Friday, April 18, 2014

University of Notre Dame Kicker Kyle Brindza makes it look easy but it wasn't always easy

Chances are you know who Kyle Brindza is.  Whether it was watching or hearing about the Plymouth Kicker, kick the Plymouth Wildcats into the 2011 State Championship game or a college football fan who seen Kyle Brindza, the starting Placekicker and Kickoff Specialist for Notre Dame as a True Sophomore, when the Fighting Irish made their run to the National Championship game. but did you know Doctors and other so called experts never even thought Brindza could perform athletically at a high level, even going as far as telling the Brindza's that Kyle wouldn't be able to walk?

At a young age Kyle Brindza was diagnosed with Clubfoot.  Clubfoot defined by the Mayo Clinic's website, is as followed, "Clubfoot describes a range of foot abnormalities usually present at birth (congenital) in which your baby's foot is twisted out of shape or position. In clubfoot, the tissues connecting the muscles to the bone (tendons) are shorter than usual. The term "clubfoot" refers to the way the foot is positioned at a sharp angle to the ankle, like the head of a golf club. Clubfoot is a fairly common birth defect and is usually an isolated problem for an otherwise healthy newborn."

Brindza would have 3 operations done on his legs, the last being in 6th grade on his right kicking leg.  The surgery was required to extend his Achilles' tendon, in doing so removing muscle from the right leg. Going through High School both as the Plymouth Wildcats, Kicker and Punter and Soccer teams Goalkeeper, Brindza had to overcome having a right foot that is skinnier due to the surgery which as you know, has not effected the booming kicks that have come off the cleats of Brindza's right foot. Even teammates and friends of Brindza on the team never noticed, as Brindza was all business.

Brindza would break out after his Sophomore season at Plymouth and as a Junior averaged 48.2 yards per punt, bringing in All State honors.

Entering his senior season, Plymouth had yet to get past the 1st round of the playoffs, that and many other things would change during the Fall of 2010.  Brindza and his Wildcats teammates went into the playoffs with a 7-2 record, one of the losses being to rivals, Canton who was the #1 ranked team in Division 1. In the second week of the playoffs, Brindza buried the Chiefs with a 47 yard field goal against the wind to seal a 17-7 upset over Canton.  The following week vs. perennial power Detroit Catholic Central, Plymouth's Kyle Brindza kicked 3 field goals, the last being with 38 seconds left to defeat CC, 9-7 to advance to the Division 1 Semi Finals.  Kyle Brindza booted 3 field goals vs. CC from; 51, 49, and 23 yards to provide all that the Wildcats needed to outscore CC. Brindza also added 2 field goals vs. Rockford but the highlight of that game was a pass to Brennan Beyer on a double coverage that lifted Plymouth over Rockford.

Kyle Brindza kicksoff in the 2011 Division 1 Finals | Source: Jeff Corrion / The D Zone

Although Plymouth would drop to Lake Orion, 21-13 in the state finals.  Kyle Brindza left his mark on the state's biggest State Final.  Brindza booted a 70 yard punt, which was an MHSAA playoff record and a 43 yard field goal which was 2nd all time longest in the State Finals.  Brindza's week 4, 53 yard field goal vs. Churchill currently sits tied at 6th all time on MHSAA's list of longest field goals. Brindza set the MHSAA record with 19 field goals made in 2010, 6 of which were longer than 50 yards and 40 career field goals.  Also 60 of 63 kickoffs went for touchbacks.

It's rare for kickers to be offered outright scholarships, instead Grayshirts and Preferred Walk-Ons are often the way kickers start out.  In Brindza's case he received offers from both Notre Dame and Michigan.  Brindza whom is a life long Notre Dame fan had little difficulty committing to play for Coach Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Brindza would then enroll early to practice in the Spring. Kyle Brindza was rated as the #17 kicker in Class of 2011 and as a 2 star prospect on and was ranked as the #1 kicker on, as well as being listed as a 3 star prospect.

As a True Freshman at the University of Notre Dame, Kyle Brindza had no problem coming in and doing his job for the Fighting Irish. Brindza got his feet wet as a Freshman being the teams kickoff specialist.  Brindza was involved in all 13 games that season, including the Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State.  As a Freshman, Brindza had 71 kickoffs for a total of 4635 yards and 12 touchbacks.

As a True Sophomore things didn't start off the best for Brindza who stepped up in the Purdue game in week 2, Brindza would miss his career attempt but as destiny would have it, Brindza bounced back, kicking 2 field goals later in the game, the last being 27 a yard field goal with 7 seconds left to knock off the Boilermakers 20-17 and build the path to the BCS National Championship game.

