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After becoming one of the highest-ranked punters in the nation at Columbus North High School during the 2009 season, Kollin Carman expected lots of interest from the biggest college programs in the nation.
What he received was disappointment.
Even Eastern Michigan, which talked to him about being a preferred walk-on with a chance to earn a scholarship, did an about-face with its recruiting plan.
Suddenly, Carman had one choice, Saint Francis of Fort Wayne, an NAIA school.
“Saint Francis was the only one to answer the phone,” he said.
Now a Cougars’ senior, and arguably the top punter in the nation at any level, Carman is thankful he was fed a bit of humble pie after earning high school All-America status.
“I did not have that good of a freshman year,” said Carman, who averaged 38.2 yards a punt his first season in Fort Wayne. “I was an arrogant hotshot who thought grades didn’t matter. I thought, ‘NAIA, what a huge downgrade.’
“But in terms of being mature, maybe it was supposed to work out that way. The personal attention you get here is amazing. And I don’t walk past a single person who doesn’t know my first and last name.”
At the semi-obscure NAIA level, Carman is gaining notice on a national level. He was a first-team NAIA All-American least season after averaging a national best 44.6 yards per punt, a school record as well. This season, he has averaged 48.84 yards per punt.
Idaho’s Austin Rehkow, by comparison, leads NCAA Division I punters with a 47.1 average.
“For me, that really doesn’t mean anything,” Carman said. “I guess the only thing I take from it is all the hard work, and I’m getting something out of it.”
Carman pointed out that his long snapper, Sean Alford, snaps more than 100 times a day to make sure things go smoothly. Carman hasn’t had a punt blocked this season, and he is quick to point out there are a lot of other players responsible for his hefty average.
“Without protection, I couldn’t do what I am doing,” he said. “A lot of this is a group effort.”
That being said, Carman is confident he would have done well punting with any of the NCAA’s top programs.
“The facilities would be so good,” he said. “I have been going back to Columbus in the summers to train.”
He has heard the rumors that NFL scouts are checking him out, and he hopes to get a shot, but he adds, “I’m not going to put my whole future on punting. I’m not going to gamble on that.”
Carman isn’t the only local athlete having tremendous success at the college level.
Columbus East graduate Micayla Speidel is ranked No. 1 in NAIA Division I in overall kills with 407 as her IU Kokomo volleyball team has compiled a 24-6 record and an 8-2 mark in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
She ranks No. 30 in kills per game at 3.79. She is doing it all as a true freshman.
“I didn’t think it would be as tough as it has been,” said Speidel, who is 5-foot-9. “It’s been a lot of work.
“I have to stay on top of everything, and we’ve been on the road almost every weekend. But it’s been a fun thing.”
Speidel chose IU Kokomo because of its small-school feel.
“I like the smaller classroom atmosphere,” said Speidel, who is majoring in elementary education.
The Kokomo volleyball team is entering its third season.
“We have no seniors on the team and just two juniors,” she said. “We have three sophomores and nine freshmen.”
Speidel already has won conference player-of-the-week honors.
“I didn’t think any of this was possible,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be anywhere without my teammates.”
Her coach, Heather Hayes, said, “Micayla is a very dynamic athlete. She has contributed consistent numbers for us all season.”
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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