Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 3, 2013

Ellington kicks his way into Concord record books

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS — Going into homecoming this Saturday at Concord University, it must be comforting for the Mountain Lions’ football team to know that their kicker booted what is apparently the longest field goal in school history last weekend.

Sophomore Andy Ellington nailed the 48-yard kick, along with a 42-yarder, and was named Mountain East Conference special teams player of the week on Monday for his contributions to Concord’s 20-3 road win at West Liberty last Saturday.

He also made two extra-point kicks. His one field goal miss was from 45 yards. In his college career, five of his 11 field goals have been from 40 or more yards out.

“I think distance is one of my specialties,” he said before Thursday’s practice. “I like to kick from beyond 40. It doesn’t bother me. I just kick it like an extra point.”

“I was just glad they had faith in me – because I know they do. It gives me a lot more confidence when I go out to kick a long one.”

He said about last Saturday’s game, “We came out strong and were driving down the field, we just had a little trouble finishing. But it’s a real big help when I can kick a field goal and finish a drive with points.”

Besides a strong leg, he said the main watchwords for a collegiate kicker are mentality and accuracy.

“You’ve obviously got to be mentally strong when you get out there, but kicking the ball straight is what it’s all about. So that’s what I try to focus about in practice, not how long they’re going. The long ones come on game day, with the adrenaline going, but, the ball going straight, that’s what’s important.”

During game weeks, he said, he takes 50 or 60 kicks. “I try to do the majority of my kicks early in the week, so my leg’s well rested for the end of the week,” he said. “I try not to go over (60) because you don’t want to tear up your leg, but you need to get some good strokes in and get your leg ready for Saturday.”

Like all of Concord’s football players, Ellington lifts weights, but his emphasis is different from his teammates.

“I try to stick to my upper body, in season, to keep my legs fresh, but I do like to work on my legs in the spring, to get my legs a lot stronger, (to) see if I can get more distance the next year.”

Ellington said he started kicking for Winfield High School in his ninth-grade year, and got plenty of work in his senior campaign.

He said, “We struggled some offensively my senior year. I ended up kicking 14 field goals and I broke the state record for the number of field goals in a season. That was big.”

He went to “three different main kicking camps” while in high school, he said. “Every camp I went to, I tried to take one thing I liked … I tried to get a plethora of different styles, and then sort of average them together to the way I like to kick.”

His style is not patterned after any one kicker, college or pro, but he has always been impressed by West Virginia University graduate Pat McAfee, who now kicks for the Indianapolis Colts.

“I watched him while I was growing up,” Ellington said. “I wanted to be like him. I just thought he was a cool guy at WVU.”

Ellington was recruited to Concord by assistant coach John Pennington. “We just made a really good relationship,” he said. It turned out to be the kicker’s only college offer.

It wasn’t difficult to get used to the Athens campus.

“We’re up in the mountains,” he said. “It’s a lot like where I’m from. I like the small-town feel. I love all the kids here, and I love all my teammates.”

Both Ellington and teammate Josh Clark, a senior defensive back, were named conference players of the week on Monday. In an unusual coincidence, both are from Scott Depot and played at Winfield.

Ellington’s school loyalty returned when that fact was noted. “That’s awesome,” he said. “To give some publicity to our high school – I’m glad.”

The kicker’s freshman year included a few blocked kicks and, inevitably, some misses. This year feels different, he said.

“I’m just a lot more comfortable on the field. I think the whole field goal team as a unit has picked up a lot since last year, so I’m glad about that, too.”

He is also pleased to work with Steve Cox, Concord’s retired basketball coach, who agreed last year to work part-time as the kicking coach for the football team.

“He’s a great coach,” Ellington said. “He’s always got some great insights. He may not have the most kicking knowledge, but he always stays on us. …

“He keeps my head in the game. If I miss one, he’s really good about giving me good insight about getting back onto the field.”

Cox said Ellington, a business major, is a good student. The coach said, “I’ve just really enjoyed working with him. … He’s got a good mentality. He’s confident. He believes he can do it. And things can happen, but you’ve got to deal with failure and not lose your mind.”

Last Saturday, Cox said Ellington was making 55-yard kicks in pregame warmups. Cox said, “That 48-yard kick carried way past the goalpost. It would’ve been good from close to 60.”

If he was asked to kick from 50-plus yards out, Ellington said, “I’d just kick it like I did last week. I just appreciate the coaches’ having faith in me, and I try to do the best I can.”

Concord's homecoming game starts at 2 p.m. Saturday in Athens.

Contact Tom Bone