In week 6 vs. Stanford, Brindza kicked a 22 yard field goal with 20 seconds left to tie and send that game into overtime, the Fighting Irish won 20-13 in 1 OT.  Two weeks later vs. Oklahoma, any time that Oklahoma got within a touchdown of tying Notre Dame, Brindza added 2 field goals, from a distance of 44 and 46 yards to extend the teams lead by 10 points.

In a week 9 thriller vs. Pittsburgh, Kyle Brindza was an instrumental piece for Notre Dame's win. The Fighting Irish walked out with a 29-26 3 OT win, Brindza kicked 3 field goals, the last of the 3 being a 37 yard field goal to send the game into the 3rd overtime, where the Fighting Irish scored a touchdown to win and move to 9-0.

To cap off their perfect regular season, the Fighting Irish needed to travel to USC and eliminate their rivals.  Thanks to a 5 field goal performance, Notre Dame was able to accomplish that feat and put their name in the BCS National Championship game.  Kyle Brindza kicked a 52 yard field goal as the first half expired to tie for #2 all time longest field goal in Notre Dame history.

The University of Notre Dame would lose in the final game vs. Alabama 42-14, down 28-0 at halftime.  Brindza pinned Alabama within their own 18 on 2 kickoffs and a touchback on his 3rd kickoff.

Brindza again played in all 13 games as a Sophomore. Brindza kicked off 71 times for 4,445 yards with 26 touchbacks. On field goal duties Brindza connected on 23 of 31 attempts, the 23 field goals and 31 attempts both set a Notre Dame single season record. Brindza's 97 points scored off of 23 field goals and 28 PAT's was a single season kicking points record.

As a Junior the natural progression was to not only accept more responsibility for the Fighting Irish but to succeed with a heavier work load.  Brindza added the Punter role to his already impressive resume on the Notre Dame football team.  In 2013 Kyle Brindza was now the team's kickoff specialist, placekicker, and punter.  Notre Dame was not able to replicate their previous success and finished with a 9-4 record and defeated Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Kyle Brindza was forced to attempt 5 less field goals as a Junior,  Brindza was 20 for 26 on field goals with a long of 53 yards, 1 yard longer than his career best of 52.  Brindza also teed off on 4 more kickoffs with 75 total kickoffs for a total of 4,692 yards with an incredible 35 touchbacks. Brindza went to work on setting new Notre Dame field goals records, becoming the first player to kick at least 3 field goals beyond 50 yards.  On PAT's Brindza was a perfect 38-38.

The University of Notre Dame had a void to fill at punter heading into the 2013 season so what better player to fill the hole than Kyle Brindza.  Brindza stepped up in his first year of collegiate punting and averaged 41.1 yards per punt with a long of 56 yards vs. Pittsburgh.

In the Pinstripe Bowl vs. Rutgers, Brindza scored off of 5 field goals from distances of; 21, 38, 26, 25 and 49 yards as the Fighting Irish won 29-16.  Brindza's 5 field goals tied an NCAA Bowl Game record and Brindza's 17 points scored this game was a tie for 1st place in points scored in a game by a Notre Dame player.

Brindza as mentioned earlier had 3 field goals over 50 yards, which included a 51 yard field goal in the 4th quarter vs. BYU, broke a 27-27 tie with Arizona State off of an 53 yard field goal, and a 51 yard field goal vs. Air Force.

Kyle Brindza will now head into his senior season with a jumbo-tron full of records for the NCAA and University of Notre Dame. Brindza is #1 and #2 in points scored by a Placekicker at Notre Dame with 98 scored in 2013 and 97 scored in 2012.   The endless list of broken stats of Brindza will all likely be re-written following this upcoming season as Brindza has proven that he only gets stronger as he advances through his career.

Kyle Brindza's career field goal percentage, 75.4% is a Notre Dame record, and Brindza is 43/57 on all time field goal attempts.  As a kickoff specialist through 3 seasons, Brindza has 217 kickoffs for 13,772 yards, 63.5 average, and 73 touchbacks.

After all that Brindza has accomplished, overcoming the setbacks and obstacles who knows what's left for Kyle Brindza to do in 2014 that he has not done before.  Brindza's impact on all 3 stages of special teams, certainly make Brindza one of the most valuable players on the Notre Dame football roster and throughout the Country as well, as no player can do so much for their team as Brindza can for Notre Dame.

The Senior who has started on special teams all 39 games that Notre Dame has played in since joining the University will look to leave an unforgettable legacy at Notre Dame after 2014.

