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The Sailer Tradition
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November 03, 2009, 05:49 AM
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From the LA Daily News` article on the last second victory, by my old high school, Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, in its annual football game against its archrival:
The tradition of having great kickers is alive and well at Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks.

Eric Solis kicked three field goals Friday, including a 51-yarder with one second remaining in a dramatic 23-21 victory over rival Crespi of Encino in a Serra League opener at Notre Dame.

From Chris Sailer to Nick Folk to Kai Forbath, Notre Dame has had some of the best kickers, but Solis` field goal gave the Knights one of the most exciting comeback victories in the school`s 62-year history.

At the high school level, field goals from over 50 yards are quite rare (at least at low altitude). Indeed, they aren`t common in the NFL: in 2008, eleven of the NFL`s 32 regular field goal kickers had a longest field goal of no more than 50 yards.

Solis is, I believe, the fifth kicker in my old high school`s history to boot a 50-yard or longer field goal since Chris Sailer launched this tradition in 1994. During the four playoff games of Notre Dame`s 1994 championship year, Sailer kicked eleven field goals, four of them longer than 50 yards, one a last second game winning 58-yarder in a light rain.

NDHS grads include Kai Forbath, who has made 20 of 22 field goals for UCLA this year, Eric Folk who has made 12 of 14 for Washington, and Nick Folk who has made 12 of 15 for the Dallas Cowboys.

In case you are wondering, Chris Sailer is not, as far as I know, any relation to me. (My understanding is that "Seiler" is a surname  derived from the German word for "ropemaker," while "Sailer" is a snobby variant spelling of that, as "Smythe" is to "Smith."

But, the story of NDHS`s kickers is a Sailerian one of selection and training, nature and nurture.

Chris Sailer went on to be an All-American at UCLA, but didn`t have much of an NFL career. So, he went into the business of tutoring placekicking and long snapping, and now has a booming business. Nick Folk of the Cowboys, for example, studied under Sailer for ten years. This is an example of the growth of tutoring and private training among white football players. It used to be that you showed up at school, the football coach had you practice, and that was that. Now, however, quarterbacks and placekickers tend to also be privately drilled and attend summer camps, where they can be specially taught, and scouted as well.

Sailer claims that in the high school class of 2009, 53 placekickers and/or punters who attended one of his kicking camps earned college scholarships.

Not surprisingly, Sailer`s old high school benefits from all this, creating a self-perpetuating Sailer Tradition at NDHS.

Top placekickers these days are mostly white, plus some Hispanics (usual with Anglo first names). Even at Howard U., the traditionally black college in D.C., the placekicker is Dennis Wiehberg, a white soccer player from Germany.

If you are a football-loving dad and would like your reasonably athletic kid to get a free ride to college, place-kicking, punting, and long-snapping are plausible routes if your son is self-disciplined and you`ve got time and money to invest in training for him.

Meanwhile, many blacks have come to actively disdain kicking as a white thing, which has cost some otherwise talented all-black high school teams championships.

It`s all an interesting example of voluntary resegregation within an integrated sport.