Four years ago, Isaac Riffle was playing youth soccer and his life changed.
Olindo Mare, who was the Carolina Panthers kicker during the 2011 season, started coaching his team and, after watching him play for a little while, Mare thought that Riffle had the makings of a good football kicker.
He offered to train Riffle for free.
“After two or three years,” Riffle said, “I started to develop at a high level. His big teaching ideology was mental, that the mental game of kicking was so big. He told me he didn’t have the strongest leg (in the NFL) but he definitely had the strongest mind. He taught me a lot about pressure situations.”
Riffle, now 16, became so good that he started at Mooresville as a freshman. This season, as a senior, he’s a team captain, something that Blue Devils coach Thad Wells said doesn’t happen often for high school players at his position. Riffle, committed to Campbell, is ranked No. 41 nationally by Chris Sailer Kicking, which tracks kickers and punters throughout the country.
“He’s just a tremendous individual,” said Wells, whose team plays at rival Kannapolis Brown on Friday. “He’s just very thoughtful, and he’s very aware for someone his age, about things going on around him.”
Cancer, for example, has touched Riffle’s family. But he knows it affects a lot more families, and he wanted to do something to help. Last year, he signed up as an affiliate for a national cancer foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, to raise money to fight the disease. He asked for outright donations or for people to donate a set amount based on how many points he scored. He raised more than $1,500 last year and hopes to top that. He’s already at nearly $300 this season.
“My mom and my dad, my whole life, they taught that giving back to those in need and those in the community was a big part of our lives,” Riffle said. “And that’s why I’m trying to do all this — giving back to those who need it.”
Riffle, who carries a 4.0 GPA, hopes to continue his effort in college, where he’ll play for former Carolina Panthers star Mike Minter. Riffle plans to graduate early in December, something a lot of high school quarterbacks do, to join the Camels for spring practice.
Riffle also hopes to continue to develop his abilities in college, and they are pretty good now. He averaged more than 41 yards per punt last season, but many of them hung in the air, forcing opposing teams to fair catch them or simply get out of the way. And Riffle has hit from 60 yards on field goals in practice and just last week, Wells let him try game-winning attempts of 57 and 56 yards (he missed both) against Davie County.
Only 10 players in N.C. public school history have hit from that far out.
“It was a tough week for us,” Wells said. “We had couple bad snaps and made it rough, but as soon as he missed those and the game was over (Mooresville lost 31-30), and I saw his dad standing there, he said he was thankful for me having confidence in (Isaac).
“I told him, ‘If we’re in the same situation next week, we’ll do it again.’ I know he’s got the ability.”
Want to Help
To help in Mooresville High kicker Isaac Riffle’s fight against cancer, visit https://www.alexslemonade.org/mypage/1831236