The Florida Gators had a pizza party to welcome the 13-midyear enrollees to the football program, but not everyone was in attendance. Quarterback Feleipé Franks was in San Antonio participating in the Army All-American game, so he obviously was absent but Florida’s new kicker Eddy Pineiro, was also missing.
“He said no I can’t,” Pineiro’s kicking coach Brandon Kornblue told Gator Country. “They were like, ‘what do you mean you can’t?’ He said I haven’t kicked in three days, I need to go out on the field and kick.”
Pineiro’s career in football got a late start and since picking up football he’s been driven and focused to get to this point. That started with a chance meeting with Kornblue, who kicked at the University of Michigan. Pineiro had a friend who had recently started kicking at the Kornblue Kicking Academy and suggested that Eddy go out and give kicking footballs, rather than soccer balls a try.
“From the first day that he came out, it was evident, very clear, that he had a huge leg and a ton of potential but he was all over the place,” Kornblue said. “He had no idea what he was doing with his technique, no consistency, didn’t know how to correct it or put the ball the right way; just as raw as could be.”
That was just six months ago. Pineiro took the Internet by storm with short clips of 65,70 and even a 75-yard kick, but the redshirt freshman knows that he still has a way to go. That’s why his kicking coach wasn’t surprised that his prized pupil — Kornblue ranked Pineiro the No. 1 kicker in the country — picked placekicking over pizza when he arrived on campus.
Pineiro took football seriously. Kornblue travels across the country hosting kicking camps and clinics, but his home is in South Florida and he has regular camps there twice a month. Pineiro never missed one of those sessions in Ft. Lauderdale and he even traveled to sessions outside of South Florida to continue working and honing in on his craft.
“Private training on a daily basis would be great but realistically it’s not needed,” said Kornblue. “If you can get an adjustment, go home and work on it and make the change.”
That’s the part that separates good players from great players. Kornblue recalls his time at Michigan, where he was teammates with Tom Brady.
“What separates him from other quarterbacks? It’s that drive to continually work to be the best,” he said. “The little things that nobody else sees but it’s consistent. If you have that kind of work ethic and mindset you’re going to have a much better chance at success.”
Pineiro knew he had God given ability but he was late to the game and had to make up ground quickly if he wanted to play Division I football. Pineiro worked with Kornblue as much as possible, but what really helped him was having the inner drive to go out and work on things his coach passed along on his own. Hours spent with his father on empty fields.
He went to ASA College in Miami and chose to redshirt because it would give him four years to play at the next level. He was 4-4 in the spring game, but he has yet to kick in the kind of atmosphere he’ll encounter on Saturdays next fall. That’s why Kornblue would manufacture settings to create pressure and try to rattle the kicker. Even something as small as a candy bar for the winner of a competition or splitting guys into teams and making Pineiro kick the last one, with a win on the line were ways to try and mimic a pressure kick.
“Is a situation in front of 80,000 people different, sure it is,” Kornblue said. “It’s more of just the experience of knowing how a guy reacts under pressure, his demeanor, and his mannerisms and does that change with pressure or when you miss. With him it doesn’t.”
A kicking stroke is often compared to a golf swing, something Kornblue agrees with, and as any good golfer will tell you, creating muscle memory is crucial. Working with Kornblue has given Eddy the tools and fundamentals to be successful.
“You can be given the right coaching, but what are you going to do with it,” Kornblue said. “Are you going to feel like you’re better than the guys that you’re around and go on cruise control or are you really going to work on all these techniques and start putting them into practice to start building muscle memory.”
Pineiro has the work ethic and he has the confidence to boot — enough confidence that fans have nicknamed him “Odell Kickem”, a play off of New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham — It’s hard not to be confident when Jim McElwain walks into your house the first day he’s allowed to and tells you “I should be at a quarterback or a receivers house, but I’m visiting a kicker.” That showed Pineiro how badly he was needed in Gainesville and was a part of the reason he backed off his Alabama pledge and is in Gainesville now.
Pineiro hasn’t faced adversity yet, but there isn’t a kicker in the country that makes 100 percent of their kicks. He’s going to miss one eventually and he may even miss a kick in crunch time. There’s no way to predict how he will respond to missing one that matters, only time will tell.
“That’s the long term that nobody knows yet,” Kornblue said. “Right now, he’s as confident as anybody that I work with and for good reason.”
Pineiro will get his shot to win the job this spring and he’ll get the chance to prove his ranking on the first Saturday in September. Until then, enjoy the short clips of impossibly long field goals from the Gators’ indoor practice facility. There’s no time to waste and Odell Kickem isn’t wasting time.