When you really think about, the approach most major college and university football teams take to recruiting kickers makes no sense at all.
Record-setting Maryville High School placekicker Zach Sharp signed a National Letter of Intent on national signing day on Wednesday to continue his football career at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville next season. The end of the recruiting process was as much relief as fulfillment for the state’s Mr. Football kicker of the year.
Sharp went virtually his entire career at Maryville without missing an extra point, connecting on a state 111 straight before his first miss this season. His holder since middle school, fellow senior Jared Miller, was injured and unavailable at the time.
Along with the Mr. Football selection, Sharp made good on 10 of 13 field goals this season, including a booming 50-yarder. Sharp’s name was often mentioned on recruiting Web sites as one of the finest placekickers in the land.
At stop after stop on the recruiting trail, Sharp said he was told a given school said they just didn’t have a scholarship to sign a kicker. Most extended a preferred walk-on offer — as Maryville punter Greg Colquitt recently accepted to Clemson — with the chance of a scholarship becoming later on.
For Sharp, such a move was simply too big a gamble.
“I was holding out hoping something would open up at UT,” Sharp said.
When it didn’t, the Rebel record-holder said he was more than happy to sign with the Golden Eagles over offers from UT-Martin and Northern Illinois.
“The coaches kind of remind me of here,” Sharp said. “It’s kind of a casual thing, but at the same time it’s Division I and the town (Cookeville) is similar to Maryville.
“I’m happy it’s over and I’m happy with where I’m going. I don’t consider it a fall back at all.”
Maryville coach George Quarles backs his placekicker’s decision to sign with the Golden Eagles.
“I think so much of the kickers and punters (signing with major colleges) is timing,” he said. “There needs to be a logic to it because I think he’s talented enough to kick at any level.”
That the timing wasn’t right for the University of Tennessee to extend a scholarship is disappointing, but the Vols loss is Tech’s gain, Quarles said.
“I don’t think Tennessee Tech is going to sign anybody (Wednesday) more valuable to them than Zach,” he said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but Zach has handled this situation very well.”
Sharp made a name for himself during his freshman season with the Rebels, the first two field goals during his career — both 30-plus yard efforts — lifted Maryville to a 20-19 win over William Blount four years in a game many rate as one of the best games ever played in Blount County.
The contest took place in front of an overflow crowed of better than 14,000. During his senior season last fall, 79 of Sharp’s 84 kickoffs prior to a championship game triumph at Tech found the end zone for touchbacks.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have good kickers,” Quarles said. “We don’t win many games around here the last four years without Zach Sharp.”