Field goal attempts in your average football game don’t generally span two-thirds of the field.
Then again, Austin Rehkow doesn’t generally appear on the Today Show, Good Morning America or ESPN.
When he lined up for a 67-yard kick at Albi Stadium in Spokane on Oct. 18, Rehkow knew he would need to clear the uprights in order for his team to tie Shadle Park in a battle of Greater Spokane League high schools. Nevermind that the NFL field goal record of 63 yards by Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints had stood since 1970, Rehkow’s Central Valley squad trailed 55-52 with only two seconds left in regulation.
Austin Rehkow of Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley set a new Washington state record with a 67-yard field goal in a game against Shadle Park on Oct. 18.
Photo courtesy of Erik Smith.
“I just wanted an opportunity,” Rehkow said. “Was I 100-percent sure that I would make it? Not really.”
The wind was neutral when Rehkow sent the ball sailing through the autumn sky. The improbable kick cleared the goalpost by a foot or two, a surreal feat that left the Shadle Park sidelines stunned and sent Rehkow’s teammates leaping across the turf as though they had won the state championship.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. Are you serious?’ said Freddie Rehkow, Austin’s dad, who was one of around 1,000 fans in attendance.
Central Valley would go on to win the game, 62-55. That evening, the kick was featured on ESPN Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays of the day. By the morning, the Today Show was calling. An interview with Good Morning America followed.
Rehkow is a member of the Belle Terre Ward in the Spokane East Stake.
“I was getting called out of class a lot for media interviews,” said Rehkow. “The most important thing to me was that we won the game.”
A member of the Belle Terre Ward in the Spokane East Stake, Rehkow said his gospel roots helped him maintain perspective throughout the national frenzy.
“Having the Church has definitely helped keep me humble,” he said. “It’s made me realize how blessed I am just to have the opportunity.”
Kim Rehkow, Austin’s mom, said giving talks on Sunday probably helped her son stay cool and collected when chatting with the press outlets from New York to L.A.
“We were impressed with how he did,” Kim said. “I think it’s good that the Church gave him that opportunity to speak. He was a little better prepared.”
In the history of organized football, Rehkow’s kick now ranks third on the all-time list. A field goal by Ove Johansson of Abilene Christian University traveled two yards farther in 1976. Dirk Borgognone of Reno set the national high school record of 68 yards in 1985. Rehkow’s boot broke the old Washington state mark of 62 yards.
Despite the autograph requests and newspaper clippings, Freddie said his son has remained the same down-to-earth kid he was before the kick.
“He’s always known that team accomplishments are more important that personal accomplishments,” Freddie said. “He’s been giving credit to his teammates.”
An all-league basketball player, Rehkow was part of a Central Valley team that placed second at the state tournament in Tacoma last season.
Kim said Austin is well aware that being featured in USA Today does not mean skipping out on household chores.
“He’s still the typical teenager,” Kim said. “He realizes that he needs the entire team to achieve his success.”
With a background in soccer, Rehkow initially turned out for football thinking he could be a successful kicker. Before the record field goal, he hit a 60-yarder in practice, but 56 yards had been his best in a game. The week of the Shadle Park game, he practiced half-a-dozen kicks at 67 yards but missed on each attempt.
Prior to the most talked about three points in the nation` this season, Rehkow had only heard from Eastern Washington University about the possibility of playing college football. That changed after the Shadle Park game. BYU, Oregon, Washington State and Idaho have all called since. Rehkow does know one thing for sure about life after high school – it will involve a two-year LDS mission.
“A mission is a priority for me,” he said.
As for his prospects of kicking on the NCAA or even the NFL level, Rehkow said his plans are “just to continue working to be the best kicker I can be.”
In addition to a league-best 10 field goals this year (including kicks of 56 and 54 yards), Rekhow led the GSL in punting, with an average of 48 yards. Along the way, he paced the team in catches as a wide receiver and played free safety on defense for part of the season. Central Valley finished 8-2 for the year.
Of all the news that surrounded Rehkow’s astounding achievement, one interesting footnote went unpublicized. While the senior regularly attends early morning LDS seminary on school days, he had bypassed the 6:30 a.m. class on game days during the football season – until the game on Oct. 18.
“I think it might have had something to do with it,” he said.
With football now over, Rehkow is concentrating on basketball. Last year, he was an all-league guard on a team that placed second in the state tournament. As usual, academics remain a priority for the honors student. He maintains a 3.95 grade point average and is enrolled in AP calculus.
While the clamor surrounding the colossal kick has died down over the past few weeks, Rehkow says the topic still emerges in the occasional conversation at school.
“Sometimes a friend will bring up some accomplishment and jokingly I’ll say ‘Oh yeah, well I kicked a 67-yard field goal,'” Rehkow says with a laugh. “But really, it’s not something I’m clinging to. I know I’m extremely blessed.”