Catawba football: Trexler is an aggressive kicker
By Mike London
A Catawba special teams maniac planted his shoulder firmly in the chest of Tusculum kickoff returner Ryan Tallent in the second quarter, drove him hard out of bounds at the Tusculum 37 and celebrated a little bit.
Nothing unusual about that play except the tackler making a stick rowdy enough to be heard all over Pioneer Field was the same guy who kicked off.
His name is Thomas Trexler, he wears No. 1 and he’s not a run-of-the-mill placekicker.
“In high school, I was always that crazy guy on kickoffs,” Trexler said. “I like being aggressive. On Saturday, I saw the return man faking right, then bouncing it all the way to the left, and I felt like I had a lane to get there. Then my eyes got big. I lowered my shoulder, hit him pretty hard and got excited.”
It was the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Trexler’s third hit on a kickoff this season. No one is confusing him with middle linebacker Lakeem Perry just yet, but it’s never a bad thing having 11 guys on the field who are capable of making a tackle.
“Unfortunately, Thomas has had to make too many tackles on kickoffs, but his aggressive nature really has endeared him to his teammates,” coach Chip Hester said. “When teammates see the kicker buying in to being fast and physical like we always talk about, it’s a positive.”
Trexler has a fairly typical kicker’s background. He was playing soccer by age 3 and first tried his hand at football punts and kickoffs after he got to middle school.
Soon, he caught the football bug in a big way, started attending camps and worked with mentors such as former Dallas Cowboys kicker Chris Boniol.
By his junior year, Trexler was focusing on football exclusively.
By his senior year at Wilmington’s New Hanover High, the school that produced Sonny Jurgensen, Roman Gabriel, Trot Nixon and Alge Crumpler, Trexler was a standout.
He was 8-for-10 on field goals his senior year, including five of 40 or more yards. He converted four field goals in a single game. He averaged 37.0 yards on punts. He faked punts and threw passes to George Bryan, now a tight end at N.C. State, for first downs.
“It was a breakout senior year with a lot of hype,” Trexler said. “I had offers from Wake Forest, Penn State, East Carolina, North Texas and Lafayette.”
Of course, offers for kickers are usually something along the lines of, “Son, we’d really love to have you as a walk-on, but we don’t have any scholarship money for you.”
Scholarships go to the 300-pound guys or the guys who run 4.5s.
Trexler ended up at Catawba partly because it’s closer to Wilmington than Pennsylvania and partly because of Catawba assistant John Fitz, who used to coach at New Hanover.
“My mom wanted me to take a look at Catawba because Coach Fitz was there,” Trexler said. “I did, and I fell in love with the place. Now Coach Fitz likes to claim me as his recruit.”
Catawba’s kicking game would’ve been in dire straits last season had Trexler not arrived on campus.
He was immediately installed as the punter, the placekicker and the kickoff guy. There have been times when Catawba has used three individuals to handle those roles.
“Some guys didn’t come out and some others didn’t take advantage of opportunities,” Trexler said. “You hate to ever say you’re having to kick too much, but I really did. I hurt my hip flexor punting, but I kept on kicking with it.”
By the November season finale at Lenoir-Rhyne, Trexler was spent. His stats took a hit when he missed two PATs and booted a 19-yard punt.
He did manage a 30-yard field goal in that game, but on Catawba’s final PAT of the year, he held and Cory Darnell kicked it.
Trexler’s final numbers for the season were 4-for-7 on field goals, 26-for-33 on PATs and a 32.3 yard average on 49 punts with one block.
Oh, and one assisted tackle on a kickoff.
Trexler’s workload was reduced for his sophomore season with Colby McCanna stepping forward to handle punting duties, and breathers have paid dividends.
Trexler is 5-for-8 on field goals, including a 46-yarder against Livingstone.
He was instrumental in a 41-27 victory at Tusculum on Saturday. He was 2-for-2 on field goals and 5-for-5 on PATs despite some handicaps.
“I was cold because I thought that I’d remembered to pack my leggings, but I forgot ’em,” Trexler said. “In pregame, I was really awful, couldn’t make anything and was pulling everything to the left. The wind wasn’t all that bad, but the field was mushy.”
Once the game started, however, Trexler was able to make most of his attempts from fairly solid ground.
Snapper D.J. Davis was right on target, quarterback Patrick Dennis performed his holding duties admirably despite a painfully swollen hand, the line blocked well and Trexler executed on all of his kicks.
And after one of his field goals, he had a chance to make a loud tackle on the ensuing kickoff.
For an aggressive kicker, it was the perfect capper to a perfect day.