Amid a torrent of balls of different shapes and sizes crisscrossing the bubble-domed all-purpose field at Eden Prairie, a lone athlete carves out a spot in the turf, blocking out the commotion around him.
He sets up a football under a field-goal kicking tee, carefully measures his steps back, then approaches, swinging his right leg through the ball, which explodes off his foot.
It sails about 40 yards before hitting high up on the dome wall with a resounding boom, sending soccer and lacrosse players scattering as the ball falls to the ground. He does it again. And again. And again, for an hour, perhaps two.
This is the nightly routine of Edina senior Patrick LeCorre, with only the site changing. Often he’s at Edina’s Braemar Dome, working on his craft as one of the most high-profile high school kickers to come out of Minnesota in recent years.
He finished his high school career with 26 field goals, one shy of the state record, with a career long of 46 yards. He is ranked among the top 100 kickers in the nation, according to www.kohlskicking.com, a national recruiting website. He demonstrated his leg strength by finishing tied for 11th in a national competition sponsored by kicking guru Chris Sailer in Las Vegas in mid-January.
With such a strong résumé, one would assume Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA football signing period, would be a milestone day for LeCorre as he chooses between offers.
“Being a kicker is a little different,” LeCorre said. “A lot of Division I teams are waiting to see who signs and if they need a kicker before they make an offer. And a lot of them want you to come in as a preferred walk-on [PWO]. So right now, I’m just training and waiting.”
While most top high school football players already have decided and will wake up Wednesday anticipating putting pen to paper to commit to the college of his choice, LeCorre, essentially a top-100 recruit at his position, is left dangling, waiting to see which way the dominoes fall.
“I know he’s frustrated,” Edina coach Reed Boltmann said. “He’s one of the best kickers to come through here in my time as a coach. He’s a three-time all-conference player. I was thinking by the time he finished, he’d have Division I offers. But that’s not how it works for kickers. He’s asked me what I’ve heard, and I can’t give him a straight answer.”
As a freshman, LeCorre’s first career field goal try was a 36-yarder with three seconds left to give Edina a 38-35 victory over Hopkins in a section playoff quarterfinal.
His career, like his kickoffs, has boomed ever since.
“A lot of guys on the team didn’t even know who I was because I was still in middle school,” LeCorre recalled.
LeCorre was partly a product of the recent high school trend of recruiting a player from the soccer team to handle kicking chores; he played soccer for two years before he began kicking a football. But he chafes at being lumped in with soccer players pursuing kicking as an exciting sideline.
“I grew up playing football,” he said. “I was a running back and linebacker. But after a couple of concussions, my parents decided they didn’t want me to play football anymore, so I stopped in seventh grade. But I kept bugging them about playing football again.”
He lifts weights with the rest of the football players regularly. At 6 feet and 190 pounds with an athletic gait, he looks more like a defensive back. He sees himself as a football player who kicks rather than simply a kicker.
“I don’t just want to kick off, I want to make the tackle. And not just push a guy out of bounds, either,” he said. “I even asked the coach if I could play safety, but he said I was too valuable doing what I do.”
It’s not as if LeCorre doesn’t have college options. St. Cloud State and Minnesota St., Moorhead, both Division II programs, have made generous offers. But LeCorre has his sights set on kicking at a Division I school. Two teams that have expressed the most interest are Montana and Northern Illinois. He’s had regular contact with Minnesota, but the Gophers have not decided if they have a need for a kicker and if they did, it would be as a PWO.
He would like to decide as soon as possible but understands that patience is his best option.
“It’s my dream to kick for a Division I team,” he said. “I’d like to make a choice by the end of February. But who knows? Maybe some team I haven’t thought about will discover they need a kicker and see that I’m available. I’m fine with waiting right now.”