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Mannisto has a swift transition

He takes up field-goal kicking and punting at Westlake Village Westlake almost by accident and is now a big weapon for Warriors.

September 12, 2007|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

Whether it was fate, destiny or merely an accident, Jordan Mannisto of Westlake Village Westlake is thrilled that his life's ambitions have changed since discovering he had a talent for kicking a football.

He was a soccer and baseball player when his family moved to Thousand Oaks before his sophomore year.

During a barbecue welcoming them to the neighborhood, he met Steve Hagy, the junior varsity football coach at Westlake.

"We were just talking," Hagy said. "He told me how he was a soccer player and played goalie. I asked him, 'Hey, ever thought about kicking a football?' He was intrigued and I suggested he come out to practice one day."

So began a kicking career at Westlake in which Mannisto made four field goals as a sophomore and 13 of 14 last season, after engaging in little practice over the summer.

"I didn't start kicking footballs until three weeks before the season started," he said. "I didn't think I had a future in it. I was just doing it for fun.

"After the season, people were telling me I could actually go somewhere with it."

This summer, Mannisto dedicated himself to kicking, attending camps, lifting weights and practicing on his own. At 6 feet 1 and 175 pounds, Mannisto figured to improve his leg strength -- his longest field goal last season was 50 yards -- and the hang time of his punts with the additional workouts.

He was an all-league goalie for the school's soccer team, an All-Southern Section kicker for its football team and co-most valuable player of the baseball team as a pitcher last season.

He knows how to handle pressure. He kicked field goals of 42 and 24 yards in overtime against Agoura last season. Before the game-winning field goal, defensive coordinator Mike Leibin told him, "You better make this."

That caused Mannisto to laugh.

"I like pressure," he said.

With blond hair and surfer-like coolness, Mannisto has the perfect personality for a kicker. He is capable of accepting that any of his efforts could make him a hero or a goat.

"I'm just a happy kid," he said.

So much has changed since he started playing football.

"When I first got on the team, everybody thought I was weird," he said. "I was the soccer player. I was the skinny kid."

Now he's looked on as the dependable, invaluable kicker.

Coach Jim Benkert sees Mannisto as a scoring weapon, someone he can turn to any time the Warriors pass the opponent's 40-yard line.

While his passion used to be focused on soccer and baseball, he clearly has embraced football. During a baseball game last spring, Mannisto could be seen practicing his kicking form in the dugout.

"The kid makes kicks," said former UCLA All-American Chris Sailer, a private kicking coach.

Kickers are an important target for college recruiters and will receive additional scrutiny because of a new NCAA rule that moves kickoffs back from the 35 to the 30-yard line beginning this fall.

Mannisto has plenty of competition for top kicker status in the Southern Section.

Patrick Duffy of Santa Ana Mater Dei is known for his leg strength, and Vince D'Amato of Lake Forest El Toro, another former soccer player, is coming off a sophomore season in which he made 11 of 12 field goals. In the Chargers' 20-17 victory over Corona del Mar on Friday, D'Amato kicked field goals of 51 and 33 yards.




Head of their class

Rating the top kickers in the City Section and Southern Section. For the complete list, go to


Joe Berman (Palisades), 5-7, 150, Sr

Made eight field goals last season with long of 46 yards

Christian Lopez (Arleta), 5-9, 185, Jr.

Soccer player with strong leg


1. Patrick Duffy (Mater Dei), 6-0, 170, Sr.

Strongest leg in the Southland

2. Jordan Mannisto (Westlake), 6-1, 175, Sr.

Made 13 of 14 field goals last season

3. Vince D'Amato (El Toro), 6-2, 195, Jr

Made 11 of 12 field goals last season with long of 49 yards

4. Kyle Hughlock (Upland), 5-11, 181, Sr.

Averaged 37 yards a punt last season

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