With a flurry of four-star talents — safety Isheem Young, wideout Daniel George and cornerback Jordan Miner, to name a few — committing to Penn State in July, one future Nittany Lion flew under-the-radar: Ankeny Centennial (Iowa) placekicker Jake Pinegar.
Pinegar, the No. 2 kicker in the country per 247 Sports and maybe one of recruiting’s best-kept secrets, didn’t start focusing on the position until the past eight or nine months.
We caught up with Pinegar about booting 70-yard field goals and his versatility in this week’s edition of “Five Questions.”
Q: So, tell me, how does a kicker from Iowa with four offers end up at Penn State?
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A: They were interested in finding a kicker, and I went to a Northern Illinois camp (in early July). I knew they were going to be there, and that was my primary reason to go to that camp, to kick in front of them. I did really well, they liked what they saw, and they wanted to get me out to Penn State one more time to be around the place and kick in front of them again. That happened, and I just fell in love with the school and the facilities and the coaches and the recruits.
Q: Did you always want to be a college kicker?
A: Um, no. At first I was being recruited as an athlete to some smaller Division I schools. I knew I had a big leg, and within the past year — maybe the last eight, nine months — I really focused on kicking. I wanted to see where I could go with that. That’s kind of what it’s turned into.
Q: What’s the longest field goal you’ve ever made in a game? And are you one of those guys who can hit 60-yarders in practice?
A: That’s the funny thing. Last year, I only had two field goals because my older brother was the starting kicker. Like I said, I really have only focused on it that past nine months. But of the two field goals, the longest was a 51-yarder. And then in practice, I can back it up to 65 or 70 yards.
Q: Has the last year been surreal for you, going from kicking two field goals to being committed as a kicker to one of the biggest college football programs in the country?
A: I’ve always known I had a strong leg. I kept it in my back pocket until I finally talked with one of my coaches and he told me, ‘You can really do something with this. If you enjoy it, let’s try to attack it.’ I’ve put in the work, and the outcomes I’ve been getting are pretty surreal.
Q: Like you said, you were recruited as an athlete by some smaller schools. Judging by your highlight tapes, you’re an athletic guy. Do you think that gives you some flexibility at the next level for a weird fake field goal or something crazy like that?
A: It does. It really does. I know I’m primarily going to be a kicker in college, right? That’s my job. But with the versatility I have, it makes things more flexible for me to do other things like fakes. It makes me a little more dangerous.