Pettigrew finds his sweet spot

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By Dan Johnson

James Pettigrew never had dreams of being a football player.

The soccer pitch is where Pettigrew literally grew up, and it’s on that plush grass that the Front Range Christian senior figured to carve out his athletic career.

Then two years ago, a funny thing happened. A friend at school talked him into going out for the football team as a placekicker.

Having never kicked a football before, Pettigrew was unsure of what he was getting himself into, but agreed to do it. He made the team, although looking back now, he laughs when he remembers his kicking technique - or lack thereof.

“I didn’t know how to line up to the ball or how many steps to take before kicking it,” Pettigrew said. “I just basically went out there and whacked at it.”

Last season, Pettigrew began to get the nuances down and started lifting weights. As a result of the coaching and lifting, he saw his accuracy and length improve. Both were aided even more by a trip to Texas, where he attended ex-Dallas Cowboys kicker, Chris Boniol’s kicking camp.

“That really opened my eyes,” Pettigrew said.

Pettigrew is now connecting on 85 percent of kicks from inside 45 yards and has made a handful of 50-plus yard attempts, with the longest being a 52-yarder. His maximum-distance kick checks in at 65 yards.

His leg strength has now drawn the attention of college coaches from across the country. Pettigrew says colleges both big and “ones you’ve never heard of” have sent him information on their schools. He figures 50-plus have made contact and he’s narrowed the list down to 16.

“It's weird. I thought my future was always tied to soccer,” he said.

Pettigrew still plays, but after trying to do both sports last year (he played soccer at D’Evelyn), this year he’s lightened his load a bit. He'll return to soccer and play for Colorado Rush in the spring.

Not that his soccer skills haven’t aided him in football. In fact, thanks to his years of running on the pitch, Pettigrew has transformed from being “just a kicker” into a “football player" as he's returning kicks and backing up the wide receivers and defensive backs.

“Anything that requires speed, I’m doing,” Pettigrew said.