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His future is up in the air

Jeff Tully

Chris Sailer’s future is up in the air -- literally.

Throughout his career as a nationally renowned collegiate field

goal and place kicker, Sailer’s success has been measured not only by

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how far he can kick a football, but how long he can keep it in the

air.

“Kicking is like any other skill in football, or in sports,” the

Burbank resident said. “The more you put into it, the better you’re

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going to get. It’s not just something you pick up and you’re going to

be very good at if you don’t practice and put the time needed into

it.”

Sailer, 26, has parlayed his dedication to kicking -- along with a

lot of hard work -- into a successful career as a high school,

college and professional football player. Along the way, he studied

the art of kicking and absorbed information about what it takes to

excel in the specialized skill.

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“When he played for us at [Sherman Oaks] Notre Dame, Chris really

didn’t have a lot of instruction. He just kind of taught himself and

improved on his own,” Notre Dame High Coach Kevin Rooney said. “Even

when he went to UCLA, he did a lot on his own.

“He just learned what he had to do to be successful and through a

lot of practice, he went out and did it.”

Armed -- or in this case, legged -- with that information, Sailer

came up with the idea of providing specialized, personal punting and

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kicking instruction to athletes who want to improve their skills. So

he established Chris Sailer Kicking.

“I do deal with a lot of young high school athletes who are trying

to get better and hopefully play in college,” Sailer said. “But I

also get athletes who just want to improve their punting and

kicking.”

Along with clinics and camps, Sailer also provides one-on-one

private lessons.

“What [Sailer] does with players is just incredible,” Rooney said.

“He has the talent, the patience and the knowledge to help players

and make them better.

“He works with our kickers and I’ve seen a marked improvement

after they have worked with Chris.”

Sailer said although the situation is improving, many high school

coaches don’t know much about kicking and punting, and don’t have the

skills necessary to teach it.

“It is really specialized, and some coaches have just never really

devoted the time it takes to learn what is needed to teach kicking

and punting,” he said.

“I have been a kicker for a long time, and I’ve seen what it takes

to be successful. It is definitely something that I love to teach,

and something that I want to help other athletes with.”

Although teaching young punters and kickers is one of Sailer’s

passions, he still hasn’t lost the desire to compete in football at a

high level. Playing for the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena Football

League, Sailer was sidelined last year after having offseason groin

surgery.

“I am still with he Rattlers,” said Sailer, who has played three

seasons in the AFL. “It is a great organization and I am looking

forward to getting back with them.

“I have had the injury from when I was playing with UCLA, and I

never got it taken care of.”

Before he worked his way to UCLA, Sailer was a outstanding athlete

at Notre Dame.

During his senior season in 1994, he helped lead the Knights to a

CIF Southern Section Division III championship.

Sailer set a national record by converting 22 field goals -- in 29

attempts. Seven of the field goals were 50 yards or longer, including

three of 58, 57 and 54. He also converted all 39 of his point-after

attempts and averaged 44.1 yards per kick as a punter.

Along with being honored as the 1994 Division III Co-Player of the

Year, Sailer was also All-State and a high school All-American.

“Chris was one of the main reasons why we won the CIF championship

that year,” Rooney said.

“People don’t realize what a great advantage, and what it means,

field-position wise, when you have someone like Chris as a kicker. We

knew that if we got past midfield, we would have a chance to score

because we had Chris. He was great to have.”

At UCLA, he was a two-time consensus All-American as both a

place-kicker and a punter, as well as an Academic All-American. He

still holds the Bruins’ record for the longest field goal in school

history -- a 56-yard effort.

Sailer signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 1999, but didn’t make the squad.

With kicking camps and player instruction still close to his

heart, Sailer might have to scale back his teaching if he achieves

his plans for the future.

“I really want to get back and play in the NFL. That’s my goal,”

he said.

In the meantime, Sailer will continue to help young athletes, and

get a great deal of satisfaction watching his pupils succeed.


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