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Del Rio out to kick perception

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK
Dos Palos kicker Humberto Del Rio at practice in Merced, Calif. Tuesday, June 23, 2009.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK Dos Palos kicker Humberto Del Rio at practice in Merced, Calif. Tuesday, June 23, 2009. Merced Sun-Star

Humberto Del Rio stands all alone at practice.

He's just finished about a half-hour of kicking drills by himself during Monday's workout at Golden Valley.

Again, there are no teammates by his side as he takes a water break.

It's a familiar sight for the former Dos Palos kicker.

The rest of the North players are split into offensive and defensive drills as they prepare for Friday night's Chowchilla Rotary North/South All-Star football game.

"I don't really know what to do now," Del Rio said. "I knew what I was supposed to be doing at Dos Palos. I had my routine at practice.

"But here, I don't know the coaches. I have to find out what they want me to do."

Yes, that's the life of a kicker -- so much time spent in solitude.

How exactly does a kicker spend his time at practice?

Some of Del Rio's all-star teammates aren't too sure.

"They don't have to do too much," Los Banos lineman Manuel Lira said. "They just stand around a lot."

"I guess they kick the ball around a little bit."

Merced defensive end Nathan Mayfield didn't even know there was a kicker on the team.

Mayfield thought Oakdale running back Nicky Batteate would handle the kicking duties.

"Oh, we have a kicker?" Mayfield asked. "I hope he makes them.

"I have old memories of some games like the section title game against Vacaville. One point can make a difference."

Del Rio is used to the skepticism.

Not many football players consider kickers "real football players."

"I hear it all the time," Del Rio said. "They say, 'He's just a kicker.'

"It was different at Dos Palos. We had pride points that you earned and everyone had to earn at least 400 points just to be on the team.

"So everybody saw me working out, running and doing everything they did.

"Even my family makes fun of me. But when people see me in a game, they say, 'Man, he can kick.' "

Seeing is definitely believing with Del Rio.

The pint-sized kicker, who's listed at 5-foot-6 and 162 pounds, has a big leg.

He tied the Dos Palos school record with a 47-yard field goal against Yosemite on Halloween of 2008.

"I remember I was getting ready to kick it and my coach wanted me to take an extra step back so I could try to break the record," Del Rio said.

"I was a little nervous, so I just kicked it and it went through."

Del Rio also holds the Dos Palos record with 22 career field goals.

Both Fresno City and Merced College have been actively recruiting Del Rio.

"People don't understand it's not just kicking the ball," Del Rio said.

"You have to have the same swing of your leg every time. It's a lot like golf. If you mess up just a little, you can miss."

Shortly after finishing his water break, Del Rio finds Los Banos coach Dennis Stubbs.

Stubbs tells Del Rio he's done for the day.

He's allowed to shed his pads and he quickly strips down to a T-shirt and shorts and watches the rest of his teammates sweat in the heat of hot June afternoon.

"I'm just going to chill and hangout," Del Rio said.

The life of a kicker isn't so bad, after all.

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

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