decided to concentrate on football.
“I saw I might have the chance to kick in college,” he said.
Plus, he enjoys being in the spotlight.
“I kind of like all eyes being on me and I have to go out and do my routine and perform,” he said. “It comes with a lot of pressure, but it’s also something I’m good at. It also gives me a chance to be around a lot of my friends who play football.”
Keeping It Simple
Reichard follows a fairly simple routine when he trots out onto the field for a field goal or extra point. He walks up to the line, gets the holder to mark the spot, gets a line on his target, takes a deep breath, waits for the snap and then kicks.
“It’s not too complicated,” Reichard said. “I keep it simple so it will be easy to replicate.”
And if he misses, he doesn’t overact. “I just move on to the next kick,” he said.
This fall, Reichard has made five out of seven field goal attempts. One of the misses was a block. He also booted a career-long 54-yarder against Oak Mountain on Sept. 21.
“It was pretty awesome,” he said. “I ran out as time was about to expire at the end of the first half and kicked it. It’s something I’ll always remember.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to kick another one that long this season. Since time was expiring, I got to celebrate it with my teammates as we headed to the locker room.”
Reichard also punts, but he prefers placekicking.
“I’ve always been better at placekicking and you have a chance to score some points,” he said. “But I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do to win.”
His favorite kicker is Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens.
“He makes clutch kicks look easy,” Reichard said.
Reichard hasn’t made any game-winning kicks for the Bucs because Hoover is usually well ahead in most of its games.
“My last game-winning kick was in the third or fourth grade,” he said. “But I’ll be ready if I get the chance.”
Reichard hopes to make a plethora of clutch kicks for the Crimson Tide, which hasn’t had an elite kicker for some time. He also had offers from Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Oregon, but he chose Alabama.
“It’s close to home, and I love the special teams coach (Jeff Banks) and coach (Nick) Saban, and I wanted to be a part of the greatest dynasty in college football,” Reichard said. “For sure, it’s a big opportunity for me to go in and play early. That’s one of the reasons I chose Alabama. I know there will be competition, but it’s something I look forward to.”
Wilhoit believes Reichard will thrive at Alabama.
“Alabama is getting a different kind of kicker than they have gotten in recent years,” Wilhoit said. “He’s mature – wise beyond his years and not your average teenager – and a consistent ball striker. There’s a reason he’s the No. 1 kicker in the country. He has a combination of leg strength and consistency. He doesn’t have a lot of bad days, although he might miss a kick every now and then.
“Once he gets down there and shows them what he can do, the fans are going to love him.”
Meanwhile, Reichard is trying to help the Bucs repeat as Class 7A champions. Hoover (5-2) is in a three-way tie for second place in Region 3. The team has a 4-1 region record after beating crosstown rival Spain Park 32-7 last Friday. Reichard kicked a 41-yard field goal in the game.
This week, the Bucs visit archrival Vestavia Hills, which is 4-3 overall with a 2-3 record in the region, in another region matchup. Next week, Hoover closes region play with a home game against unbeaten Mountain Brook, which is in first place in the region.
“We pretty much look at every game as a must win,” Reichard said. “These games will help us with playoff positioning, but we’re taking them one game at a time.”