Idaho’s All-American is aiming for the sky, literally
Not much has gone right for the Idaho football program these past few years, but if there has been one silver lining. It comes from Austin Rehkow’s leg.
For a brief portion of each practice, the junior punter from Spokane’s Central Valley High School trots onto the field and puts on a show. His booming kicks can often be seen soaring into the Kibbie Dome rafters — and when the rafters don’t alter the football’s path, the punts usually travel 50-plus yards.
Rehkow is the Vandals’ All-American punter and will be one of the nation’s best heading into the upcoming season. To go along with his punting duties, Rehkow also appears to be the Vandals’ kicker for the third straight year, as he is the only kicker and punter on roster right now.
Last year, Rehkow had arguably one of the best seasons in the program’s history, as he was one of three finalists for the prestigious Ray Guy Award, which is given to the top punter in the FBS. He led the nation in punting average for the second straight season, with an average of 47.8 yards per kick and was honored with a first-team All-Sun Belt selection.
Continuing to put up some of the nation’s best numbers this year is a big goal for Rehkow. Throughout the offseason and heading into this spring, he has been working to make sure he doesn’t miss a beat.
“This season I’m getting healthy, which is always nice,” Rehkow said. “But the big thing so far is working on flexibility. (I’ve) been hitting the weight room hard, and then just getting plenty of practice in. It’s just (being) repetitive. Repetitiveness is what’s going to help.”
Before Rehkow came to Idaho in 2013, he kicked a 67-yard field goal while attending Central Valley. It broke an 83-year old Washington High School record and almost tied the national record of 68 yards.
During his freshman season with the Vandals, he led the nation with an average of 47.8 yards per kick and was named a Walter Camp All-American, as well as being named FBS Independent Special Teams Player of the Year.
Offensive coordinator Kris Cinkovich, who also serves as the special teams coach, said it’s been great coaching Rehkow because he works hard in the offseason program.
“The less we use him the better, but he changes the field,” Cinkovich said of using Rehkow in games. “The best part was when he led the nation in net punting. He’s not kicking for average — he’s kicking for the team when you lead the nation in net punting. To me, that’s a huge weapon when you’re the best in the nation in net punting.”
Rehkow will be an early favorite to win the Ray Guy Award in 2015-2016. He said missing out on the award last season provides motivation for this year.
“I don’t want to be just one of the top three, I want to be considered the best punter,” Rehkow said. “As far as individual accolades, yes, that’s obviously a goal just to prove to myself.”
Despite this, Rehkow said there is more to football than the individual awards.
“As a team, the big thing is to lead the nation in net again — (that’s) a big one,” Rehkow said. “I mean obviously the goal is to win games. If we do that, all the other individual stuff goes out the door. That’s the big thing with me.”
Ben Evensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org