CALEDONIA – Josh Kugel is a simple kid that has fallen in love with being a field goal kicker.
In last week’s Northeast Mississippi Football Coaches Association all-star game at Saltillo High School Kugel’s love for the skill grew even more. Kugel was able to convert on a 33-yard game-winning field goal to give his East team the win in double overtime. It was the first game winner that Kugel had attempted in his career and was exactly the feeling the accomplished soccer player wanted since trying out the sport as a hobby.
“You’re standing there knowing that your entire team is counting on you to do your job,” Kugel said in a Wednesday phone interview. “All you have to do is focus on your technique and it’s kind of like golf in the sense that if you do the fundamentals, everything will go well.”
In the all-star game last weekend, Kugel said the minute his foot touched the ball, he didn’t have to look up to see if the ball was sailing through the uprights.
“I didn’t even look to see if it was good,” Kugel said. “I just turned and ran toward my teammates on the bench. I knew it was a good kick and caught it perfectly on my foot.”
In his final high school season in 2012, Kugel made 8 of 10 field goal attempts with the longest being a 46-yarder. Kugel, an accomplished junior soccer player, simply tried out to be the Caledonia kicker to give him something active to do in the fall. Four years later, he is actively trying to find an opportunity to possibly college football program to contact him for a walk-on opportunity as a kicker at the next level.
“In all honestly, what I love about kicking and punting is I get to do my job and then go back and sit on the bench without my pressure,” Kugel said. “There’s not much running and I don’t get hit. It’s really easy for me to do and I like having responsibility that’s not much work.”
This desire to play football at the next level has now put Kugel directly in conflict with a National Letter-of-Intent he signed last month to play soccer at Itawamba Community College.
“I would put it like this, I’m really between a rock and hard place here because my desire to be a football field goal kicker is greater than my desire to play soccer,” Kugel said.
Kugel paced Caledonia with 13 goals and six assists (32 points) this season but even as he was signing with ICC, he was wrestling with the idea of playing football or soccer in college.
“Football is still an option down the road, but soccer is mainly what I want to do right now,” Kugel said when he signed with ICC. “I have done it my whole life, and basically it is my comfort zone. It is what I am good at and what I need to stick to.”
While on the Caledonia football team, he was also the punter and averaged 40.21 yards per punt in his senior season. He also served as the kickoff specialist and had 35 touchbacks in 44 kicks.
“It’s a skill I’ve really tried to excel at in football and I really want to give it a shot in college,” Kugel said. “I haven’t looked at other schools but I’d really like to walk on at Ole Miss after a season at ICC. I don’t know if that’s realistic or even possible but it’s where my head is right now.”