A rare edge
WWS kicker Immekus has range, size
WHEATON, Ill. -- Rain falls on Nick Immekus as looks up at the dark sky surrounding Wheaton Warrenville South's football stadium on Thursday.
"I hope it's not like this tomorrow," he says.
The thing is, while Immekus is the Tigers' starting right guard, and he does enjoy knocking people around in the trenches, he's also the team's starting kicker and punter. Bad weather means bad kicking conditions. Ideally for him, No. 2 Wheaton Warrenville South would host No. 1 Hinsdale Central under perfect skies on Friday.
As an offensive lineman and also a kicker, Immekus is already a rarity among high school players. What puts him in the 99th percentile of kickers/offensive linemen is he's good from 60-plus yards out.
"I always say he's built like me," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch said. "How can a guy built like me kick a football? Nick's an extraordinary talent."
Immekus knows what a stereotypical kicker looks like.
"It's the small, skinny guy," he said. "Especially last year, it was like, 'Damn, look at that big kicker. This guy's big.' Everybody was so shocked. 'He's 235 pounds and 5-11, but he can kick a ball.' It's really weird. I'm blessed that I've been able to do it."
Immekus spent his entire childhood playing soccer. He messed around in the backyard with the football, but never joined an organized league. When he began his freshman year at Wheaton Warrenville South, he decided to hang up his soccer cleats and give football a chance.
In the opening days of practice, the Tigers' freshman coach was in need of a kicker. Immekus stepped forward and said he had played soccer for 12 years. It was enough to get him the job.
As a freshman, Immekus made one field goal and missed another. It was the following offseason that he started taking the position more seriously and began attending kicking camps. As a sophomore, the Tigers already had a future Division-I kicker in Dan Conroy (Michigan State), so it wasn't until Immekus' junior season that he got a shot on the varsity team.
Immekus had his coming out party as a kicker during the fourth week of that season. The Tigers were trailing Glenbard North 14-13 with nine seconds remaining and the ball on their opponents' 30-yard line. Muhitch wanted to throw a quick pass play and get Immekus a little closer.
Immekus had a different idea.
"He came over, and he said, 'Coach, I will make this kick,'" Muhitch said. "I turned and looked at him in the eye. Everyone was looking at me in me the huddle. I said, 'Let's go.'
"He not only kicked that thing Our sophomores were in the end zone, and soon as the ball was kicked, they started going nuts in the end zone. We couldn't see from that angle. He kicked it at least 60 yards."
The 46-yard field goal that defeated Glenbard North is the longest Immekus has connected in a game. Off a one-inch tee in practice, he has nailed a 64-yard field goal. Off the ground, he's hit from as far as 59 yards. He also recorded touchbacks on 65 percent of his kickoffs last season.
With that sort of boot, colleges have been calling. Illinois, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois and North Dakota State are recruiting him. Muhitch and Immekus realize it's in his best interest to delay his commitment as more schools could come along.
"If you ask any coach in America, their job is on the line with kickers," Muhitch said. "They deal with psychologists to try and figure them out. I've told every coach, 'Nick's the type of kid who convinced me he can kick the ball. That's the type of guy you want.' It's going to happen for Nick. He knows that."
Being a college kicker isn't Immekus' childhood dream, but he'll take it.
"I do wish I was a 6-4, 280 big D-lineman, but I'm content where I'm at," Immekus said. "I do believe I can go to a Division-I program and kick for them."
And unlike any other college program, the one Immekus does end up can also turn to its kicker if the team ever needs an emergency offensive lineman.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.