Glenelg senior kicker and punter Michael Fernandes enters the 2022 football season looking to build on his second-team All-Metro selection last season.
Shortly before his final high school season begins, Fernandes spoke with the Howard County Times about his introduction to the position and how he’s improved throughout his varsity career (questions and answers have been edited for clarity):
What is your earliest football memory?
My earliest football memory was when I first tried out. I had just done soccer tryouts freshman year and I didn’t make the team. I was kind of in a slump and my dad said, ‘OK, let’s try out for the football team because they need a kicker.’ So I went to try out for the football team and the football team was very open about it. I got to meet my mentor Chris Retzbach.
Did you have any interest in playing football before high school?
High school was really when it piqued my interest mostly because I needed some sort of sport to do during high school and I had never played football before. I’ve always been told that I should become a kicker from soccer.
Once you started playing football was there anyone professionally or in college that you watched film of and tried to model your game after?
Honestly, not any professional kickers. The only kicker that I looked up to was Chris Retzbach. I did model some of my drills and some of my style for kicking from him. Chris was the varsity kicker before I became the varsity kicker my sophomore season.
Now entering your senior season, what do you think has been the key to your development and what has allowed you to improve each season?
Patience. It was already hard to start off with kicking because it’s something I’d never done before. I had the power in my legs to do it, but the technique was something that took a long time.
What would you say was the most transferable skill from soccer to kicking and punting and what were some of the challenges associated with developing the right technique?
The easiest probably would be kickoffs because you run up and kick the ball. You can kick a football with just pure strength and have it go far. The ball going up in the air is a different part. Kickoff was probably the easiest to meld with because it was more like a goal kick, just going for air instead of distance all the time.
The hardest would probably be punting. One of the biggest things about punting is one, catching the ball and then the drop of the ball. I played soccer for a majority of my life, so I didn’t really have great hand-eye coordination to start off with, because I had only played a tiny bit of rugby, catching the ball was hard. Then there was dropping the ball and I’d never played goalie so I didn’t know how to correctly punt the ball. That’s the most technical part.
What has been the most exciting part about playing a position that doesn’t necessarily get the same notoriety as others on the field?
I think the most exciting part has been the compassion and teamwork that the rest of the team has shown. The seniors and juniors were all very welcoming. They all cheered for me whenever I made a kick and they were all there for me whenever I missed. Because it’s such a make-or-break job, you can get very easily disheartened if I didn’t have the rest of the team propping me back up.
You’re committed to Washington & Lee. What made it such a good fit for you and what excites you about the opportunity to play there?
Washington and Lee is a great fit because my great-grandmother had a house down there, which is still under my mom’s ownership. That makes it easy in case my parents wanted to come up to college for a game. Plus, Washington & Lee was the highest academic school on our list. They also were very open about their offering. Their representative was very nice and he told me exactly what I’d get at the school saying we give kickers this amount of time. There wasn’t any sort of mystery or questions about the offer.
Mentally, how do you deal with the ups and downs that come with being a kicker and punter?
Usually, when I have a miss or a really big miss, I try not to get down on myself. I get pretty frustrated and angry. With the way extra points work, there’s always the kickoff right after, so I try to condense that anger into power that I use on kickoffs. Even when I make the kick, I think, ‘OK it’s expected so let’s move on to the next one.’
What does the summer training program entail for kickers and what are you working on over the offseason?
It’s usually running in the morning, so 40-yard timed runs or 10-yard flys. Then after that there’s weights. For kickers and punters on our own we don’t really have positional drills during these camps because coach wants to make sure we’re fast and strong before we get into the drills. Kickers and punters, we usually go through dropping drills, dropping the ball on the line for punters. For kickers, it’s more a no step drill where you do a simulated kick without the ball and you follow the line. You keep on doing that so you can get a feel for how your leg goes through the ball without actually kicking it.
What has the vibe been like with the team so far in practice and what are you and the other seniors hoping to accomplish this year?
I think with the young guys it seems like the team is coming together even though we may have lost some really good players from last year. I believe that with the juniors and sophomores in the future, they’ll come together and grow into their positions. Especially since last year we had some younger sophomores who are now juniors already playing with us. With the rest of the seniors, we’re just excited to see how the team will come together seeing as how we’re going to have a lot of new faces and a lot of different positions. It’s going to be our duty to try to guide the rest of the team into their positions.
What is your favorite pregame music to listen to?
I usually listen to instrumental music, things that don’t have lyrics. Violin or piano is my go-to.
What is your favorite pregame meal?
Probably not the healthiest meal before each game, but I usually choose a cheesesteak because that usually fills me up.
What is something unique about kicking and punting that you think people might not know or don’t appreciate?
I think something that’s really unique about kicking and punting is it’s a position that can make or break a game. If you get that last field goal or that last extra point, that could be the difference. It’s a position that while not getting the same glory as running backs or quarterbacks, still almost holds a similar importance to the two. Also, it just feels nice to be able to support the rest of the team whenever they score to put even more salt into the other team’s wound.