Cats' Mansour has big leg, 'swagger'

All-Stater from Georgia might play right away

ccosby@herald-leader.comAugust 10, 2010 

Joe Mansour hasn't done a whole lot of kicking in practice and won't officially kick the ball in a game until Sept. 4 at the earliest, but Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips has already noticed one thing that sets Mansour apart.

"When you walk past him, the ball sounds different than kickers I've been around in the past," Phillips said. "You don't always know where it's going, but when it comes off his foot, it sounds different."

When asked to describe the sound, Phillips said it was like a shotgun.

"I haven't been around many shotguns, but I would imagine that's what a shotgun would sound like."

When asked what the ball sounded like coming off other kickers' feet, Phillips said, "A thud. A .22 (caliber pistol)."

Mansour might be the safest bet among the UK newcomers to see the field when UK travels to Louisville for the season opener.

Mansour was highly touted as a punter out of LaGrange (Ga.) High School with a No. 2 national ranking from Scout.com. But UK junior Ryan Tydlacka did a decent job in his first year as a full-time punter, and the Cats needed someone to step in on extra points and kickoffs.

Mansour's résumé as a place-kicker isn't too shabby, either. He was a three-time All-State selection and was named the place-kicker on Georgia's All-Decade Team. He also made a 59-yard field goal his senior year, the third-longest in state history. With his team leading by 35 points late in the game, LaGrange Coach Steve Pardue took two penalties to move the kick back to 59 yards, and said if he had known at the time that the state record was 63 yards he'd have taken another penalty to give Mansour a shot at it.

"The newspaper and a lot of people I talked to said it would have been good from about 65," Mansour said.

The one thing that should serve Mansour well as a freshman kicker is his confidence. Phillips said at Media Day that Mansour "already walks around here like he owns the place."

"That's what all these kids talk about now is swagger, and he has it," Phillips said. "Especially at that position, you better be confident."

Mansour said he's made a 65-yard field goal before in practice, but that was with the wind behind him.

When asked what would be the farthest distance he'd feel comfortable stepping out and trying, Mansour said, "If the coach is confident in me, I'm confident in myself, if he thinks I can make, I think I can make it. If I get a good foot on it, no telling how far it could go."

And while Mansour has swagger, he also is humble enough to realize he's not a finished product. He admitted to being a little nervous before Fan Day last Saturday.

"I didn't kick it as well as I wanted early," he said. "I had never kicked in front of that many people before. But I got over in warmups and started kicking the way I know I can, so it was good to see how I reacted to the atmosphere.

"To be an SEC kicker I know I'm not where I need to be. I know what I have to do to get better, and I'm trying to get better every day."

UK special teams coach Greg Nord said Mansour still has to work on timing and getting used to the speed of the game.

"He could get away with taking an extra step on a punt in high school, or not being exact in footwork on his PATs and field goals," Nord said. "Those are the things he's really working on."

That being said, Nord said he would have no apprehension about sending Mansour out for a potential game-winning kick in the Louisville game, even as a true freshman making his college debut.

"He's the kind of kid that will say, 'I want to be in for the kick that decides the game,' " Nord said. "He's not afraid. I think he'd relish that. I think he'd do better in that situation. He's a competitor, and you can tell that in everything he does. When the other players are doing different drills, he's trying to win those drills and that's what you like."

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