Bunn High’s Freeman Jones takes it one kick at a time

tstevens@newsobserver.comSeptember 23, 2013 

Bunn kicker Freeman Jones, a North Carolina recruit

GEOFF NEVILLE

Bunn High kicker Freeman Jones glances at a band of tape on his wrist whenever he enters a game. He sees the reminder he writes to himself before each kickoff.

“One for one.”

The tape reminds him that he has one chance now to make one kick regardless of what happened before or what he suspects will happen in the future.

“You start fresh every time,” he said. “If it is a kickoff, it’s one chance to hit it to the end zone. If it is a field goal or an extra point, it’s one chance. You only get to punt the ball one time.

“It really doesn’t matter what happened on your last kick. You’ve got to concentrate on this one.”

Jones will get his chance to play on the national stage in January at the U.S. Army All-America Game in San Antonio. He accepted his invitation to the nationally televised game last week.

Bunn coach David Howle said Freeman is one of the best athletes on the team and in different circumstances probably would be starting at another position, maybe at quarterback.

Howle returned as coach this year after a four-season absence and Jones already had accepted a football scholarship offer from North Carolina as a kicker.

Howle had only one returning starter on offense and knew the lineup would be laden with freshmen and sophomores. The timing was not right to risk Jones’ future on learning a new position.

Jones came to football accidentally.

Defensive coordinator Steve Chromey, who is also a youth pastor, mentioned to one of his students who played soccer that the football team needed a kicker. Tyler Latta agreed to come kick after soccer practice and since Jones was riding home with Latta, Jones kicked a few, too.

He kicked well and suddenly Jones was a football player.

Then-Bunn coach Chris Miller encouraged Jones to attend kicking camps if he was serious about kicking and eventually Jones ended up with Dan Orner, who works with some of the nation’s top kickers.

“He is a kicking genius,” Jones said. “He is just amazing.”

Jones began to go to camps and combines and quickly earned national rankings. He had his choice of scholarships, but chose UNC because he felt at home there.

“It felt like family,” he said. “At Bunn, we’re like a family and that is what I wanted in college.”

His commitment is so solid that he rarely hears from other schools even though the commitment is not binding on him or the school, and other schools could recruit him if they wanted.

“I think they got the message,” he said. “They’d be wasting their time recruiting me. I’m going to Carolina.”

Howle said having a kicker like Jones has changed his coaching philosophy. Anytime the Wildcats can move inside the 35, Howle is thinking the team is in field goal range.

“Freeman is consistent from around 50 yards in,” Howle said. “He missed a 54-yarder the other night. It was long enough, but just a little wide.”

Jones is averaging 42 yards per punt and has hit all but three kickoffs into the end zone.

The Bunn chain crew sets up at the 20-yard line in anticipation of a touchback whenever Freeman kicks off. The crew, which carries the first down chain and down marker, is rarely wrong.

The team is off to a 2-3 start with three losses to 3A teams, but Howle reminds the club often that his 2005 team lost its first three games, but advanced to the state semifinals and finished 10-5.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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