WATCH: 'The specialist community is unlike any other'; Special teams players go from rivals to training partners

High school kickers, punters, and long snappers from the Fargo-Moorhead area have joined forces to train together this off-season.

Matthew Berg
Shanley Kicker Matthew Berg gets ready for a practice kick while Horace kicker Alex Perez watches on

WEST FARGO — Shanley alum and current Stanford kicker Emmet Kenney’s state-record 58-yard field goal put Fargo-Moorhead kicking on the map in 2020. That moment paved the way for more area kickers, punters, and long-snappers to earn division one interest. This off-season, some of those special-teamers are going from rivals to workout buddies.

The sound of cleats hitting leather footballs is becoming a common sound at the Rustad Recreation Center and indoor turf facilities around the region as winter weather forces the area’s special teams aces to move their workouts indoors.

“It would be nice if it was California, nice and hot, but we just have to find a way," said Horace sophomore kicker Alex Perez.

Getting better as a long snapper, kicker, or punter is often lonely work, but these athletes found workout partners right in their own backyard.

“It's one thing kicking off a tee all by yourself, but it's definitely a different thing when you have other kickers with you, motivating you seeing how they're kicking," said Shanley junior kicker Matthew Berg. "If they're kicking a little better, it's going to motivate you to be a lot better."


Some of them met at specialist camps. Others met by chance.

“I met Alex (Perez) here. He was punting, I was snapping and I said, 'Hey, do you ever need any snaps?' And he's like, 'Yeah, sure, that would be awesome,'" said Sheyenne junior long snapper Grant Knodle. "Through that, it kind of just snowballed to what it is now where we get together, and we snap, and we hold, and we kick, and it's just a great thing."

Call it a special teams support group

"The specialist community is unlike any other thing," Berg said. "Most people probably don't think of it as anything, but we're always here to support each other."

They are making the most of a climate not friendly to their position group.

"Every kicker just looks at something and then we just tried to kick it straight," Perez said. "We find a little grain or a little bar on the wall."

Meanwhile, the group is becoming friends, even though they suit up for different schools.

"At the end of the day, we're special teams players who just want to get better and make it to the next level," Knodle said. "We're buddies, so I know a lot of buddies from other schools too, so it's really no different besides the fact that we play for different teams."

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