Hanagan gets a kick out of football

Hanagan boots a game-winning field goal last October against Conwell-Egan. PHOTO COURTESY OF KEVIN HANAGAN

Some professional football fans treat field goals, extra points and kickoffs as a break in the action, an opportunity to take a bathroom break or a trip to the fridge.

Not Brendan Hanagan.

“When I watch the Eagles and the kicker comes on, my eyes are glued to the TV,” said Hanagan, a Fox Chase resident and senior three-sport star at Bishop McDevitt High School. “Even if it’s the other team’s kicker, my eyes are still glued. I always root for kickers in every aspect of the game.”

While place-kicking and punting may be a forgotten position in the eyes of football fans at all levels, the same cannot be said for Hanagan. He’s a four-year starter and current captain at the fullback position on the Lancers’ soccer team, but Hanagan also moonlights as the football squad’s kicker and punter.

And while not completely out of the ordinary at the high school level for such a thing to occur, Hanagan has taken his kicking duties for McDevitt’s football team to the next level. He called kicking a passion he’s had inside him since he was a little boy, playing for the Fox Rok Athletic Association and Fox Chase Soccer Club since he was 4 years old. When there were a dozen kids going out for quarterback, Hanagan cornered the kicking market and honed his craft through the years. Now, he’s hoping his unique passion translates into a college football scholarship, something he believes is a real possibility.

“Most people, they think that punters and kickers are unimportant players on a team,” Hanagan said during a Monday evening conversation at McDevitt’s football field in Wyncote. “Even the NFL is pushing kicking out of focus and trying to eliminate it from the game, but that’s not football to me. If you think about it, kickers have just as important a job as a quarterback. It comes with the same amount of pressure. When you come in for a big kick, the team is counting on you. A make or miss can decide a game, and can turn you into the hero or the goat.”

Before the Eagles’ Monday Night Football game in Indianapolis, Hanagan pointed out just how big a conversation point place-kicking has been in Philadelphia since last month with the rise of rookie kicker Cody Parkey. When people make a generalization that kickers “are not real football players,” Hanagan bristles. After all, Parkey sure seemed like a real player when his game-winning 36-yard kick against the Colts soared through the uprights.

“It bothers the heck out of me,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘Oh, you’re just a kicker, you don’t even count as part of the team.’ I’m on the sidelines. I’m in the game. I’m out there putting points on the board. Last year, I was our team’s second-leading scorer. I hate when people don’t want to watch the kicker, because they can make so much happen.”

Luckily for Hanagan, his coaches, teammates and friends at McDevitt have embraced his passion. He’s known as “The Kicker” around school and in the locker room, and his soccer coaches often excuse him from practices or games if he has a football scheduling conflict, knowing full well how much he wants to kick in college.

Hanagan, who also is a starting pitcher on McDevitt’s baseball team, endeared himself to those at the school last October when he booted a game-winning 22-yard field goal on homecoming against Conwell-Egan. He says he thinks he can confidently make one from beyond 50 yards if given the chance. And while he doesn’t have any college offers in hand yet, Hanagan said he’s been sending film of himself to schools and that Villanova requested some tape of him kicking this past weekend.

“If I get to kick in college, that would be the best feeling of my entire life,” he said. “Division 1, 2, 3 … it doesn’t matter. It would mean so much to me and all the people who helped and supported me. Running onto a college football field, I wouldn’t know what to think.”

Hanagan recently attended the Ray Guy Kicking Camp in Dover, Del., where instructors taught both the physical and mental aspects of the kicking game. He showed on the outline of his foot where the proper place to make contact with the ball was (the navicular bone, located on the medial side of the foot), and dispelled perceptions that place kicking is as simple as lining up and booting the ball through the uprights.

“It’s all mental and concentration, believing in what you do,” he said. “People think it’s easy, then they try it and miss badly. They see how wide the uprights are, but don’t realize all of the skill and technique and practice that goes into it. The smallest thing can cause you to hook it left or right. You have to be relaxed, not too hyped up. The mental aspect plays the biggest role in whether you make or miss it.”

Hanagan said while field goal opportunities at the high school level are not as plentiful as they are in college or the NFL, he’s still gotten plenty of chances to showcase his skills. He thrives off the pressure-cooker situations that place-kicking presents, saying he wants to be out there “with 10 seconds left, the ball on the 20 (yard-line) and the game on the line.”

Even if most outsiders don’t take Hanagan’s passion seriously, that’s not going to stop him or slow him down. He again pointed to Parkey, the Eagles kicker, who went undrafted and now has been a vital cog in the team’s 2–0 start.

“He joined the team and won a spot, which is every kicker’s dream,” Hanagan said. “Now he’s making a lot of money off the passion he grew up with, the same passion I have. I want to play college football. Kicking for this school, it’s changed my life completely and forever. Every kick that goes through those uprights is the greatest feeling in the world.” ••

On the right foot: Fox Chase’s Brendan Hanagan has found his calling as McDevitt’s kicker. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO