By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Kickin' it with Yanrick
Placeholder Image

 He stands alone on the sideline, watching his teammates replay countless drills on the football field until it's done right.

The loner strolls along the grass, wondering how he has arrived to this point, yet his confidence is without question the highest among anyone on the team.

Come game time, he patiently waits to be called upon even though it could mean the difference - a win or a loss.

Of course, we're talking about the placekicker.

And in this particular case, Yanrick Tinker has made a world of difference this season kicking for the Eastside Eagles.

"He's almost nonchalant about it," remarked Eastside head coach Rick Hurst. "It's a great attitude for a kicker. I think he's got ice water through his veins because I don't think anything bothers him to go out there and kick in any situation."

What makes this story even more compelling is the fact that No. 99 had not played football until this year. None. Zip.

"I don't think he understands how big it is here in Georgia and in the South," said Hurst. "It's probably a good thing because he doesn't put a lot of pressure on himself."

Tinker, a junior, moved to Newton County from Jamaica in 2003. He played soccer during his freshman and sophomore years, and is currently on the varsity team as a forward.

But this story began one day back in January while Tinker was training in the weight room, and unbeknownst to him drawing the attention from several football coaches who had heard about his strong right leg.

After being approached by them, Tinker was skeptical about joining the team at first, but soon changed his mind upon further convincing.

"They kept asking for me to kick," said Tinker. "At first I wasn't (going to) and then just decided to since they all wanted me to do it."

So Tinker began working out with the football team for the entire summer. Prior to that, Eastside kickers did not spend that much time training for the upcoming season. The extra work has certainly paid off for Tinker, though, as he has scored 21 percent of the Eagles' 136 points this year.

"He loves working out, running and conditioning," said Hurst, "so I think that makes him mentally tougher, too."

Tinker is your traditional "soccer-style" kicker, and approaches the football from several steps to the right of it before kicking.

"Come crunch time, he's been showing up every week for us," said Eastside assistant coach/special teams Derek Hill. "His progression has been great. We can't do (anything) but take our hats off to him because he's been getting it done."

Tinker begins each day of practice with the entire team during the specialist period. At this time he works on kickoffs and punting. Following that he has a set routine each day where he works on his own, which includes directional kickoffs, punting and field goals.

"A lot of people think that the kicking game isn't really that important; it's just something that you need to practice every once in a while," said Eastside assistant coach/special teams James Meneguzzo. "But if you've ever been involved with the game you realize how important the kicking game really is."

According to Meneguzzo, the biggest misconception about placekickers is that they are never noticed until they have to make that big kick in a close game.

"To me, it's a very special position and takes a very special person to be able to go unnoticed like that until the extreme moment," said Meneguzzo.

One such kick came earlier this season against Salem, when Tinker nailed a 34-yard field goal to tie the game 17-17 late in the fourth quarter.

"He's had a huge impact," said Meneguzzo, "because he allows the offense the opportunity to call a different style when we're inside the 30. We know if we don't get in the end zone that we've got a great chance of at least getting three points out of it because he's got such a great leg."

Tinker has been quietly going about his business and getting the job done; the numbers prove it. He has made 4-of-5 field goals from distances of 44, 26, 30 and 34 yards, including all but two extra points in 18 attempts.

"He's made a big difference for us this year, especially kicking field goals," said Hurst. "He's hit some big ones. He's been really good and really consistent, (and) I'm just glad he's out here.

"He doesn't put a lot of pressure on himself," added Hurst, "and he's got a lot of confidence right now. He feels good that he can kick it from anywhere."

So where does all this newfound talent stem from? It's hard to imagine that Tinker has only been playing football for less than a year, especially based on how far he has progressed.

"I guess it's just from playing soccer and scoring a lot of goals," said Tinker. "I'm just used to scoring goals."

If there was one flaw in his game - his Kryptonite, if you will - it would be punting. But with all good athletes, this will only improve with continuous practice and game-time experience.

"The hardest thing about kicking is punting," admitted Tinker, "but it's coming along."

Still, Tinker is averaging 32.0 yards per punt in 20 attempts, including six inside the 20-yard line. He season-high has been from 50-plus yards, which has occurred several times this year.

Above all, his teammates are confident in his abilities, even though kickers do not get the recognition they deserve. However, Tinker has earned the respect based on what he has done with the football in such a short period of time.

"They've got a lot of confidence in him," said Hurst, "and they know that during a game if he's got an opportunity they believe he's going to kick it through."

Although kickers are typically the lowest-paid starters in the NFL, ironically they usually lead their team in points scored. For example, Atlanta placekicker Morten Andersen is the all-time leading scorer in NFL history.

Therefore, it isn't a surprise to find out that Tinker leads Eastside this season with 28 points.

"I'm not even thinking about it like that," mumbled Tinker. "I guess it's just natural."

Of course, kickers are a different kind of breed - special, if you will. Maybe that's why they are a part of the special teams unit? Most have some kind of superstition or ritual they go through during a game prior to kicking.

But according to his coaches, Tinker doesn't have a set routine - or does he?

"I have no idea and I really don't want to know," laughed Hill, "just as long as he gets it through the uprights and puts it where he needs to put it. You can't tell, and I don't know if he does have any type of set standard. I know sometimes I see him dancing on the sideline before he gets ready to kick. He'll start moving around after hearing the band."

So perhaps Tinker has already developed a habit after all.

"Sometimes I just move around to loosen up," admitted Tinker.

For the meantime, Tinker is enjoying his role on the team and having fun, even though he may at times feel like an outsider.

"I think it's a great group of guys," said Tinker, "and I'm glad to be here."