TAD’s Hensley not your typical kicker
Published 8:53 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015
All eyes were on the ball as it went end over end toward the uprights from a distance of 43 yards. It looked like it was destined to find its way across the crossbar before falling just inches short.
For most high school, college and even National Football League place kickers, this would seem like a run-of-the-mill kick, but this one was different.
It came off the foot of T.A. Dugger Jr. Cyclone Kade Hensley, who is in the seventh grade at the school, making the kick even more amazing.
Needless to say, there isn’t a kicker Hensley’s age who would even consider attempting a kick that distance, but it is an opportunity Hensley doesn’t shy from.
He has already collected a season-long 39-yard field goal for a team that is off to a 4-0 start thus far. His head coach, Johnny Burleson, said Hensley is a weapon that always figures into the Jr. Cyclones’ game-time decisions.
“It’s not just being able to put three points up on the board when we get down inside the 20- or 25-yard line,” Burleson. “It changes the way we think.”
“Starting field position for the other team is tremendous. I would say that the other teams we have played are averaging starting inside the 20 most of the time just because he kicks it so well on kick-offs, too.”
Hensley, the son of Bill and Brandy Hensley, takes his talent seriously and works hard every day to fine tune his craft.
He discovered his love for the art of kicking while helping his brother.
“I decided that I wanted to kick when I was about nine and a half years old,” Hensley said. “I really started because my brother, Kellen, wanted to play football, and I wanted to be out there withhim.
“I played soccer until I was 9, so I just went out there and starting banging it like a soccer ball.”
Hensley said his seriousness really kicked in a little over a year and a half ago when he met a young man who had made a name for himself kicking footballs for the University of Tennessee Volunteers — James Wilhoit.
“I met James Wilhoit, and he taught me how to kick the right way,” Hensley said. “Actually, I wear the number 25 on game day as a tribute to him just like Aaron Medley, who is another University of Tennessee kicker, does.
“He definitely taught me a lot. He’s one of the best in the country, if not the best.”
Hensley attended a summer camp of Wilhoit’s called Saturday Night Lights, where kickers in high school came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and with one traveling all the way from Texas.
The oldest kicker was 19, while Hensley was the youngest. He said all the kickers battled it out at the camp where Medley, Gary Wunderlich of Ole Miss, and the San Francisco 49ers’ Corey Acostawere all in attendance.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to whom Hensley looks at as a role model as another Vols great instantly jumps into the conversation.
“My role model is actually Peyton Manning as he has been the most humble player in the NFL that I have ever seen,” Hensley said. “People come up to me a lot, but I want to stay as humble as I can.”
While many kickers often show nerves when called upon, Hensley thrives on hearing his name called in a pressure-packed situation with the game on the line.
“Most of it is just being prepared—you have got to be prepared,” Hensley said. “If you know you are prepared then you won’t be nervous when it comes time to kick.”
When asked what the toughest part of kicking was, Hensley said it was the form.
“The form is the most difficult part of kicking. Everything has got to be perfect every time, otherwise, if it’s not just right, you could be a half-inch off and the kick will be no good.”