Aug. 18, 2005
SEATTLE - There have long been high schools that turn out more than their fair share of college football players.
On the west coast, you might point to California powerhouses like Long Beach Poly and De La Salle in the Bay Area. Closer to home, UW fans will recall a long stretch of players from Puyallup High in the 1990s.
What most may not have noticed, however, is that two members of Washington's four-man crew of kickers and punters both attended the same high school. Senior placekicker Evan Knudson, the incumbent starter on field goals and PATs, and freshman kicker/punter Ryan Perkins both graduated from North Thurston High in Lacey, Wash.
Pair that with the fact that former UW punter Channing Wyles (a 1989-90 letterman), Knudson's half-brother, is also a North Thurston grad and you pretty much have yourself a kicking factory.
Knudson and Perkins' stories are relatively similar, and in a way, Knudson led to Perkins ending up as a kicker.
It all starts with the fact that North Thurston is something of a boy's soccer powerhouse, the alma mater of U.S. national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Both Knudson and Perkins were goalkeepers for the Rams and both decided that football would not only give them something else to do in the off-season, but would also give them a chance of playing a sport in college.
"I wanted to go to college to play soccer," Knudson says. "But I wanted to play in Division I at a Pac-10 school, and I wasn't getting any offers like that."
So, after going out for football his senior year ("nothing spectacular", he terms it), Knudson decided it would be easier to walk on to a football team than a soccer team as the football teams carry more players on the roster. A few years later, he's the starting placekicker at Washington.
Perkins started a little earlier. After Knudson's spell as football kicker and soccer goalkeeper, another eventual college kicker (former Eastern Washington kicker Pat Lavalla), took both jobs. Then it was on to Perkins, who hadn't played football as a youngster, but had a strong leg and figured it was worth a shot.
After a while, and through attending summer camps, Perkins realized that he might have a shot at college football and eventually followed Knudson to the UW as one of the more highly-regarded prep kickers in the nation.
"I figured if I could kick a soccer ball pretty far -- and in soccer on punt or off the ground, it's about kicking it a long way -- I could kick a football a long way too," Perkins explains.
Interestingly enough, both Knudson and Perkins had to punt in the somewhat unusual style favored by the Rams' coaches, punting more rugby-style from a shorter distance behind the center and to one side, sending the ball on a low line drive. They called it "cowboy" style at North Thurston.
Perkins, specifically recruited as both a punter and a kicker, essentially had to figure out conventional punting on his own, mostly at camps.
"I pretty much figured out how to put a spiral on the ball on my own," he says.
That battle, along with the many others, continued Thursday during the second full-scale two-a-day practice of the fall with the team working out in full pads under a cloudy morning sky before returning in helmets and shorts for a sunny afternoon session.