By Brett Barnes

Slippery Rock University

Slippery Rock, PA

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In 2004, Kurt Brackman walked the halls of Milton-Union High School much like any other freshmen.  School had just begun bringing with it new challenges academically, socially, and athletically.  Kurt played soccer in the football-driven town of West Milton and with his speed and left foot, he fell somewhere between the varsity and junior varsity level. Not bad for a freshmen.

As it turned out, Kurt did not make the varsity soccer team and his sophomore year, he decided to move to another sport, cross country.  “I often wonder how things would have changed if he had made varsity soccer full-time that first year of high school,” his father John remembered. “Things would have probably been a lot different.”

In 2006-2007 (Kurt’s Junior Year), the Milton-Union football team took the community by storm.  Led by future Big Ten, four-year starter Mitchell Evans and a host of other talented driven players, this M-U squad would eventually make the OHSAA football playoffs.  However early in the season, a weakness glared to many watching the team.  After every touchdown, M-U rarely added the extra point.  Points were wide right,
wide left, and blocked consistently. Enter Kurt Brackman.

“I knew I could kick an extra point.  One day after watching us struggle, I decided to go up to Coach Pearce and ask him if I could try out.  I don’t think he was too excited about it, but he said I could. I met assistant Coach Joe Blackburn after practice with a bag of balls, and after our session he called Coach Pearce. I made the team.”

A star was born…. not exactly.  Kurt made his first extra point attempt, but as the season wore down, there were issues.  Kurt struggled to find his
rhythm as a kicker and his chances continued to dwindle as the coaching staff felt more comfortable going for two.

Later in the season, Kurt had an opportunity  to kick again.  Following a touchdown, he was summoned to kick the PAT. Because of two penalties, this simple extra point became a 37-yard extra point.  Kurt nailed it, and the kick became a springboard. Much like that one in a lifetime golf shot that draws you into that sport forever, Kurt was hooked.  He wanted to be the best kicker he could be. Enter Doug Pelfrey.

Doug Pelfrey kicked field goals for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1993-1999.  In 1997, he set a Bengal record recording 101 consecutive extra points. He is also the founder of “Kicks for Kids,” a charitable organization helping children achieve their dreams.  The Brackmans contacted Doug about working with Kurt the summer before his Senior year. Kurt’s first session was a memorable one.

“At the beginning of the session after a few kicks, Doug looked at us and said, ‘Do you want to just get him through high school, or do you want me to fix him?’ John Brackman recalled. “That’s what really started all this.”

Pelfrey is amazed at how far Kurt has come. “Kurt is one of my most improved students that I have ever worked with.  When he came to me he was simply a good high school kicker with horrible form that was able to get the ball through the uprights because he was a good athlete. I was so impressed with his willingness to do whatever he had to in order to be a successful kicker.”

Kurt agreed, “I credit a lot of my success as a kicker to Doug Pelfrey.  He taught me not only about kicking but about the mental approach to the game and doing the right things to be successful.”

After his sessions with Pelfrey, Kurt thrived. He made 55 out of 56 extra points his senior season and finished as M-U’s all-time leading kicker in scoring. Kurt knew he wanted to continue kicking, but he had to find a school with his major, Parks and Resource Management.

A Google search led him to Slippery Rock University a Division II school in Slippery Rock, PA.  His tryout led to a redshirt freshmen year followed by two years of waiting behind a scholarship kicker named C.J. Bahr (son and nephew of former NFL kickers Chris and Matt Bahr).  Now as a redshirt Junior, Kurt is kicker #1, but still without scholarship. Two freshmen kickers wait in the wings, but so far Kurt has out kicked them.  He knows that every kick could be the difference between playing and watching, “Not having a scholarship pushes you more.  It gives me greater
drive.”

Kurt is on schedule to graduate and has loved his time at SRU.  “I wouldn’t change a thing.” He realizes the huge time and financial sacrifice from his parents, John and Sally Brackman.  Every weekend, they travel ten hours or more to see their son kick.  He knows not every kid has this kind of support. “I have been very fortunate.”

His life is solid…. solid as a rock.

####