Connor Mantelli was nervous on the first day of the Kicking World National Showcase, but he was one of the outstanding kickers during the two-day camp held Dec. 5-6 in Austin, Texas.
Now he’s a little nervous to see if his performance in Austin will attract colleges that might offer him scholarship money to continue kicking at the next level.
Mantelli, a senior at Douglas County High School, finished tied for second in the overall place kicking category and was Top 5 in punting and kickoffs among the 87 high school participants from 30 states.
“I performed pretty well for it being an invite-only camp for some of the top kickers in the nation,” said Mantelli. “The first day I was kind of nervous. The second day I just went out, had fun and did better the second day.
“After the camp, I had a lot more colleges talking with me and saying they were interested in me. So I definitely think it was worth it for the exposure. I have a couple D III and NAIA schools interested but I am keeping my options open for now. There is still a lot of time left.”
Brent Grablachoff, owner and head coach of Kicking World, is trying to help Mantelli in this time of COVID-19, which is hard for high school kickers to get scholarship offers compared against just preferred walk-on offers. Also, college seniors can elect to take an additional year of eligibility because of the pandemic.
“I’m working hard on helping him land a college scholarship offer,” said Grablachoff. “He’s been coming through our camps for a couple years now.”
Mantelli can offer a college football program a versatile performer who can kick off, attempt field goals and punt.
“When I was growing up and started kicking, I definitely wanted to be a place kicker, kickoff kind of guy but I’ve started to work more on punting and improving punting,” he explained. “I’ve kind of found that it is not more fun to punt but it’s another thing I can go out and mess around with. So I would probably consider myself an all-three type of guy right now.”
He did well enough to rank among the Top 5 kickers in the showcase in each of the three categories.
“I definitely felt a little bit of pressure going in at first but I told myself I got invited for a reason,” Mantelli said. “My junior and senior years were some of my best years in high school. Luckily I had a coach that trusted me with like 45-yard field goals and I hit a couple 50-yarders.”
He was a standout in all three kicking disciplines in Austin.
“The first day of place kicking at the camp was my best,” he said “I could have done better. The second day I came back better and stronger. Throughout the whole two days, I would say that punting was more of my strong suit.”
“For the field goals on day 2, I hit a 55-yarder. That was one of the better balls that I hit. It felt like it could have made it from maybe 60 or even further. For punts, I think I had a couple 45-yard punts and with over four and half seconds hang time. That felt good to hit those.”
Mantelli enjoyed being at the kicking-only camp.
“Down in Castle Rock and other places I go people really don’t like to know much about kicking or understand it,” he concluded. “I like to go to camps because I meet kids who are in the same situation. It is kind of cool to talk with them and see how kicking is different across the country.
“The kicking is pretty much the same. I mean the kickers are kind of sent to the opposite side of the field to work by themselves so we are self-taught in a way.”
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