Osbourn kicker Jay Graham hasn't always appreciated the importance of his position, but there was no denying it last season. His punting was crucial in keeping the area's lowest-scoring team in games, and two of the Eagles' wins were the direct result of his field goals in the waning seconds.
"Those games are important to us turning the program around and going 4-6," said Graham, a senior, who made seven field goals in 11 attempts. "The years before I didn't think of my position as critical. This last year I did."
Graham, who gave up soccer years ago because he kept kicking the ball over the net, is hoping for more such game-winning opportunities this season. And if his performance at a kicking camp at the University of Virginia this summer is any indication, he has a future at the position beyond high school.
Graham was named most valuable player out of 61 kickers at the camp, placing at or near the top in all six categories -- long-distance field goals, accuracy, kickoffs, directional kickoffs, hang time and overall skills, said Paul Woodside, an instructor at the event.
Graham, who credits three-year holder Chris Ngov for aiding his kicking success, is not so sure about his Division I kicking prospects because there are so few spots available. Woodside, a first-team all-American at West Virginia University in 1983, thinks Graham might be selling himself short.
"Somebody has to kick at the D-I level," said Woodside, who played at Falls Church High School and began his college career as a walk-on. "I assure you he is way further ahead than I was 23 years ago, no question. Honestly, it's up to him. Anything he wants he's capable of."
Woodside also is impressed at Graham's ability to kick from the ground, not just off one- and two-inch blocks like most high school kickers. And he likes his demeanor.
"On the outside, he has the [appearance] of indifference, which is good, so nothing really fazes him," Woodside said. "But inside is a very, very intense competitor, and he does not expect anything less than his best. Which is exactly what you want out of any athlete."