Catholic rolls to win over Denham Springs _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Catholic kicker Jack Gonsoulin: 'All the best kickers, they all have the leg strength. It’s a huge factor, but the key thing is knowing how to use it. What I think I’ve improved the most on is consistency and toughness.'

Jack Gonsoulin won’t offer exaggerations about his soccer career.

“I played soccer from the third grade on,” Gonsoulin said with the smile broadening on his face. “I hit lots of balls that went over the crossbar.”

Was it a sign of things to come for Catholic High’s senior kicker who is ranked No. 2 nationally? Gonsoulin likes to think so.

“I went out for football in the eighth-grade (at St. Aloysius) and played tight end and defensive back,” Gonsoulin said. “Kicking was just something else I did. In fact, I almost got beat out by one of buddies.

This is Gonsoulin’s third year as the Bears kicker. To date, he is 17-for-17 on extra points and is 4 of 6 on field goals with a long of 43 yards. In practice and summer camps, Gonsoulin proved that his range goes beyond 50 yards.

How much of a factor Gonsoulin will be in Friday’s showdown between top-ranked Rummel (3-0) and No. 5 Catholic (3-0) remains to be seen. He vows to be ready when called upon during the 7 p.m. Friday game at Olympia Stadium.

At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Gonsoulin doesn’t look imposing. Catholic coach Dale Weiner knows better.

“You should see him in the weight room,” Weiner said. “He’s a max-effort guy in everything he does. He’s a guy who works hard to do everything well. He wants to be the best at everything.”

Last season Gonsoulin made his mark early by booting a game-winning field goal against Mandeville High. His season best was a 45-yarder in a pivotal District 5-5A game at East Ascension. Gonsoulin remembers watching one of his point-after kicks sail over the net at Spartan Stadium and onto the street where it hit a passing delivery truck.

Factor in offseason work and success at the well-known Chris Sailer Kicking Camps and it’s easy to see why Gonsoulin is a known commodity. He has a scholarship offer from Air Force and considers Army, LSU, Oklahoma State, Alabama, Penn State and Mississippi State as intriguing possibilities.

“In went to eight or 10 camps this summer, including the Chris Sailer camps,” Gonsoulin said. “First, I made it to the top 12 camp. Pretty much all the guys who make it that far wind up going D1 (Football Bowl Subdivision schools). I went to Los Angeles for the Top 12 camp and finished first. Now, one of my good friends, Bennett Moehring, is No. 1. It’s gone back and forth.”

The thing Gonsoulin never waivers in is his dedication to his craft and the Bears.

“I was impressed with him before I ever saw him kick a ball,” Catholic’s special teams coach Eric Held said of Gonsoulin. “I came in last year, and one of the things I saw was how competitive and intense is. He finishes first in every drill we do.”

Observers note Gonsoulin’s increase in leg strength over the past two years. The honor student said there is more to kicking than that.

“All the best kickers, they all have the leg strength. It’s a huge factor, but the key thing is knowing how to use it,” Gonsoulin said. “What I think I’ve improved the most on is consistency and toughness.

“There were times when I was still kind of shaky. I’d go on highs and lows. I think I’ve been able to focus on one kick at a time.”

Something LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said to Gonsoulin during a tour of LSU’s facilities has stuck in his mind. Cameron, a longtime NFL coach, pointed out that professional kickers go months at a time without striking the ball the wrong way.

Cameron’s assessment of pro kickers has driven Gonsoulin to push himself even harder. Catholic’s current practice facilities have upped the ante a bit more. For starters, he began kicking with a tee, something most kickers don’t do until they get to college.

The Bears are practicing on the school’s baseball field while their track and practice facilities are upgraded. Coaches constructed a makeshift goal post made out of PVC pipe that is approximately 10 to 12 feet wide, much smaller the regulation 23-foot goal post used by high schools.

Gonsoulin has practiced placement between the smaller upright and also has taken aim at a post located behind it.

“I think the thing that sets the best kickers apart from the rest is the attention to detail,” Weiner said. “Jack has that.”