Austin Rehkow made a successful transition from viral video sensation to Idaho Vandal last fall.
As a high school senior at Central Valley, Rehkow burst into the national spotlight after kicking a 67-yard field goal in the Bears’ Greater Spokane League football game with Shadle Park. A video of the kick went viral and was included on ESPN’s SportsCenter as a Play of the Day and Rehkow was interviewed on national programs like “Good Morning America.”
As a freshman, Rehkow led the nation in average punting yards and served as the team’s placekicker.
“I still have people asking me about it,” the Vandals sophomore said. “Some of my teammates even ask about it. Some of the guys I’ve played with get asked if they know me when they say they’re from Spokane.”
First-year head coach Paul Petrino came calling and offered Rehkow a scholarship to kick and punt at Idaho.
As a freshman Rehkow punted 75 times and averaged 47.8 yards per punt – setting an Idaho record for a single season on a team that finished the season 1-11. As the team’s kicker he connected on 10 of 17 field goal attempts (58.8 percent), including a 41-yarder, and converted 26 of 27 extra point attempts.
“I think the transition from high school to college was pretty natural,” he said. “The fundamentals are the same, no matter where you kick. In college, everything just happens a little faster.”
Rehkow played a key role in earning the Vandals their first win under Petrino, kicking four field goals and a pair of PATs in Idaho’s 26-24 in over Temple in the Kibbie Dome. His 26-yard field goal with 6:11 remaining in the game proved to be the game winner.
“That’s got to be the best memory of the season,” he said. “Getting that first win was big for this program.”
Rehkow is just the latest in a line of Central Valley kickers to find success at high levels, following in the footsteps of NFL All-Pro Mike Hollis – who also kicked at Idaho before going on to a career in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills. Eastern Washington punter Jake Miller was Rehkow’s immediate predecessor at CV and came back to help mentor Rehkow during his freshman season.
“I think that history is more of a testament to the individuals who came in and dedicated themselves to kicking and punting than it is to anything else,” Rehkow said. “This is one of those things that you have to work hard at to make yourself get better.”
Rehkow says his first spring workouts could have gone a little better – at least a little healthier.
“I was struggling with a few nagging little injuries,” he said. “It could have been better, but it was OK.”
Still, he said, the Vandals showed marked improvement this spring.
“There was 100 percent improvement this spring,” he said. “Especially when it comes to communication between our quarterbacks and our receivers. It’s a learning process and we’re going to keep getting better.
“I’m excited about next season – even after we took a big hit over the APR rate.”
Just hours after completing their final scrimmage, the Silver and Gold Game, the Vandals were ruled ineligible for a 2014 bowl game because the school had failed to meet the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate under former coach Robb Akey.
“That’s frustrating, but I think we’re all excited about playing in the Sun Belt Conference and getting the chance to play against schools like Ole Miss and Florida State,” he said. “When I was in high school I’d watch teams like that play and to get the chance to go there and play them now is great.”
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