Everyone knows the college athlete stereotype. The recruited athlete gets in only because of a nice jump shot or a strong erg time, takes the easiest courses in the Blue Book (if any at all) and then does just enough homework to get by.
While this may be true in some cases, there are always stand-outs who excel both athletically and academically and make others wonder: How do they do it?
Alan Kimball ’08 is one of those stand-outs.
The Yale football place-kicker leads the Ivy League in field goals, field goal percentage and extra points and is second in total points only to hotshot teammate Mike McLeod ’09, who happens to be breaking every record imaginable. Not bad after only attempting 10 field goals his sophomore season — three of which were blocked — and missing on seven of his 19 attempts as a junior.
Kimball, a history major, also sports a 3.97 grade point average.
“It’s a true testament to Alan’s dedication to academics and athletics,” punter Tom Mante ’10 said in an e-mail. “To balance the two is one thing, to excel in both is another thing.”
The Olathe, Kan. native and former high school soccer star said he believes his improvement on the football field is due to a combination of more experience, increased comfortable in his role and plenty of practice. According to his teammates and head coach, his work ethic is outstanding and rare.
“Alan has improved every year,” head coach Jack Siedlecki said in an e-mail. “He was thrown into the fire as a sophomore and had mixed results. Now as a senior he is performing at a record-breaking level. He has improved his leg strength every year and is diligent in his workouts to improve himself.”
Through eight games this season, Kimball has hit 12 of 15 field goals — twice from a season-long 38 yards — and all 31 of his PAT attempts. But one needs to look at more than his stats to understand his value to the defending Ivy League co-champions.
After hitting two game-winning field goals last season versus Lehigh and Penn, Kimball has proved clutch in the 2007 campaign as well. In their road game against Penn, so far the tightest affair for the undefeated Bulldogs, Kimball managed to convert a field goal on a play that looked to be broken. In the second overtime, with the Elis trailing by three, Kimball had the chance to tie the game at 20. A bad snap followed by a bobbled hold seemed to spell disaster.
But a cool-headed Kimball stopped dead, waited for the holder to place the ball and kicked the 21-yard field goal through the uprights to tie the game at 20 and to keep the perfect season going.
“He is really confident,” holder Rich Scudellari ’10 said. “He has ice water in his veins. The kick against Penn this year was a helluva kick; without it we wouldn’t still be undefeated.”
According to teammates, Kimball is vocal and isn’t afraid to show his emotion. Teammates think of the three-year starter as a team leader, something not common for kickers on college football teams, many of whom are typically not viewed “as one of the guys.” Then again, 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound kickers like Kimball are not exactly typical.
“I think for the most part, the guys don’t really bother Alan too much since he is probably the biggest kicker in college football, and they don’t want him coming after them,” Mante said jokingly.
Kimball has also garnered respect by mentoring and helping out the younger kickers on the squad.
“Alan has helped me along with the other kickers both technically and mentally,” kicker Alex Barnes ’11 said in an e-mail. “He has helped me realize that it is all mental and that I have to keep my composure to be a successful kicker.”
While most might think a hectic schedule would do more harm than good in the classroom, Kimball believes the full days brought about by the demands of Division 1 football — lifts, conditioning and off-season training, in addition to practices and games — have actually helped him out in his academic life.
“In season, I am forced to use my time wisely, as I don’t have any to waste,” Kimball said. “I know that once I get home from practice, I need to study — it brings discipline and structure into my daily routine.”
Kimball plans on attending law school next year but may have to put school on hold after graduation in May. NFL teams have scouted the kicker, so a stint in the pros is not out of the question.