When you’re a kicker, some times it’s hard to get attention from the college coaches. When you’re a kicker from the state of South Dakota, it some times becomes impossible. But Taylor Mehlhaff of Aberdeen (S.D.) Central is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 kicker by Rivals.com and has the talent to break both of those trends.
Mehlhaff, who is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, doesn’t have the stats when it comes to field goals that will open too many people’s eyes. He said he was three for five last season in limited attempts, but its his ability to kickoff that has kicking experts from coast-to-coast saying he’s the best of the best.
At the Chris Sailer National Kicking Competition in Las Veags, Mehlhaff had the best kickoff leg of anybody at the competition – with an average of 65 yards and an average hang time of more than four seconds. It’s those types of things that attract college coaches.
“I think the kickoff is a weapon that gets overlooked,” Mehlhaff said.
“In high school there is a big difference than in college. In high school, you’re probably better off kicking it in to the end zone and letting the team start at the 20. In college they’d rather have around a 4.2-second hang time and kick it right around the goal line. They’d rather have the kickoff team go down there and stop them inside the 20 and that’s why hang time is so important.”
Kicking has come sort of naturally to Mehlhaff.
He’s first and foremost a great athlete. At 5-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Mehlhaff also plays quarterback and defensive back for his squad. He’s also an elite baseball player and plays on a very successful high school and American Legion team.
Seriously, how many kickers can bench-press 260 pounds and play every single play on the field and then go out there and kick? Not many, and that’s one of the things that makes Mehlhaff unique.
“I think it is my athleticism that separates me,” he said. “I didn’t know that I was this good really until I went to some camps. I was down in Waco this summer training with Chris Sailer. A lot of those guys were the skinny little kicker type. I’m pretty dedicated to lifting weights. I think that’s the different. I’m more athletic and I think I have a lot more leg speed than those kids.”
But don’t think Mehlhaff is bragging. He’s one of the most modest kickers that you’ll talk to.
He admits that he’s just learning how to become an excellent kicker and he’s never really been coached extensively in it until recently, but it’s that upside that makes him such a rare find.
“I was just a soccer player that taught himself how to kick,” he said. “I didn’t have anybody to teach me until last year. I’ve never been coached, and I’m still learning how to do things the right way. You can teach yourself, because it’s a lot like a golf swing. But now that I’ve worked with people, I can definitely tell a difference and improvement.”
One of the little things that Mehlhaff picked up was improvement in his technique.
“Some people say that you need to keep your head down and follow through,” he said. “But I’ve learned that you have to keep your head back more than down. If you keep it back, you can add five to 10 yards on your field goal attempts.”
Like many kickers, Mehlhaff is waiting his first scholarship offer. He admits that he grew up a huge Nebraska Cornhusker fan and if NU were to offer, he’d leap on the offer likely.
“My dream is to go to Nebraska,” he said. “Ever since I went to a game there two years ago, that’s where I’ve wanted to go. I want to be a Conrhusker. I haven’t heard much from them, but my coach has been in contact with them. I haven’t personally talked to them, though.”
Mehlhaff camped at Minnesota and has also attracted attention from Baylor, Rice, USC and San Diego State from his success at competitions in Las Vegas and Waco. He’s hoping with a more productive season in the field goal department will help solidify his ranking as the nation’s No. 1 kicker and help him garner more love from the colleges.
“I really didn’t even get many chances last year,” he said. “One of the ones that I missed was a 58-yarder in 45-degree weather. It was the last play of the game in our playoff loss. I attempted it and it landed just short. I kicked it too high.
“I won’t miss this year.”
Just like hopefully a college coach won’t miss on this star kicker.