DENTON, Tex. -- Some of the best legs in the state (as well as a few from surrounding states) were on display Sunday at the Kohl's Texas Showcase kicking camp and they were battling more than just each other. They had to deal with the elements as well.
On the wind-swept practice fields at the University of North Texas, gusts were reaching 38 mph. Kicks that looked as if they were going to easily clear the crossbar would suddenly die in the unyielding headwind.
But the toughest environments are also where the best emerge and while there were a number of talented kickers at the camp, four 2010 athletes in particular distinguished themselves.
Eduardo Camara (Cedar Hill, Tex.) is drawing interest from across the country, primarily from LSU, Alabama, Rice, Kansas, Miami, Oklahoma and Miami. While he doesn't have a set order for his top schools, he's taken an interest in the Hurricanes -- but for an unexpected reason.
"I'm actually from Brazil and I haven't been here that long, so I don't really have a favorite school, but I like the hot. Miami will do," said Camara.
Camara moved to the U.S. in 2002 from the city of Natal in northeast Brazil. When he arrived he didn't speak any English, but according to Camara he was able to learn most of what he needed in just a few months.
"When I set my mind to something, I do it," said Camara.
He took the same mindset when he became a football player as well. Camara was a very talented soccer player, so the Cedar Hill coaches decided to try him out as a kicker.
"I played soccer and the coaches just said, 'Go out there and kick it,'" said Camara.
Just going out there and kicking it is exactly what he did. It wasn't until this year that Camara began working with a private coach dedicated to kicking, and he still had one of the smoothest deliveries of all the kickers at Sunday's camp.
Along with soccer, that smoothness of movement comes from another, more unexpected, form of training.
"I did Capoeira for about two years. It's where my flexibility comes from," said Camara.
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art built on rhythmic movement. According to Camara, the acrobatic art's extensive array of kicks helped build the flexibility and power he has today.
As for where he'll take his game, the Hurricanes are the strongest candidate as of right now. Along with Miami being the school he's most interested in, it's also the school that's closest to offering, according to Camara.
Hunting for a college
The highest-profile kicker at the camp in terms of current interest from schools was Cade Foster (Southlake, Tex./Carroll). The powerful-legged Foster won the camp's kickoff competition and has already garnered scholarship offers from Alabama and Washington. In addition, Stanford and UCLA have expressed serious interest in the Southlake Carroll kicker.
Even though most of the interest he's receiving is from the West Coast, the school that has captured his attention is back East.
"Alabama is my top school right now and I'm really leaning towards it," said Foster.
As for why the Crimson Tide occupies his top spot, said it's because the Yellowhammer state provides plenty of opportunity for his favorite past times.
"I love the outdoors. I love hunting and fishing. I'm just a really outdoorsy guy, so Alabama might be a good fit," said Foster.
He does it all in terms of kickoffs, field goals and punting. But most of the interest from colleges has been for his ability as a place kicker. This past season, Foster was 7-for-9 on field goals and 100 percent inside 50 yards. He also hit 11-of-15 in both his freshman and sophomore season for the Dragons.
Foster has already visited Alabama, but also plans on taking a trip to Washington before making his final decision around the end of June or the beginning of July.
Not a lot of colleges have been recruiting Kip Smith (Broomfield, Colo./Legacy), but that may change in a hurry.
As of right now the only real interest has been from SMU and Wyoming. Smith attended the Mustangs' spring game and has been told by the Cowboys they'd like to see him work out in person.
"They've been talking about getting a kicker for next year and they want me to come out there and see how I do," said Smith.
Back in December, Smith competed in his first showcase and finished roughly in the middle of the pack. Smith said he had been experiencing some soreness in his leg, which contributed to the poorer than expected showing.
Sunday he was a completely different kicker, blasting the ball through strong winds and making the finals of essentially every competition he took part in. After the showcase, camp organizer Jamie Kohl said that in his opinion, even though the interest in Smith has been relatively limited, Smith was one of the most college-ready kickers at the event.
Smith said afterwards that the wind, though strong, wasn't a huge issue for him because of what he often deals with at home in the mountain town of Broomfield, Colo. (elevation: 5,344 ft).
"The wind was brutal today, but it gets pretty windy up where I live in Colorado, so I'm used to it. It wasn't really anything new," said Smith.
Into the Fire
Just 29 yards to win the game. Shouldn't be too difficult to hit, right? But this was different.
Zach Olen (Richardson, Tex./Berkner) had never kicked in a game before.
And just a few months before, the then-freshman had never even kicked a field goal in any situation. The summer before his freshman year of high school, he was scheduled to attend a football camp put on by the high school.
"I didn't really want to go, but my dad had already paid for it and he made me go. I ended up doing really well," said Olen.
At the camp, the coaches asked players to line up and kick the ball. Olen had never done any serious kicking before, but he displayed a certain knack for it. After the camp, the coaches pulled him aside and let him know that, because the team was without a kicker, he was probably going to end up being the starter as a freshman.
He officially became the team's kicker, but he didn't kick his first field goal until late in the season. It would make the difference for Berkner High School.
After winning the first four games of the season, the Rams had lost three straight and were on the verge of elimination from the playoffs. Down 9-7 with the game on the line, coaches sent their freshman out for his first attempt.
"I was nervous. The sound, the pressure, it was nerve-racking," said Olen.
But Olen hit it and Berkner beat Lake Highlands 10-9.
He was once a stop-gap, but he's since developed into a serious weapon for the Rams in all phases of the kicking game. This past season as a junior, Olen made 11-of-13 field goals with long of 47. Punting the ball, he averaged 38.17 yards per kick and put 10 of his 36 punts inside the 20-yard line. Kicking off, he sent 41 of his 57 kicks for touchbacks.
Those skills were on display Sunday at the showcase. Though he performed well in most events, where Olen crushed the ball was punting, winning the competition with several deep punts that hung in the air for nearly five seconds.
Colleges have also started taking notice, with Wisconsin and Purdue showing the most interest. The Badgers and Boilermakers are the strongest possibilities for offers, but Olen has been in contact with a few other schools and is just waiting for a school to pull the trigger.
Ross Lucksinger is a writer for ESPN affiliate insidetexas.com.