FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Bradley Pinion has impressed the Kohl's kicking staff for years, but he did something during the Southern Showcase no one had ever seen before.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound punter from Northwest Cabarrus HS in Concord, N.C., hit a kickoff that went 100 yards in the air with 4.4 seconds of hangtime.
His blast was such a freak of nature it literally stopped camp and had everyone, including the snappers, looking up and seeing a ball that was moving higher and faster than anything they had ever seen.
We had always felt Pinion had some great natural tools to work with, but no one knew the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect was capable of a kickoff like that.
I have been around roughly 45 NFL kickers and 1000 college kickers in my playing and coaching career. I have seen some big kickoffs at camps and in games. I have seen multiple guys kickoff 90 yards with conditions and winds like they were on Sunday, but I have never seen a high school kicker kick off over 90 yards, let alone kick a ball 100 yards in the air -- no matter how windy the day was.
After sitting back and analyzing the monumental blast, we feel a couple things were at work. First, you have to have an athlete with an explosive leg that can create a tremendous amount of force on the ball. Second, he has to hit a clean ball that has the proper rotation. Third, his blast must have caught a jet stream or wind current just at the right angle or at the right time because the ball almost looked as if it got a boost midway in flight.
Regardless, Pinion was competing against 75 of the best kickers and punters from the Southeast and no one else even came close that kickoff, despite having the same 25 to 35 mph wind at their back. On top of that, Pinion also had many other kickoffs over 80 yards and even a punt that travelled 71 yards.
Pinion was told not to get discouraged if he never matched that kick and then was told that this will probably change his life.
Coming into the Southern Showcase, Pinion was already known for having the strongest overall leg in the 2012 class, and this cemented it. He does still have some refining to do on his technique to make his motion more repeatable and consistent. However, we don't think this will be the last time the football world hears from Pinion.