Two jerseys, two sports, one goal: Cade Keesling hopes to kick his way to college
Cade Keesling wears two different jerseys throughout the fall season.
Typically, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, he'll wear No. 10 as he plays boys soccer for the Woodbury Royals. On Friday nights, he wears No. 87 as he becomes the kicker for the Woodbury football team.
Keesling had always played soccer throughout his childhood, but when the opportunity came to kick on Friday nights during his junior year, he couldn't say no.
"I knew if I didn't try out during high school, I would regret that decision throughout my college years," Keesling said. "So I decided to go for it, and it's been a fun couple of seasons on the team."
Keesling grew up in North Carolina and moved to Minnesota around seventh grade. He had been playing soccer his entire life and continued to play once he reached Minnesota.
He had a club team he played for before playing on the high school team, but there was always a thought in his mind about football and kicking for the team.
During his freshman and sophomore years, Keesling decided to practice field goals and kickoffs, but never approached the football coaches. Finally, during his junior year, Keesling decided to ask head coach Andy Hill if he could try out for the kicker's position. Hill decided to go through the process with him.
The process that Hill takes with kickers is simple, but strict. First, he asks boys soccer head coach Joe Quintavalle for his approval of sharing a player on both the soccer and football team.
Once that's approved, he will bring the kicker to the field and start with kickoffs. He expects to see the kicker reach the end zone for a touchback because he has position players that can kick it to the 10-yard line.
If the kicker can kick it to the end zone, then Hill will have him try his hand at some field goals to see the distance on the kicker. After those three steps, he will allow the kicker to be part of the team.
Keesling had the approval from Quintavalle and was able to kick the ball into the end zone and sometimes over the end zone. His range for field goals was so impressive that Hill told Keesling to get some shoulder pads and a helmet because he was going to be the next Woodbury kicker.
"I don't even think about range with [Keesling]," Hill said. "Sometimes I'll just have the field goal unit go out there without thinking that it's a 40-yard field goal or longer."
So far this season, Keesling has been consistent with making his field goals that range anywhere from 20 to 45 yards. He's been able to put the ball through the uprights the majority of the time.
Even though he plays on Friday nights, Keesling spends the majority of the time at soccer practices after school. He doesn't practice with the football team throughout the week, but he's ready to kick come Friday night when Hill needs him.
Keesling said that he'll practice field goals and punting after soccer practice for a half an hour or an hour with some coaches outside of Woodbury. The difficulty for Keesling is changing his kicking styles because a soccer ball and a football are two different shapes and objects.
Keesling said that a player should kick a soccer ball straight on because it's a circular object and the ball will go the direction the foot is leading it. A football has be kicked at an angle so it creates spin and doesn't hook left or right.
During his junior year, Keesling was the kicker for kickoffs and field goals for Woodbury football. They didn't put him on anything else because they wanted him to be comfortable at those positions.
Now, during his senior year, Hill has given him all kicking duties from field goals to kickoffs to extra points and, also, punts. Punting is new for Keesling, but he knows he has to excel in that skill if he wants to pursue his dreams.
"I want to go to an Ivy League school and get a great education," Keesling said. "I hope to play either soccer or football in college, but I'm open to either sport."
Hill said Keesling doesn't have to worry about being accepted into an Ivy League school because his grades and test scores are exceptional, but getting onto a team will be difficult based on needs from the different teams.
Keesling said he received interest from four different schools including Harvard, Princeton, Columbia and Dartmouth. Dartmouth seems to be the one school that still has interest in Keesling, while the other three schools either have a kicker on the team or offered a kicker to join the team.
The biggest thing that Keesling enjoys about being on two different teams is the two different cultures and friend groups he's made throughout the last two seasons. Both of the groups are fun and he's glad he joined the two different sports when he did.
As for now, Keesling will continue to wear those two different jerseys.
"It's been a great fall so far and I've been enjoying my senior year with these two teams," Keesling said. "I'm just hoping both of these teams can go far and create more memories along the way."
As for nerves, Keesling said he doesn't get nervous. He understands that sometimes the ball might not go through the uprights, but he simply shakes it off and gets focused for the next one.
When he steps on the field, whether for football or for soccer, he will get himself into position and take one deep breath.
Then, he kicks.