Reporting Matt Leon
WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) - Division II West Chester University has had more than its share of pretty good kickers over the years. But sophomore Shawn Leo is on track rewrite the Golden Rams record book — and in fact he has already broken out the eraser.
Last season as a freshman, Leo went nine for ten in field goals, establishing a West Chester record for single season accuracy.
This season, with four regular season games yet to play, Leo has hit 15 of 19 field goals, already breaking the school record for makes in a season (old record 12).
He is also quickly approaching the West Chester mark for attempts in a campaign (22).
In addition, Leo is just six field goals short of the school career record.
And for good measure, he is also 57 of 60 (95%) in extra points in his 1½ years on campus.
“I first started kicking around 7th grade, when my brother was in high school,” says the Souderton High School product. “He was going to try out for the high school team. Every day after school, we would go to the nearby high school and we would kick field goals together.”
Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Shawn Leo in this CBS Philly SportsPod…
Needless to say, Leo took to kicking, and that has been to the benefit of the Golden Rams.
“We liked Shawn coming out of high school and he was a good kicker,” recalls head coach Bill Zwaan, “but we’ve had a lot of good kickers come through here — Alex Walsh was our last really good one (2005-2008). And even Alex took a while before he really got confidence and really was solid. Shawn’s been like that since the first time I threw him out there. There’s no way you would expect that kind of consistency from a young guy. And boy, we are lucky we got him.”
Leo says kicking is a craft — a craft that you have to work at continually:
“There’s a lot of technique involved. You’ve got to make sure you do the same things over and over again — the same steps, the same form, the same leg swing. You don’t want to overkick, you don’t want to underkick, obviously. It’s the same kick over and over again. And to be able to keep doing those things… it can be difficult sometimes.”
Leo says that during games he has a routine he follows to help him maintain that all-important consistency.
“As soon as we cross the 50-yard line, I usually start kicking into the kicking net to get my form down, make sure I’m hitting the ball correctly,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
And Leo usually does hit the ball correctly. He’s not just consistent, he also can boom it from deep. His long field goal this season is a 48-yarder against CW Post — he also hit a 47-yarder in that game — and both he and his coach say his range stretches even beyond that.
Zwaan says a weapon like Leo is an underrated, and important, one.
“The key thing is, we are always walking away with points,” Zwaan says. “It’s funny, when you send your field goal kicker out, you are usually not happy that you are sending him out there because you just missed on a third-down play and you’re in the red zone and you wanted to score a touchdown instead. But we feel like every time we’re down there, we’re getting points. If we aren’t scoring a touchdown, he’s going to get us three points, and all those points end up being huge when you are playing in a conference like this (PSAC), (where) each team is so close to each other. Those three points and those points after touchdown are huge.”
Leo and the 4-3 Golden Rams host Bloomsburg on Saturday.
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060