SEATTLE – The last time the University of Washington football team was in position to kick a game-winning field goal, Erik Folk was so far away from the action that the only thing in range was a television screen.
And he nearly kicked that.
The Huskies’ kicker watched last year’s Apple Cup from his University District apartment, where he and roommate Cory Rutkowski saw UW lose 16-13 to Washington State after missing three field goals. Folk was in his second year of inactivity due to injuries, and the helpless feeling was killing him.
“The end of that game was really frustrating for me, knowing that I could be out there helping the team out,” he said this week.
Not only is Folk finally healthy, but he’s also ready to contribute. And the Huskies are counting on him to help shore up their anemic kicking game.
A third-year sophomore, Folk comes from good bloodlines – his older brother, Nick, is the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker – and was such a highly-touted UW recruit that the school made room for a scholarship by pushing fourth-year junior Michael Braunstein out the door.
Folk has yet to show his promise on the field. A back injury limited him as a true freshman in 2007, then he took a medical redshirt last season while nursing an injured hip.
When Folk got to spring practice in April, he was immediately anointed the front-runner for the job, and he’s yet to lose his stranglehold.
“There’s still a competition going on,” he said Monday. “They watch us before practice to see who’s making their kicks. They’re always watching, so there’s … always a competition going on.”
But it’s clearly Folk’s job to lose. He made an immediate impression by going perfect on the first two days of camp, and head coach Steve Sarkisian has continued to express confidence in Folk despite some recent misses.
Sarkisian went as far as to excuse a 22-yard miss at the end of a practice last week, saying that Folk was called into duty before he was ready.
In terms of genetics, Folk has the pedigree to handle the job. His brother has been the Cowboys’ kicker for each of the past two seasons, having gone to the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2007.
Nick Folk, who is five years his brother’s senior, first started playing football as a freshman in high school. His mother suggested that he go out for the team, and nursing a broken wrist, Nick Folk had no other option than to be the kicker.
Erik Folk, who started playing soccer at the age of 3, followed in his brother’s footsteps by becoming the kicker at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The younger Folk once kicked a 56-yard field goal in a high school game and claims to have hit a 65-yarder in practice.
Erik Folk said that his brother doesn’t push advice on him when it comes to the art of kicking.
“Basically, he just gives me advice with how to clear my mind and stay focused,” the younger Folk said. “I know my technique well enough that I can coach myself on that.”