Two sports, one passion

As the football season drew to a close, most players hung up their cleats and got ready for the offseason. Senior David Tate and sophomore Michael Hermitano will pick up different shoes and head to the pitch for the start of the soccer season. Tate and Hermitano are among many high school football specialists who are multi-sport athletes, using their kicking background to help out on the gridiron.

Soccer players doubling as placekickers or punters in football are not a new phenomenon. Many kickers in the National Football League once played soccer such as former University of Georgia and current Indianapolis Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. In November, Vanderbilt women’s soccer player Sarah Fuller got the chance to be the placekicker for the football team. By kicking the ball off in the second half, she became the first female to play for a Power Five football team.

“A lot of technique I need for kicking a football came from my experience with kicking a soccer ball,” Hermitano said. 

He decided to give football a go this summer when he trained with current varsity kicker William Fang who helped transfer Hermitano’s kicking skills in soccer to football.

Assistant soccer coach Connor Naughton thinks it’s more than just the ability to kick that draws soccer players to football. He says the football program’s reputation and drive for success attracts soccer players.

“There’s something enticing about high school football and the culture that surrounds it,” Naughton said. “I think a lot of the credit especially at Cedar needs to go to Coach Ryals and the program he has built. He has brought success to the program which makes guys want to play for the team. That’s the reputation we want as a soccer program as well.”

Hermitano started the season as the junior varsity’s top placekicker and was a starting midfielder on last year’s junior varsity soccer team. He was called up to play on the varsity football team for its final games this season. He also advanced to state sectionals for the 145-pound weight class in wrestling last year and ran cross country in middle school.

Tri-Sport Athlete: Sophomore Michael Hermitano (blue and orange singlet) takes the mat for a wrestling tournament at Clarke Central High School. “My only goal for wrestling this year is to win the state championship,” Hermitano said. Photo by Patrick Redmond.

No matter what sport he is playing, his coaches say he prioritizes the success of the team.

“Michael is such a great kid, he is such a team player as well,” head football coach Leroy Ryals said. “Michael will go on the kickoff team if he wants to and recover kicks. He will do whatever we ask of him.”

Naughton says Hermitano shows similar flexibility on the pitch as well.

“Michael is extremely coachable,” Naughton said. “He is willing to play whatever position and do whatever role is asked of him to help the team which is really exciting to see, especially at such a young age.”

Hermitano is not the only soccer player to make the football team this year as Tate also decided to give it a go after taking a three-year break from the sport.

Tate played left tackle in middle school but punted for the first few games this season. He finished the season as the Jaguars’ number one long snapper, a position that Ryals says needed to be filled.

“We have been struggling in that area and he has come on and took over that. The long snapper sets up the punts and the field goals which is crucial,” Ryals said.

Tate played on the junior varsity soccer team his freshman year before being called up to varsity. He served as a backup center back before fracturing both his shins, ending his sophomore season. Tate was sent back down to junior varsity last season to get his feel for the game back while serving as team captain. 

Hermitano (#22 on the bottom left) and Tate (#21 in the top right) pose for a team photo after their first junior varsity soccer game of 2020. “David and Michael bring tremendous skill to our soccer program,” Assistant soccer coach Conner Naughton said. Photo by Cedar Shoals Soccer.

Naughton says Tate will play a crucial role for the varsity defense this year.

“I think one of the biggest strengths for the soccer team this year will be the leadership and seniority we have on the backline, and David is a part of that,” Naughton said. “The leadership is going to come from that sort of defensive spine out there.”  

Tate says that he improved multiple skills from playing football that will help him during soccer season.

“I improved my reading of people moving around at once,” Tate said. “I played a couple of positions that required me to look around and find the defenders. I also improved my toughness and physical strength.” 

Naughton says he encourages high school athletes to play multiple sports, even though it means sharing his players with other coaches. 

“I think it is better for athletes to play multiple sports, rather than follow the trend of youth sports becoming hyper-specialized,” Naughton said. “Kids miss out on so many more ways to grow and improve that would not otherwise happen if they could not play multiple sports.”

Ryals says high school is the perfect time for players to experiment with multiple sports.

“We have a lot of players in the football program that play multiple sports and we encourage it,” Ryals said. “You have one time to participate in athletics at a high school level in your career and I tell people that if they are interested in playing more than one sport, they definitely should because you can enjoy the high school experience more.” 

Jacob Weiszer

Senior Jacob Weiszer is the Sports Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Weiszer is interested in pursuing a career in business or pre-law. Outside of school, Weiszer enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his friends. This year he hopes to cover a broad range of stories related to sports and the entire Cedar community. Weiszer also looks forward to working with his fellow editors and staff reporters to develop meaningful stories. The thing Weiszer enjoys the most about being a member of the journalism staff is being able to collaborate with his peers to cover important issues in the community.