MOSCOW, Idaho – Austin Rehkow has three jobs for the Idaho football team. He kicks field goals, he punts and he handles kickoffs.
The fact he does all of this – a few months after graduating high school, no less – isn’t a big deal to Rehkow. Heck, he was a kicker, punter, wide receiver and defensive back at Central Valley High School.
But it is rare in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest level of Division I football. And it has impressed his mentor the last two months.
“It’s a lot of work and you have to be focused on every kick and every punt,” said Bobby Cowan, a former All-America punter for the Vandals who is volunteering at Idaho while he trains and tries out with NFL teams.
“You know, at any position as a true freshman is stressful and there’s a lot of pressure. But he’s been doing a great job. He has a great leg.”
Last October, Rehkow made a splash nationally with a 67-yard field goal for CV – a Washington state high school record and one of the longest kicks recorded, in a high school game or at any level.
Now as a true freshman for Idaho, he’s one of only three FBS players to serve in the dual role as kicker and punter for his team, according to the UI sports information department. (The other two are Tennessee’s Michael Palardy and Washington’s Travis Coons, both seniors.)
“I love it,” Rehkow said last week after Idaho’s 26-24 win over Temple. “I came from playing most of the game in high school. I just love being on the field. Whatever I can do to change the game, whether it be put points on the board or pin them inside the 20.
“I just take pride on the time I am on the field, because I know it’s limited. I want to make a difference.”
Rehkow made a huge difference Saturday in the Vandals’ first win under Paul Petrino. He connected on 4 of 5 field goals, including a 25-yarder with 6 minutes left that gave the Vandals a critical two-score lead.
He also pinned Temple back with several booming punts.
“He’s made great strides,” Cowan said. “He’s been punting the ball terrific. It’s just we really had to hone in on our field goals.”
Through five games, Rehkow haw shown off his strong leg – almost too strong in Cowan’s mind. He ranks sixth nationally in punting average (46.7 yards per punt), but Cowan has worked with him to back off on his power and try to get more lift on his punts to help the coverage team get down the field.
As Rehkow has grown more flexible, Cowan has seen improvement in that regard.
“We’ve been working on a lot of stretching so he can really get that leg up there, which in turn creates hang time,” said Cowan, who punted for UI from 2009 to 2012. “He’s gotten a lot better at it.”
Rehkow has also taken positive steps as a kicker. While he started the year 1 of 5 on field goals and missed his first point-after attempt, he showed a much more consistent routine and approach on his field goals last week. He’s made his last eight PATs.
“Every kick was the same,” Rehkow said. “As long as I can keep the same steps, all that good stuff, I expect to make it.”
If last week were any indication, that will continue to bring a smile to Petrino’s face.
“That’s a true freshman doing that,” the first-year coach said. “He’s going to be really, really special.”