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ACC All Access: Drew Jarrett is making most of his second chance as Virginia's kicker

As he prepared himself for an extra point Saturday against Penn State that could’ve arguably qualified as the biggest kick of his brief college career, Virginia’s Drew Jarrett wasn’t pondering the task at hand, or the fact he was a participant in a game where a kicker had already endured a nightmarish afternoon.

All that kept running through his head was the image of his poor mother sitting in the Scott Stadium stands worrying herself sick over what her son had to do.

“To tell you the truth, the only thing I could think of when I was taking my steps back and over to kick the extra point was, ‘My mother is probably having a heart attack right now’” said Jarrett, a junior who graduated from Cox High in Virginia Beach.

No need to fret. Jarrett made the extra point with one minute, 28 seconds left that helped seal U.Va.’s 17-16 win. It capped a day that saw him boot a 46-yard field goal, the longest kick of his college career, and a kick made longer by a 6-yard loss on a running play by Perry Jones on third down.

It’s not unusual for kickers to be a little different when it comes to personality on the field, but like most kickers, Jarrett is a creature of habit. After walking away from the game prior to last season, and returning this past spring, he’s still learning what works for him.

In many ways, golf and kicking a football are distant cousins. There are certain mechanical similarities in terms of swing plane – swinging a golf club and swinging a leg through a kick – that connect the games.

Jarrett, who may have a chance to attempt a field goal on the road this Saturday for the first time in his career when U.Va. plays at Georgia Tech (1-1), is a golfer. He doesn’t pretend to have the kind of game that can challenge Rory McIlroy, but he can keep it in the 90s.

As a kicker, he also finds comfort in thoughts related to standing over a golf ball. Before every game, he sits down with a copy of the book “Every Shot Must Have A Purpose” by pro golf coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott. It’s a book that focuses on the mental aspect of the game, and offers wisdom about tried-and-true concepts related to athletics like focusing on things that can be controlled.

Jarrett said his kicking coach, Paul Woodside, gave the book to Jarrett’s father, David, when Drew was in the 9th grade. About six years later, Drew actually got around to reading it. Woodside, a graduate of Falls Church High in Falls Church, is a former All-American kicker at West Virginia in the 1980s.

There was a time when Jarrett didn’t think he’d had much opportunity to put many of the ideas he read about in the book or the lessons he’d learned from Woodside to good use.

After serving as the extra point kicker in 2009 for former U.Va. coach Al Groh, making all 17 of his extra point attempts in eight games, Jarrett was redshirted during the ’10 season. With no scholarship and bills racking up, he decided to give up the game after the ’10 season.

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“I don’t think it was necessarily that I said, ‘No way I’m coming back’” Jarrett said. “It’s just that I figured I was done with football, just considering my financial situation and how everything played out.

“Obviously, sitting on the bench for three years and knowing that I wasn’t going to get playing time had some influence, but I’d say it was mostly a financial situation.”

Jarrett worked two part-time jobs – one in Charlottesville working at a construction supply distributor, and another with a car dealership – to help make ends meet.

When U.Va. kicker Robert Randolph and punter Jimmy Howell were done with their eligibility last season, Jarrett ended up having a conversation with U.Va. coach Mike London and assistant coach Anthony Poindexter about returning to the team. London and Poindexter gave Jarrett a chance.

In order to prepare for his reintroduction to the game, he kicked three or four times a week in Charlottesville at the Madison Bowl on Rugby Road – a rugby field that has goalposts on it.

U.Va.’s vacant kicking job wasn’t just handed to Jarrett. In the spring and during the preseason, Jarrett had to hold off a challenge from redshirt freshman Ian Frye. Jarrett won the job, with London telling him he earned it based on his experience on the field. Frye was given the kickoff duties.

Jarrett, who has yet to miss a kick in his college career (24 of 24 on extra points, plus successful on all three of his field goal attempts, is still looking for that scholarship. He’s not one to spend much time thinking about the negative, which is why he didn’t think much this past Saturday about Penn State kicker Sam Ficken missing four of his five field goal attempts and having an extra point blocked.

Instead, Jarrett stuck with the game plan that has worked for him thus far.

“You just focus on what you need to do,” Jarrett said. “Focusing on anything outside of what you can control never helps you.”

While he stays locked in on his job, his holder, Jacob Hodges, is faced with the reality this week that his role is temporarily expanding.

Hodges, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior, is filling in this week as U.Va.’s scout team quarterback in preparation for Georgia Tech’s option offense. At Mountain View High in Stafford, he ran an option offense, so his experience has been invaluable.

It’s the same role Hodges had for U.Va. (2-0) in 2010 and last season during the Cavaliers’ preparation for Georgia Tech. When U.Va. middle linebacker Steve Greer first heard defensive coordinator Jim Reid call Hodges over to help out with the option, Greer was confused, but his opinion has changed.

“I kind of did a double-take like, ‘the holder?’” Greer said.

“I can’t even tell you how much (Hodges) helps us out.”

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