Robert E. Lee senior Lumi Kaba believes there is a misconception about kicking.
The power of the leg is not the most important thing.
“You don’t have to crush it,” Kaba said. “(On punts) if I kick smooth, don’t have to put a lot of power into it and my drop is fine; it will be a good hit, solid hit with good height.
“It’s all mental. If you think about it too much and try to kill the ball; trust me, you’re going to shank it.”
Kaba punts and kicks for Lee and both were on display last Friday against Mesquite. Kaba blasted a 38-yard field goal, his third from 38 yards or more this season, and punted six times with a long of 47.
Kaba is averaging 44.1 yards per punt with a long of 64 yards. His distances have been shorter in district as Kaba has tried to pin the opposition inside the 20 rather than kick it into the end zone for touchbacks.
As a placekicker, Kaba has nine touchbacks with his longest field goal coming against Lufkin.
It was from 54 yards away and cleared near the middle of the goalposts before slamming into the concrete ring behind the end zone at Abe Martin Stadium.
“I had missed the one before that and I remember asking the coach, ‘How far was that one from?’ and he said, ‘48,’” Kaba said. “I put too much power in that first one and it had a lot of distance, but I was bending my hips too much. All I had to do was keep the same power and keep my hips straight.”
Kaba is being courted by Division I schools like North Texas and Louisiana Tech for scholarships, and emailing with the likes of Alabama to possibly walk on with the Tide.
Not bad for someone who never wanted to play high school football.
“I played Pop Warner for the Ravens,” Kaba said. “I was a quarterback, but I was more concentrating on soccer for high school since I had played since I was little. During my freshmen year all of the kickers were pretty much all seniors, so someone told the coaches about me.”
Kaba started kicking for the freshmen team, but next fall, the sophomore was thrust into the varsity limelight. He waited eight games before his first field-goal success. Playing against Longview at Lobo Stadium, the Red Raiders took the ball on their first drive and made it inside the 10 before a four-yard loss on third down prompted then head coach Mike Owens to send the sophomore out for a 30-yard attempt.
Kaba made it.
In Lee’s next two games, one of them a bi-district playoff encounter with A&M Consolidated, Kaba made three more field goals, his longest from 45 yards out. He finished the year 4 for 5 and an impressive 25 for 25 on PATs.
As a junior, Kaba converted 4 of 6 field-goal tries with a long of 50.
Lee’s punter, Austin Martel, was a senior, which prompted Kaba to inquire about doing kicking and punting for REL his senior season.
“My sophomore (and junior) years I just wanted to concentrate mainly on kicking, but I would punt with Austin Martel in practice,” Kaba said. “Then at football camps I started to punt and began liking it more and more. I kind of love it now.”
So far this season, he is 4 of 6 on field goals and 14 of 14 on extra points.
Kaba has made a habit of kicking his extra points as far as his long-range field goals.
“Sometimes that can be good and bad because sometimes when I kick it too hard, I push too hard with my hips and it can go wide,” Kaba said. “Now I know it looks like I am blasting it, but all I am trying to do is get height.”
Kaba did not give up his aspirations on the soccer pitch for football — quite the opposite.
Last year he started at forward for the Red Raiders and scored a goal in their area playoff upset of Richardson-Berkner. It was Kaba’s first of the season and he followed it with two goals in REL’s 3-2 defeat of Longview in the regional quarterfinals.
The senior admits he’s hasn’t decided whether he will play soccer this season because of the potential now with his kicking in football.
One thing he wants to try before the season is over is a 60-yard field goal.
“When they get inside the 30 or if I have some wind behind my back, I feel good from the 35 or 40,” Kaba said. “But I always give coach a look because I really want to kick one from 60. But he knows my range and when to send me out there.”