Dakota 2015 TE Daniel Crawford, offer #4 comes from Northern Illinois University

Daniel Crawford #15 - Dakota High School /  Source: Jeff Corrion / The D Zone

Dakota's Class of 2015 TE Daniel Crawford recruiting trail has been hot so far this offseason.  The 6'3" 230 lbs TE with a balanced combination of a traditional Tight End and a Receiver first Tight End has received his 4th offer this afternoon from Northern Illinois University.  Crawford caught 21 passes and 5 touchdowns as a Junior, was able to talk about his latest offer from the MAC West Division Champions from 2013.

The Northern Illinois Huskies have won the MAC West Division the past 4 seasons, 1 being co-champion.  Two years ago, Northern Illinois also played in the Orange Bowl.  All the winning that NIU has done has caught the eyes of Crawford.  "What I like about NIU's program is the fact that they know how to win and are a team full of winners," said Crawford. "They are a winning program and that's something every recruit would enjoy, is to be around winners."

As for how Crawford fits into an offense that has been rolling, Crawford added, "NIU says they feel that I'd fit into their offense perfectly and would benefit them greatly."

Now with 4 offers on his plate, Crawford is starting to have a lot of options to decide on where he wants to play the next 4-5 years, "The offer just allows me to enjoy the recruiting process even more and is another opportunity to meet great people that I could potentially be around for the next 4-5 years of my life," said Crawford when asked how this offer will impact his recruiting process.

The D Zone Profile
Hudl Highlights

Pianki Abdul - Loyola - FS - Class of 2015 Player Profile

  • High School:
    •  Loyola
  • Graduation Year:
    •  2015
  • Primary Position:
    •  FS
  • Secondary Position (s):
    • N/A
  • Height:
    • 6'4"
  • Weight:
    • 195 lbs
  • #1 Most Memorable Game:
    • Playing against Cass and lining up against Michigan Commit Jourdan Lewis. The best player I ever lined up in front of.
  • Pre-game Traditions:
    • Have a light workout before the game to get my muscles fired up and loose.
  • Post-game Traditions:
    • Reflect with my dad about the game 
  • Athlete you try building your game around:
    • Ed Reed or Ronnie Lott because they both bring the "boom" and can catch over you. They also play hard every play.
  • Anticipated Major:
    • Nursing
  • Experience:
    • 2 years of Varsity
  • Greatest High School Achievement:
    • Staying on honor roll and being a main factor on my varsity teams 
  • Offseason Goal (s):
    • Get faster, quicker, & stronger
  • Stats:
    • Freshman varsity Stats: 27 tackles, 8 deflections, 2 INTs
    • Sophomore varsity Stats: 30 Tackles, 3 deflections, 4 INTs
    • Junior varsity Stats: none due to transfer ineligibility
  • Colleges that you are interested in:
    • Eastern Michigan
    • Grand Valley
    • Ferris State
    • Toledo
    • Akron
  • Colleges that have shown you interest:
    • Eastern Michigan
    • Kentucky Christian
    • Grand Valley State
    • Wayne State
    • Wright State
  • Intangibles:
    • My height and length in the defensive backfield. My long arms makes the QBs and receivers job harder by trying to throw and catch over me
  • How I play the game:
    • Smart, Quick, & Coachable

The D Zone - How has recruiting been going so far for you this season?

Pianki Abdul - "It's been fair I'm still underrated."

What has been your biggest challenge in High School football so far?

Pianki Abdul - "It was speed and keeping up with others. But now I've worked hard during the off-season and cut my 40-time down."

What has been the most memorable part of high school football?

Pianki Abdul - "The first week of pads only because it separates the men from the boys."

What have you been doing since football season ended?

Pianki Abdul - "Playing basketball for Loyola. Also weight and agility training."

What are keys to performing at your positions?

Pianki Abdul - "Smart and quick decision making. Also a toughness and fearless attitude."

What are some personal goals you have set for this upcoming season?

Pianki Abdul - "To make All-City, All-State, All-Catholic, & All-Metro."

If a college coach was interested in having you play on his team and asked you why he should accept you on his team, what would you tell him?

Pianki Abdul - "I'm very coachable, I bring intensity and a dominant defensive presence. I'm willing to learn and easy to teach."

Which game stands out the most to you in the 2014 season? 

Pianki Abdul - "Country Day & whoever we play in the State Finals."

Who is the best player you lined up against on the field?

Pianki Abdul - "The best player I lined up against was Jourdan Lewis my 10th grade year when I went to Renaissance."

Other comments or accolades, awards, etc.?

  • My former coaches deleted my Hudl account from my 9-10 grade year. I didn't play last year because of ineligibility cause of the transfer rule.