Kicking is one of the most mental positions in football. Kickers can get little praise for doing their job and criticism when they don’t.
Naturally, it can be very easy for kickers to get rattled or lose their confidence, but that’s not the case for Princeton kicker McKinley Uzzell.
“There’s always that little thought in the back of your head saying, ‘what if I miss this,’ but I know this summer I worked a lot with the lights off,” Uzzell said. “I didn’t really do anything but work this summer, and I know it’s practicing over and over again, and I trusted myself and the guys on the team to know that we could execute.”
His confidence and work ethic make Uzzell the type of kicker that coaches dream about. A great and accurate leg paired with an abundance of confidence has helped Uzzell have a historic season on the gridiron.
This season, Uzzell converted 89 of 90 extra points. He ended the season by making 86 consecutive extra points, which put Uzzell in the N.C. High School Athletic Association record book.
He made the second most consecutive extra points in state history. Uzzell was unaware he made history this season but is happy to put his name in the NCHSAA record book.
“It blew my mind. We had a roll going on as a team,” Uzzell said.
Uzzell’s journey to becoming a record-setting kicker started during his sophomore year. Uzzell played soccer most of his life, and after suffering a concussion, he decided to give football a shot.
He quickly fell in love with kicking, and he made the difficult decision to stop playing soccer and focus on football full time.
“I had played soccer my entire life. It was a huge commitment in life, and it’s something I love,” Uzzell said. “I made a huge decision to not play soccer for the first time during my junior year, and I think that was one of my biggest, hardest, and best decisions because it turned a switch on for me, and it continued to drive me to want to be a better football player.”
Once he decided to dedicate himself to kicking, Uzzell started to do all the necessary work to become a great kicker. He spent time in the weight room and spent hours perfecting his craft.
And hard work tends to pay off. As a junior, Uzzell could not kick into the endzone on kickoffs, but as a senior, he had over 30 touchbacks.
“A huge shoutout to John Wheeler, our defensive coordinator. He gave the rundown of where we need to be and what the process is,” Uzzell said. “He said, ‘hey man, you’ve got a lot of talent, and I’ve got to get into the weight room,’ and I worked every other day all throughout the summer.
“It was just constant working on my craft day in and day out.”
Uzzell was a vital piece on a Princeton football team that also had a fantastic season. The Bulldogs went 13-1, won their third conference title in four years, and reached the regional championship round of the playoffs.
“I know the guys put their hearts into everything that they did,” Uzzell said. “Everybody was putting everything together, and we just kept getting better and better. I executed my job just as well as everybody executing their job.
“It worked out in the end.”
Now that Uzzell has wrapped up a historic high school kicking career, he is ready to take his talents to the next level and see what the future brings. He will never forget how special it was to wear a Princeton jersey.
“I know I want to end up in college with another family and continue my kicking career,” Uzzell said. “I’d bet money to say there’s nothing like the Princeton community. We have the best support ever, and Princeton’s love is unmatched.”