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West Ranch's Brady Stuart: Kicking and gleaming

West Ranch kicker Stuart is hardly an afterthought for the Wildcats

Posted: August 29, 2010 9:11 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2010 4:55 a.m.
After a strong showing at the nationally renowned Chris Sailer Kicking camp in Los Angeles, West Ranch kicker Brady Stuart has caught the attention of several colleges. After a strong showing at the nationally renowned Chris Sailer Kicking camp in Los Angeles, West Ranch kicker Brady Stuart has caught the attention of several colleges.
After a strong showing at the nationally renowned Chris Sailer Kicking camp in Los Angeles, West Ranch kicker Brady Stuart has caught the attention of several colleges.
West Ranch’s Brady Stuart played soccer for most of his childhood, and he admits that he wanted to be a star running back when he started playing football. Ever since he started kicking, however, he’s gained notoriety at camps and become a genuine weapon for the Wildcats. West Ranch’s Brady Stuart played soccer for most of his childhood, and he admits that he wanted to be a star running back when he started playing football. Ever since he started kicking, however, he’s gained notoriety at camps and become a genuine weapon for the Wildcats.
West Ranch’s Brady Stuart played soccer for most of his childhood, and he admits that he wanted to be a star running back when he started playing football. Ever since he started kicking, however, he’s gained notoriety at camps and become a genuine weapon for the Wildcats.
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One of the terms popularly applied to football players is “weapon.”

Running backs, wide receivers, kick returners, anyone who scores points on a regular basis.

But it’s rarely applied to kickers, especially at the high school level. Maybe that’s because great high school kickers are rare.

“Everybody wants to be that star running back,” says West Ranch kicker Brady Stuart. “I do, too. I’m not going to lie.”

But Stuart is becoming a weapon in his own right.

He made nine field goals and 23 extra points for the Wildcats in 2009. His best game came in a victory over Canyon, when he nailed three field goals, including a 42-yarder.

West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien has so much confidence in Stuart’s ability that the threshold for field goals is the 30-yard line. That means he trusts Stuart from 47 yards away, once 10 yards are added for the end zone and seven more for the snap.

Most importantly, having Stuart means that the Wildcats don’t have to go for broke in pursuit of the end zone.

“If you stall in the red zone and go for it and don’t get it, the drive feels like a failure,” O’Brien says. “We get the field goal unit on and get half a touchdown.”

Stuart tried out for football his freshman year but says he didn’t like it because didn’t get much playing time.

“Then they tried me at special teams,” Stuart says, “and a whole new opportunity opened up for me.”

His father, Mike, says his son’s first foray into kicking took place after the two of them watched a game.

“We were watching football on a Sunday afternoon, but it came down to a final kick for the win and the guy made it,” Mike says. “Brady thought he could do that. I said, ‘Let’s go out and try it.’ By the end of the day, he was kicking 40-yarders right down the middle.”

Stuart began attending kicking camps early in his junior year. At the nationally renowned Chris Sailer Kicking camp in Los Angeles, Stuart took part in a competition that required kickers to make field goals from increasingly further out until only one hadn’t missed.

That one turned out to be Stuart.

“That got me really interested in kicking, and I knew I could follow my dreams of kicking,” he says.

After his performance at the camp, Sailer’s website mentioned Stuart as a notable kicker in the class of 2010.

Stuart says he performed well in various competitions at several camps this summer, including camps at USC, UCLA, the University of San Diego and Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks.

Stuart even has his own website, which Mike started to increase his son’s exposure. The site includes endorsements from several coaches and instructors, including Sailer, who calls Stuart “one of the most consistent field goal kickers in the country” and describes him as strong on kickoffs.

O’Brien says that Stuart’s real value lies in another area of kicking.

“The (point-after-touchdowns) are what’s most important, knowing a touchdown’s worth seven points instead of six,” he says.

So far, Stuart says that Cal Poly, the University of San Diego and the University of Colorado are taking serious looks at him, and those are his top three choices at this point.

Before he joins a college team, however, he has one more season with West Ranch’s team.

And make no mistake: Stuart is part of the team.

“Sometimes kickers can be skittish and have rituals,” O’Brien says. “He’s not that guy. He’s every bit a member of the team.”

Once Stuart finishes kicking at practice, he says he’ll stay and help the coaches with whatever they need, whether it’s helping the quarterbacks warm up or filming practices.

Stuart also keeps the mood light. At a recent practice, one of the trainers playfully told him that he didn’t have the arm strength to hit the goal posts while standing on the sidelines at the 20-yard line.

Stuart nailed the crossbar, dead center.

“If you’re not having fun, why would you be playing the game?” Stuart says. “Hanging out with the team is one of the most fun things I can do during a day. Doing that makes me have a good time and relax about kicking. When I’m not having a good time, that’s when I’m nervous.”

Mike says his son has always dealt with nervousness and pressure well, considering he’s the youngest of six children.

“He’s always had to kind of scratch and claw his way to the top,” Mike says. “That’s what gives him what he has to do what he does and go out there and deal with the pressures.”

Stuart doesn’t typically succumb to pressure during games. Even when he misses kicks, his teammates praise his positive attitude.

Some of those teammates are weapons that the Wildcats will count on in 2010.

Just like they’ll count on Stuart.

“People always want to be that star player,” Stuart says. “When people think of the kicker, they think, ‘Oh, the weak guy.’ When it comes down to kicking, that guy’s not so weak anymore. When he makes the kick, everyone loves the guy now.”

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