ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ERIC CLARK
When Tabor’s Dylan Pohlman traded in his soccer cleats for a football kicking shoe and a rubber tee this season, he was walking away from a sport he had loved since he was 5 years old.
But his personal faith and his commitment to Tabor College football were more than enough to convince him he made the right decision.
“It hurt,” Pohlman said about the decision. “My junior year I made football a priority and it didn’t make everybody happy. It was kind of hard to please everybody, so it was a big decision. But at the same I really liked football and I think God kind of opened the doors for me.
“I want to do whatever I can for God, and it’s cool to see what good things come from that.”
Going into the last game of his career this Saturday against McPherson, Pohlman is two extra points and four field goals shy of being an NAIA All-American. He is ranked 11th among the NAIA’s elite by averaging 5.67 points a game.
Pohlman holds almost every kicking record at Tabor, including extra points made in a season, extra points made in a career, fields goals made in a season and field goals made in a career.
But stats and numbers don’t mean much to the senior kicker.
“When you look at numbers too long, you’re not playing for the right reasons,” Pohlman said. “It’s hard to get focused. You just go out there and kick it.”
Coach Tim McCarty said losing Pohlman to graduation will be one of his key losses for next season.
“He’s a cut above the rest,” McCarty said. “Most people underestimate the importance of a good kicking game. We’re going to be desperately trying to replace him next fall and we appreciate having him in our program.
“He’s the kind of kid you hope your daughter marries. Coming from a guy who has daughters, that’s the highest possible compliment.”
Pohlman started kicking for the Bluejays when he was a freshman, a year before McCarty arrived on the scene.
“My freshman year, I was playing two sports, but the team was totally different,” Pohlman said. “We had a lot of individuals my first year, and we had some talent, but we’re a much better team since Coach McCarty arrived.”
Pohlman has made several field goals in excess of 40 yards this season. In the game against Saint Mary College, Pohlman attempted a 53-yarder, but was a goal post wide to the left.
In practice, Pohlman has hit field goals beyond the 50-yard line, according to McCarty.
“On windy days, I don’t think it really counts,” Pohlman said. “But I think I’ve hit 57 before, when it wasn’t too bad out.”
“I feel confident inside the 55-yard line putting him in,” McCarty said. “His PATs-you hate to say this because I don’t have a piece of wood to knock on-but they are automatic.”
Throughout the season, McCarty has called on his kicker to do a lot more than kick.
Against Kansas Wesleyan, McCarty called a fake punt on fourth and eight. Pohlman not only picked up the first down, but sprinted for a gain of 24 yards before being forced out.
“It was fun,” Pohlman said. “I wish I would have tried to cut up field more and see if I could have gone a little farther.”
The next week against Saint Mary, Pohlman was the only obstacle between a kick-returner and a Spires touchdown on a kickoff.
“He made a devastating hit on the kickoff return,” McCarty said.
Pohlman recalled the hit, but is thankful for his Bluejay comrades.
“I would much rather my teammates tackle them,” Pohlman said. “But if it comes down to it, I’ll try my best.”
One of Pohlman’s biggest battles in his kicking game is his confidence.
“I know I can (kick), but my confidence is real shaky this year,” Pohlman said. “But I know I can. It’s just a matter of doing it.
“I’m competitive and I want the best,” he added, “but I don’t want to miss. I think that hurts me and gets in my head.”
Despite going through some ups and downs this season, Pohlman has appreciated the support of his teammates.
“I thought I was going through a slump and my teammates were backing me up all the time,” Pohlman said.”
After he graduates, Pohlman is hoping to advance to the semi-pro or arena football level.
“It would be awesome and I’d love to do it,” Pohlman said. “You’re getting paid to play a game and you have the chance to influence a lot of people.
“I don’t know if there is anything further than this, but this is what I have right now.”
Pohlman has pondered the decision to play football or soccer on a regular basis. He credits God and McCarty for creating passion within him for Tabor’s football program.
“We’ve got some real good guys here now, and everybody is playing more as a team,” Pohlman said. “I miss soccer, but football is what I’m thinking about now.”
“It makes me curious to know what could have been, but at the same time I totally trust God and think whatever happens is because of him and whatever is going to happen is because of him.”