While actual kickoffs for the 2020 high school football season are still months away, Our Lady of the Hills’ all-state TAPPS performer Stephen Grocki has already been sharpening his kicking skills to ensure more accurate, higher, and father trajectories come August.
To that end Grocki has earned a rare spot on Kicking World’s list of hot prospects.
Rare, not in the truest kicking sense, because Grocki gained notoriety locally for the Hawks when his foot-to-ball talents were one factor in OLH’s playoff appearance last season.
Grocki made 23 of 26 extra points, had one field goal, and averaged 46 yards per boot on 44 punts. His kickoff touchback ratio was 84-percent. He was named first team all-district kicker and punter, and made TAPPS’ second team all-state group at kicker.
It is rare, however, since Grocki is only a sophomore.
“Stephen is one of only five sophomores on our list of roughly 50 prospects representing 20 states,” said Brent Grablachoff of Kicking World, and kickingworld.com.
Grablachoff has operated Kicking World, and its various camps for 13 years out of North Austin. Grocki has been part of Kicking World’s instructional program for a couple of years according to Grablachoff.
“Part of Stephen’s interest in calling us, was because of Jared Zirkel,” said Grablachoff.
Zirkel, Kerrville Tivy’s outstanding kicker, began attending Kicking World sessions as an eighth grader. Zirkel’s foot-feats for the Antlers, coupled with camp accomplishments, helped connect on a scholarship to play for the University of Georgia after graduation from Tivy this spring.
In initially making the list, Grocki shows up at OTC level.
“OTC stands for “on the cusp,” said Grocki.
“Most newcomers onto the hot prospect list are given this level. As I continue to better myself in kicking by getting better hangtimes and distance, I can move up to D3, D2, and D1 level,” Grocki said.
“Stephen is making good strides. He is given certain kicks to record, and has been very responsive to coaching, and improving. He shows a lot of hustle and follow through. I’ve been very impressed with Stephen’s accountability to do the little things right,” Grablachoff said.
While his connection to Kicking World started with a phone call, Grocki made his physical impressions known when he attended the group’s National Showcase almost one year ago.
“Kicking World hosts the showcase. The first time that I was introduced to Kicking World was last July. I went up to Houston for camp with about 30 campers, I was very new to kicking and did not know what to expect,” said Grocki.
“The showcase consisted of three classes for 2020, 2021, and 2022. We were split off into our class groups.
“We were given a time and distance that we had to kick in order to move onto the next round. After several rounds of kicking, only two were left in the 2022 class, and I was one. After the other classes had finished their rounds, the ones still remaining would begin to kick until eliminated. After a few more rounds of kicking, I was able to get into the top 10. I finished ninth overall,” said Grocki.
“Components of competition is one of the aspects we stress at our camps,” said Grablachoff. “We also will perfect little things, get kids to exhibit better than average ability, and help them get their name out there (to college head coaches, and special team coaches),” Grablachoff said.
Grocki’s sister Mikalya was recruited by, and played at Creighton University this past Fall, and Stephen was also a vital cog in OLH’s soccer playoff run. And while the sport seems to be a major activity in the household, Grocki found more footing with the American version of futbol.
“I started kicking footballs in June of last year. I went out and decided to kick a couple of field goals, and noticed that I could go all the way back to 50 yards which at the time was an achievement for me. I kept on working at it all summer and decided that I would try and kick for OLH,” said Grocki.
Lending his talents to the Hawks grid group has been very well received, and appreciated by head coach Chis Ramirez.
“I'm very proud of Stephen. He is a fine young man, and a tremendous athlete with exceptional work ethic. I'm confident that he is going to continue to work hard and only get better. We are very excited for him, and look forward to the upcoming season. This recognition is well deserved. I'm certain Stephen will use this as motivation to keep getting better,” said Ramirez.
More on-site camp sessions should be in store once social distancing measures are relaxed, and Grocki appeared eager to resume such, and expounded on typical days at Grablachoff’s North Austin facility.
“At a private session with Coach Grablachoff, the sessions run for 45 minutes of one-on-one teaching. These are very important because they help me to perfect my form, and other aspects that I need to tune up on. At camps, there are usually about 20-30 campers. At first we go through several drills to help us better ourselves before the competition. At the end of the camp, there are three competitions for punting, kickoff, and field goal competitions. The winners of the competitions are granted an invitation to the showcase. The showcase is much more formal, and the attendees present are some of the best kickers in the nation trying to showcase their talents to the several college coaches who are watching,” said Grocki.
Like any endeavor, physical and mental traits are important things Grocki said he has had to develop for his foot feats.
“Kicking includes a significant amount of skill that comes from your mental game. One thing that I have had to develop is to strengthen my mind to wipe out any doubt or confusion after some things don’t go so well. I learned that you shouldn’t think about a past mistake, because it will only hurt you,” said Grocki.
He also credits weight training for his development as a kicker.
“It (weights) has helped me build endurance for kicking as many as 50-60 balls a day. I also enjoy biking a lot because it helps target the muscle groups I need to work out on a daily basis,” Grocki said.
Grablachoff attributed Grocki’s leg speed to being stronger.
“Stephen is much more cut than previous, and his strength, plus loosening up more, has resulted in much higher and farther kicks,” said Grablachoff.
“Through lessons with coach Grablachoff, the things that I have tightened up on are improving my foot-to-ball contact to fully get maximum distance when kicking. Also, slowing down my approach to the ball instead of rushing to kick the ball, which was why I was not getting greater contact. The final thing I have had to sharpen is not be so tense, I noticed that being in a relaxed state of mind helps me be more consistent on every kick,” said Grocki.
Something else that drives Grocki to achieve his kicking goals rolls back to Tivy’s Zirkel.
“One person that has been a role model for me is Jared. He really helped motivate me to become a kicker. When we would go out to kick together, I was extremely humbled when he would give me advice to help better my kicking abilities. One day I hope to be in the position he is in by playing D1 football,” said Grocki.
Of course, Grocki still has a couple of years left to help the Hawks fly high, and kick OLH into some wins.