Oakland Mills senior kicker Nate Frimpong did not grow up dreaming about playing American football in his hometown of Brighton, England. The only thing he knew about the game was what "I saw in old movies on television," he said.
But two weeks ago, Frimpong, 17, found out what it is like to be a real football hero.
With his team down 7-6 and 44 seconds to go in the game against Hammond, Frimpong, using his soccer-style kick, executed a perfect onside kick, knocking the ball into an opposing player and then recovering it. About 41 seconds later, he kicked a 41-yard field goal that earned Oakland Mills its only victory so far this season.
"That kick would have been good from 50 yards," Oakland Mills coach Jim Riss said. "He's a very interesting kid, well-traveled with a lot of interests, and I love to listen to him talk. And when we're anywhere inside the 35, I will give him a shot. He has the leg to make it."
In 2006, Frimpong moved to Columbia with his mother because, on a previous visit, she had been impressed by the concentration on advanced education.
The kicker would like a football scholarship, but with or without one, he plans to advance his education in architectural design.
He is 3-for-3 on field goals of 35, 37 and 41 yards, 5-for-5 on extra points and has a 3.4 grade-point average in his gifted, honors classes.
When you got here, you just suddenly wanted to kick a football?
It was more like, when I got here everyone said the best way to make friends was to join a sports team. So I'm thinking, I'm in a new country, let me try something new. ... My sophomore year, I wound up being the starting punter and place-kicker for extra points and field goals for JV. And then about the fourth game of the season, I got moved up to varsity and was still the starting kicker and punter.
But I wasn't being used much in the game. I thought it was a waste of time, so I played soccer last year. ... But this year, the JV coach became the varsity coach. I really liked playing for Coach Riss, and he said we'd be kicking more. So I came back to football this season and kicked a 37-yard field goal my first game. It was fun.
Is there a different feeling being a teammate on a football team from a soccer team?
For me, personally, yeah. Playing soccer, I've never been one of the players who would make the biggest difference. I'd play midfield and do the best I could. But in football, being the kicker - a perfect example is against Hammond. The last three seconds of the game, it's in my hands, basically. Whether it's a bad snap or a bad hold, if I don't make it I'm the one who lost us the game. But it's good, very good when you make it. I like that. It's nice.
But you've only had positive results. You don't know what it's like to miss?
And I don't want to find out. As long as I keep getting it through the uprights, it'll be great.
Goals for the season?
I'd like two field goals a game, minimum. ... Coach said he's going to use me more in the rest of the games when we are within range. Within my range, it's a definite three points. I can hit anything within 30 yards with ease and 35 with ease too. I can make 40; I think by the end of the season, 45 yards.
Have you been watching our election process?
I watched some of the first debate. I think John McCain is too old, too old-fashioned. Completely against what the majority of the people want and need, whereas Barack Obama is younger and speaks to the people more directly. You can really feel what he's saying. I think he's a lot more with the people than McCain is. ... I think Barack Obama will win the popular vote, but what happens after that with the Electoral College, I don't know. But I can't wait to find out who will win.
What do you think about the way we elect our leader?
It's a lot different. The fact we learn about it in school helps a lot. I think if you asked any normal person in England exactly how the prime minister is elected, I don't think they could straight-off tell you. But here, I think it should just stop with the popular vote. One vote, one person. The Electoral College just mucks it up. There is no point in the people voting if the Electoral College can just come along and wipe out the people's [majority] decision.
Is your mother an American citizen?
Not yet. But she's working toward it.
Do you want to be a U.S. citizen?
Oh, yeah. I'd like dual citizenship.