Three years ago, Jaden Ohlsen hadn’t kicked a field goal competitively.
In fact, he was playing club soccer for Real Colorado, a club that is now a part of the MLS Next program. A year later, Ohlsen was kicking game-winning field goals for Regis Jesuit high school in Aurora, Colo.
Now, Ohlsen, a sophomore, has earned the starting kicker job for Cal Poly football and a scholarship to go along with it.
“I just started kicking field goals with my friends for fun,” Ohlsen said. “The head coach saw me and asked if I would be interested in playing football for the team.”
The journey to collegiate sports for Ohlsen almost had him end up on a different type of field.
“I was set to go Division-I for soccer,” Ohlsen said. “The COVID season happened and I saw an opportunity to play [football] for my school and found out I was pretty good at it.”
In high school, Jaden was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts, along with a perfect slate of extra points (5-for-5) and touchbacks (10-for-10). One of these field goals was a 30-yarder to send his team to the state playoffs.
During his freshman season at Cal Poly, Ohlsen won the starting job and kept that momentum by turning in a 15-for-15 season on extra points and a game-winner from 41 yards out against Idaho State at home.
“He earned the starting spot all last year,” head coach Beau Baldwin said. “I said whoever earned the starting kicking spot at spring ball or fall camp would be put on partial scholarship.”
This season, Ohlsen has continued his perfect streak of extra points, currently sitting at 18-for-18, and nailed a career-long field goal of 48 yards at Idaho State.
“[Earning a scholarship] is everything, my parents took a big chance on me to come here,” Ohlsen said. “I just had to work my butt off and do the job I was asked.”
Oftentimes, kickers get the short end of the football stick. The position looks simple to the outside viewer, and to some, it’s insane that there are kickers that miss kicks. After all, it’s in the name of the position, to kick.
It’s not that simple, however, as there are many moving parts to each kick, not to mention the mental aspect of the job.
“Kicking is 100% mental, especially on game days,” Ohlsen said. “I just know that Cruz [red shirt sophomore long snapper Cruz Rubio] will give me a good snap, and Tommy [redshirt senior kicker Thomas Lee] will give me a good hold and I just have to focus on making good contact with the ball.”
Baldwin also mentioned the uniqueness of a kicker’s practice routine and how it differentiates from the majority of the roster.
“Most of practice is not special teams,” Baldwin said. “They have to be creative, they have to work over on the grass… they do a great job of that and it’s showing up in their growth.”
For Ohlsen, nothing has shaken him in his career. From the moment he picked up a football late in high school to when he made the move from Colorado to San Luis Obispo, he has kept on kicking and was rewarded with a scholarship to continue his playing career with the Mustangs.