Some high school football coaches go their entire careers without a Division I-caliber kicker taking the field for them. Squib kicks on kickoffs and two-point conversions are the norm.
Not so for Fike’s Tom Nelson.
The Golden Demons’ head coach has three kickers ranked nationally by kicking guru Chris Sailer in senior Noel Ruiz and junior twin brothers John and Walker Gliarmis.
“It’s tough actually,” Nelson said. “They are all three college-level kickers, and we just don’t have enough opportunities in a game for them all.”
He continued: “It’s a blessing. Over the years, I’ve had nothing anything close to it, that many capable kickers. I’ve had a couple good kickers at North Johnston and here. But nothing close to this.”
The trio have spent much of the last two years working together, traveling to camps and getting tutelage from kicking coaches Dan Orner (former UNC player) in Charlotte and Jimmy Howell (University of Virginia) in Charlottesville.
Their exploits sometimes show up on the Twitter account @KickBallsBro.
“I feel like no other school in the nation has the depth we have here at Fike on special teams,” Walker said. “There might be a single person out there that is better than all of us, but there isn’t another team, in my opinion, that has three guys like us who can make it at the next level if we keep working.”
As second-graders, John and Walker got a hold of their father’s old flat-toed kicking shoe and messed around kicking a football for the first time.
“We’ve been hooked ever since,” Walker said.
“Yeah, but we switched to soccer style,” John said with a smile, slyly referring to dad Lee, who made 59 of 64 extra points and 16 of 24 field goals while kicking at North Carolina in 1983-86 as a straight-on kicker.
Ruiz, a soccer player most of his life, caught the football bug later in life.
“I started in eighth grade,” said Ruiz, who has put 26 of 35 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks this season. “But I didn’t start getting serious about it until my junior year. I saw I could take it to the next level.”
Ruiz, who has made 4 of 4 extra points, 2 of 3 field goals and punted 41 times for an average of 34.6 yards, has offers from N.C. Central and N.C. A&T, while drawing interest from Penn State, Maryland, N.C. State, East Carolina and plenty of other schools.
He drilled a 49-yard field goal in Fike’s season-opening loss to Bunn, a kick that tied Lee Gliarmis’ 35-year-old Golden Demons’ record.
“Special kick,” Ruiz said.
He also witnessed the perils of being a college kicker first hand on an unofficial visit to Happy Valley on Oct. 22. Ohio State, then ranked No. 2, was felled by the Nittany Lions as OSU kicker Tyler Durbin’s 45-yard kick was blocked by Marcus Allen and returned 60 yards by Grant Haley for the go-ahead score in the 24-21 upset.
“It was crazy. There is nothing like that,” Ruiz said. “I feel 107,000 people in that place, it’s a true test of how you can handle pressure situations out there. I definitely feel I can. I’d like to see it happen.”
John Gliarmis (6-of-7 PATs, 2-of-2 FGs) lined up to attempt a 49-yard field goal against county-rival Beddingfield two weeks later.
“But we had a penalty,” John said with a shrug. “And I didn’t get a chance.”
Walker Gliarmis (8-of-8 PATs, 2-of-4 FGs) said the brothers have been to trips to Appalachian State, Elon and North Carolina and hope to get to East Carolina soon.
“I just love the game. I love kicking,” Walker said. “Ever since the first time I walked into the stadium at UNC I just got the feeling I have to play somewhere like this.”