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KERSHAW – In football terms, there’s a familiar line known as “talking with your pads.”
In other words, hit hard and forgo the trash talk.
For Andrew Jackson High School senior kicker Tyler “Denk” Denkins, it’s more about speaking with his feet.
The 5-7, 150-pounder says volumes with his left foot, but it should come as no surprise since he’s a three-time all-region kicker, a second teamer as a freshman and a first-team pick as a sophomore and junior.
This season, he’s a shoe-in as an all-region kicker and even higher honors.
His senior stats to date are solid with a 41-yard field goal, 9-9 on extra points, 34-38 kickoffs inside the 20 and 23 touchbacks, a 40-yard per punt average with two onside kick recoveries to go with a 62-yard punt, two off the AJ school record.
Impressive as those figures are, that’s just the half of Denkins’ stats this fall.
A couple of weeks back, Denkins attended the Dynamic Kicking Performance Camp in Charlotte and was the overall winner.
His effort included a 71-yard kickoff with a 4.9 second hang time. He was 6-6 on kicks of 50-yards in. He also nailed a 60-yard punt with a 4.5 hang time.
Then, there was the Army All-America kicking competition in Charlotte where he earned an elite five-star rating on nine of nine kicks from 52 yards in.
Prior to this season, Denkins was the overall winner in a field of 50 kickers as a sophomore and junior camper at the University of Virginia.
“It’s a dream to have a kicker like Denk,” said AJ veteran kicking coach Ronnie Blackmon of Denkins, who also plays soccer for the Vols. “He an all-around great kicker.”
As good as he is, Denkins could sport even greater stats for the Vols, but he chooses to share the AJ spotlight with fellow senior Brett Lucas.
Lucas has certainly held up his side, hitting 15-16 extra points and 5-7 field goals with his longest a 42-yarder.
“As good a kicker that Denk is, he’s an even better person,” Blackmon said. “His choice to give Brett a shot says a great deal about the selfless person he is.
“Denk lets Brett have opportunities and that’s his choosing,” Blackmon said. “That’s his personality. He’s going to think of others and tries to help them.”
Denkins, with his humble attitude, said he’s hoping Lucas profits from the chance.
“I’m not one to do everything and let Brett stand on the sidelines,” Denkins said. “Hopefully, he will gain some exposure.”
Blackmon notes Denkins has gained plenty through his hard work.
“When Tyler first came to us as a ninth-grader, I could tell he was going to be a good one,” Blackmon said. “He was dedicated to doing what you had to do to become a good kicker. It’s not easy, but Tyler was willing to do what it takes.
“Kicking is a learned talent and you have to be dedicated,” Blackmon said.
“It takes precise and consistent muscle memory. It requires practice the correct way.”
Denkins has been committed to his development since he first began as an AJ freshman when he hit five of five extra points in a game against Indian Land to earn the Founders Tri-County Special Teams Player of the Week Award.
“It’s about hard work and repetition, doing the same thing over and over,” Denkins said. “It becomes easier once you have gained muscle memory.”
Denkins’ hard work isn’t limited to the field.
He has a 3.5 GPA and is a member of the National Technical Honor Society.
“Denk is the total package,” Blackmon said. “He’s a good kid and the product of a wonderful family. I’ll miss him when he’s gone because he’s a rare find, and it’s even rarer when you have two good ones like Denk and Brett.”
Denkins hopes his stellar career can be extended as the Volunteers head into postseason play tonight when they face Saluda in the opening round of the Class AA Upper State football playoffs.
“From what I’ve seen on film, we match up well with them,” Denkins said. “If we come to play, we will win.”
Denkins said his head will be in the game because that’s the key to kicking.
“It’s all between the ears, that’s what coach Blackmon says,” Denkins said. “Kicking is a mind game and you have to be focused on what you do.”
Denkins said Blackmon has given him a leg up on kicking.
“Coach Blackmon has given me a lot of camps and that’s helped me develop,” Denkins said. “He’s given me good guidance in a positive way.”