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Rotstein Keeps Finding Range

Brentwood kicker, who ended a 12-year soccer career after turning to football, is honing his technique.

September 05, 2004|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

A flying object landed in the swimming pool of a house in Westwood about eight months ago.

Jimmy Rotstein was responsible for the commotion. He had been kicking a football into a net in his backyard, but it inadvertently went over two houses and splashed into his neighbor's pool, creating some anxious moments.

Would the neighbor call the police? Would he threaten a lawsuit?

"He was very nice," Rotstein said. "He returned the ball and said, 'Keep on kicking.' "

Rotstein might owe his neighbor an autograph if one day he emerges as the type of top kicker his private coach, Chris Sailer, predicts.

Rotstein, a senior at Brentwood, has been kicking footballs for only two years after ending a 12-year soccer career. His change in sports appears to be paying off.

"He's gotten to the point where he's a big-time Division I prospect," said Sailer, a former UCLA All-American kicker who has become a Southern California kicking coach. "The kid works so hard. He has range up to 55 yards."

As a junior, Rotstein made field goals from 47 and 33 yards. Brentwood figures to use him a lot more this season because of experience and improved technique. His kickoffs have been achieving 4.2 seconds of hang time, with 4.0 the minimum sought for potential Division I kickers.

Most important, Rotstein has convinced himself that playing football is a viable option.

"I saw I could really excel in football and kicking," said Rotstein, who is 6 feet 1 and 175 pounds. "It's been tough to be consistent every day."

Rotstein has been an all-league soccer and baseball player at Brentwood, but his summer was spent perfecting his football-kicking routine. Much of his practice time involves working on individual skills by himself.

"I've learned kickers are very lonely," he said. "We're isolated during practice. You're basically practicing by yourself. That's what makes kickers unique. It's their independence."

Rotstein is one of an excellent group of kickers set to take the field this fall.

They are led by Orange Lutheran's Troy Van Blarcom, who committed last spring to USC but won't be available early on for the Lancers because he suffered a torn knee ligament in his nonkicking leg during the summer.

Rotstein is rising in the kicking ranks because he combines athleticism with a strong leg and improving form. And he loves pressure, something that every kicker must be prepared to deal with.

"It's one of the best aspects of kicking," he said. "It makes me more focused. You're in for 15 seconds, and the only time you're on the field is such a big deal. I love that."

Rotstein didn't demonstrate his kicking potential until he made a bet with a Brentwood assistant football coach as a sophomore. He was a soccer player trying to impress the coach.

"I had a big mouth," Rotstein said. "I bet him I could make a 40-yard field goal."

Rotstein went out to the field and made it. Then he made one from 45 yards and one from 50 yards.

"That's when I started thinking, 'I might want to do this,' " he said.

He started training with Sailer. Gone went his dream of playing in the World Cup, replaced by the Super Bowl.

After seeing the success of kicker Adam Vinatieri of the New England Patriots, Rotstein knew what he wanted to do.

"It makes me want to kick many field goals and get to the highest level possible," he said.

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