November 29, 2011

Pinion earns All-American honor

ARMY BOWL: All-Americans | Tour home | The Ride

After Bradley Pinion got a football as a Christmas gift when he was a sixth-grader, he headed straight to the football field at the local high school. Once there, Pinion's dad asked him if he wanted to play catch.

"I told him, 'No, I want to kick it,'" Pinion said.

Moments later, Pinion attempted a 35-yard field goal, which he claims was his first-ever try. "It went straight through the upright," he recalled. "My dad said, 'You can't do it again.' But I did the exact same thing the second time."

Six years later, Pinion, the son of Robby and Lori Pinion, is still kicking, and the senior at Concord (N.C.) Northwest Cabarrus has become one of the country's best. Monday night, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection tour stopped by Pinion's school to officially invite him to the Jan. 7 game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, and present him with his game jersey.

"It's a great honor that they actually picked me," Pinion said. "I didn't expect this at all. I love that I'm going to be able to honor our military, especially those who are serving overseas."

While Pinion also kicks field goals, punting and kickoffs are without question his strengths. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder recorded a punting average of 46 yards per kick in 2011 with more than a dozen of his attempts downed inside the 20 and 10 inside the 5. Ninety-five percent of his kickoffs were touchbacks.

"At Clemson, they want me to come in and punt and they're going to give me a chance to fight for whatever I can," Pinion said. "They also want me to hold for field goals."

Pinion, who was a soccer player before giving football a try, credits the former for helping him build good leg strength. He began punting a year after moving to the gridiron when he attended a camp hosted by NFL legend Ray Guy. Until then, he had focused only on placekicking.

"When I met him there, he said, 'I want to make you a punter,'" Pinion said. "That's when I really started working on that. I started getting good at punting probably my freshman year. Then I started focusing on it more. It took a lot of work. The drops are the main part of punting. Catching it and molding it."

To better his skills, Pinion works with kicking coach Dan Orner, a one-time college standout. "He's helped me a ton," Pinion said. "He's like a second dad to me."

If needed, Pinion also has someone close to home to turn to for assistance.

"All my athletic ability came from my mom's side of the family," Pinion said. "My granddad kicked at Wingate and Appalachian State. He was a punter. I went to him and he helped me a lot with the basics. If I'm having problems, I'll still call him for help."




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