CARDINGTON — Branden Steckel wants to keep kicking.
Steckel announced Thursday afternoon his plans to play football and continue his education at Heidelberg University in Tiffin.
“Their kicker from last year graduated. So they told me I could get a starting spot if I tried very hard and go above and beyond,” Steckel said.
The 5-11, 170-pounder was named All-Central District first-team kicker. He will kick and punt for the Student Princes.
They compete in the tough Ohio Athletic Conference comprised of NCAA Division III schools, including John Carroll, Baldwin Wallace, Marietta, Ohio Northern, Capital and Otterbein.
‘They’re all very competitive. My former teammate, Trey Williams, goes to Mount Union and it would be great to see him and play against him again.”
Steckel won 4 letters in football, 2 in basketball and 1 in track at Cardington-Lincoln High School.
Pirates head football coach Tim Plumley said Steckel earned the Golden Helmet Award and the 38-Point Award for academic and athletic achievement.
“Branden does things the right way. Being a first-year coach here it was important to have players like Branden in the program,” Plumley said.
“He played corner and receiver, so he’s not just a kicker. He is a football player. I really forgot how it changes a game having a good kicker, from kickoffs to being able to kick field goals.”
Plumley pointed to Steckel’s 40-yard interception return as a turning point in the victory over Mount Gilead last fall.
Steckel started out as a soccer player.
“My freshman year Jerry Williams, our old football coach, asked if I wanted to kick for them. So I went on the field with a ball and a tee and I started kicking,” he said.
“I practice at least 600 balls a week; after practice, before practice, during practice.”
Kicking can be a solitary exercise and one that requires mental discipline.
“When you go out there and you look at everybody, it’s a little nervous. But once you get focused it’s just you and the ball and the foot. There’s nothing else to it.”
Steckel plans to study business at Heidelberg.
“Everything there was renovated, all new, and they have very well-rounded people.”