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Monday, June 15, 2009

Kicking it Up a Notch

Brandon Bogotay was just tossing the football around with a friend at Grossmont Junior College one day, occasionally booting the ball down the field with impressive length. His friend suggested he try out for the school's football team as a kicker, despite never having played the sport before.

A few days later, Bogotay was a part of the team. A few months later, he was one of the top junior-college kickers in the country. And a few weeks after that, he read a story that Georgia's head football coach was willing to look just about anywhere for a kicker who could kickoff into the end zone consistently.

Now, just a year after his journey began, Bogotay is about to leave San Diego for Athens as the Bulldogs' new kicker.

"I went out one day for a tryout and did one practice and the coach told me I made the team and it all started from there," Bogotay said.

While Bogotay is still pretty green in terms of football experience, the job of kicker is one he had been preparing for nearly his entire life.

"I always played soccer, so growing up as a kid running and building up my leg has been huge," Bogotay said. "About a year ago I started kicking the football. I've always hit the soccer ball pretty hard, and I just ended up kicking a bunch of touchbacks and from there I started developing field goals and fine tuning."

Touchbacks are exactly what Mark Richt -- and a lot of Georgia fans -- were desperate for last season.

Blair Walsh struggled on kickoffs down the stretch, failing to reach the end zone consistently then missing badly on directional kicks as well.

So Richt was looking for a kicker, and Bogotay was looking for a chance to move on to a four-year school. Bogotay still had another year of junior college eligibility, but when he learned of the opportunity at Georgia, he sent out a tape of his kicks in hopes of landing a scholarship offer.

"I think the (JuCo) coaches were hoping I was going to stay, but I felt like I was ready to step up to the next level," Bogotay said. "So I sent my film off to the coaches and they got back to me."

Bogotay had offers from Nevada and Hawaii as well, but his kicking instructor at Grossmont was a longtime Georgia fan and urged him to join the Bulldogs.

"He always told me that if Georgia offers there's no way you can refuse," Bogotay said.

After talking with the Georgia coaches and visiting campus, Bogotay was hooked. And for their part, the Georgia coaches were hooked on him, too.

While Bogotay knows he's being brought in for kickoff duties, he said coaches have assured him he'll compete for extra-point and field-goal duties as well -- a chance he relishes.

"He gave me the opportunity to come in and work and earn both positions, but basically I think the main focus is kickoffs," Bogotay said. "I'm coming in with the attitude to try to win both but I'll do whatever helps the team."

Bogotay said that seems to be the attitude of Georgia's incumbent, too. He said he has spoken with Walsh a few times, and the sophomore kicker has welcomed the challenge and sounded excited about Bogotay's arrival.

"We're cool. We're just going to work together and whatever is best for the team is best for the team," Bogotay said. "He was great. He just welcomed me and there was nothing negative. It's going to be fun to work with him throughout the year."

Bogotay still has a few more weeks of school at Grossmont and expects to arrive in Athens in July.

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