James Wilhoit was a top-rated prep kicker who played at Hendersonville High School before kicking for the University of Tennessee from 2003-2006. Wilhoit was a naturally gifted kicker. Good thing, as he wasn’t well coached throughout high school and college. Which isn’t a knock on either Hendersonville or Tennessee. Kicking coaches are still a rare thing even in the NFL.
Nevertheless, Wilhoit was good enough to be signed as a free agent shortly after the 2007 NFL Draft. Two months later, he was cut.
“The team wanted me to be able to kick at a certain distance with a certain hang time and even though I was close, I wasn’t close enough,” Wilhoit told me during a recent conversation. “The thing about NFL coaches is that they know what a kicker is supposed to look like, they just don’t know how to get him there. They don’t know anything about technique, so before I ever got a shot, my career was over because they didn’t think I could improve.”
Not ready to give up his dream, Wilhoit sought out former NFL kicker and kicking guru Gary Zauner.
“In two days, I learned more about kicking than I had in my entire career up to that point,” Wilhoit said.
Zauner has helped numerous kickers return to the NFL with the help of his coaching. Unfortunately, Wilhoit had already missed his window.
Instead of completely giving up on football, Wilhoit felt the urge to teach. He called Zauner to ask if he could join him as an assistant. Wilhoit quickly packed his bags and moved to Scottsdale, AZ to learn full-time from his mentor.
In short order, Wilhoit noticed that he could pick up on adjustments kickers needed to make before Zauner did. At that point, Wilhoit knew he could begin his own business and help young kickers back East.
In 2008, Wilhoit began searching for kickers to mentor.
“I would send faxes and flyers out to people,” Wilhoit said. “I mean I found Will Reichard on Instagram.”
While he didn’t have many clients in his first year, Wilhoit had immediate success helping kickers reach their full potential. Former San Francisco 49er and Southern Miss kicker Cory Acosta was among those taught by Wilhoit. From there, the business grew.
“It took a couple of years of word of mouth, reputation of my work, and the expectation that you have to have the ability to be good and understand the process for the business to work,” Wilhoit explained. “Kicking a football is not a natural swing. What can be taught is the repeated swing discipline and the efficiency of how you load your leg.”
Since beginning his kicking camp, Wilhoit has seen multiple kickers graduate and currently has over a dozen kickers at the FBS level, not counting those at other levels of college football.
One of Wilhoit’s most prized pupils is recently-committed Alabama kicker Will Reichard.
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