"Does Steve Turnbaugh [Hereford's football coach] know about him?"

U.A. Yates shook his head.

"Even I didn't know about him," he said.

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Soon after, Yates auditioned for his high school coach.

"He put the ball on a tee, took one step and kicked it 60 yards," Turnbaugh said. "You could hear the ball explode off his foot. Adam was raw, but you knew he was something special."

Yates attended several kicking camps, made Hereford's team as a senior and served notice in the opening game: three field goals of 39, 30 and 26 yards in a win at Frederick Douglass. Teammates dubbed him "Das Boot."

His kickoff approach nearly drove the coach crazy.

"Adam would hop, skip and tiptoe up to the ball, like he was doing a ballet," Turnbaugh said. "We got called numerous times for being offsides. Half the team was downfield while he was still going through his dance routine.

"It was fairly unorthodox, but who am I to criticize when the ball goes out of the end zone?"

That season, Yates made six of 10 field goals and 78 (of 79) extra points to set a Maryland high school record.

In college, the redshirt freshman made the Carolina team as a walk-on and handled kickoffs. But he lost his job the next two years, gained 25 pounds and seemed poised to drop off of the depth charts when approached by his coach last spring.

"Adam's reputation wasn't good," Robinson said. "A lot of people said he couldn't handle pressure. So I told him that and asked, 'What are you going to do about it?'

"Well, he worked his tail off in the weight room, remade his body and shut up his critics."

In the Gamecocks' first fall scrimmage, head coach Steve Spurrier called Yates onto the field, placed the ball on the 42-yard line and issued a challenge.

"He said, 'Yatesy, make this kick and you've got your scholarship. Miss it, and you're out of luck,' " Yates said. "Then he got the whole team to circle around and make as much noise as they could to distract me."

Yates drilled it through.

"The ball was a little closer to the left upright than I wanted, but I never had any doubt," he said. "Then everyone piled on and I got the biggest, sweatiest hugs ever. It was awesome. I ran inside and called my dad, with my helmet still on."

Saturday night, he'd like to do the same.


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