Senior swaps sports

Story by Kyle Davis

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What a way to make a debut.

It was the opening kickoff to start the season for the Baker football team against rival Ottawa University, which the team hadn’t faced in 17 years, and the man to kick the ball away was former Baker soccer player Luke Haidarovic.

Not only was it the first kick of the 2010 season, it was the first kick of Haidarovic’s career in a collegiate football game, and even his first kick wearing football pads.

“I was like, just don’t shank this,” Haidarovic said.

Haidarovic didn’t shank it, in fact he kicked it one yard into the endzone, however, Ottawa ran a reverse and returned the kick for a touchdown.

“It was such a crazy experience, just being on the sideline with all of the boys, it’s like so intense, it’s so different from soccer, just everything,” Haidarovic said.

Haidarovic had run out of eligibility on the Baker soccer team, so, with one semester remaining before graduation, Haidarovic was given the chance to tryout for the football team.

“I think we just got a diamond in the rough that will keep getting better,” head coach Mike Grossner said.

Many things about the sport were new to Haidarovic, including wearing pads and a helmet, as Haidarovic is not a fan of wearing a facemask.

“This thing is an absolute nightmare,” Haidarovic said. “When I go to kick, like this thing is just right on the ball, and it takes a bit to get used to.”

The shape of the ball also took getting used to, although Haidarovic will still show off his juggling skills at practice with a football as if it were a soccer ball.

“The actual ball itself, if you shank it or don’t quite hit it right, it proper messes you up,” Haidarovic said. “My toes are like black and blue from just booting it.”

Haidarovic only practiced two days before appearing in the Ottawa game, and although he came in unfamiliar with the game of football, he did already have one important quality: he could kick a football, and he could kick it far.

On the first day of practice, Haidarovic practiced kicking off a tee from the 40-yard line, which is 10 yards farther up than a normal kickoff, as Grossner stood at the front of the endzone and watched the ball sail over his head. Haidarovic said he has also kicked field goals off the tee as long as 65 or 70 yards during practice.

“He’s really light-hearted at practice, really easy going with all of the guys, especially the special teams guys,” punter Garrett Chumley said. “He’s adjusted well.”

Haidarovic continues to work on his technique, and is continuing to learn the game and rules. Former Baker kicker Derek Doerfler also came to practice two days to work with Haidarovic on his form.

“He has some innate ability to kick a football, it’s just honing that skill as quickly as we can,” Grossner said.

Haidarovic said his teammates have made the transition from soccer to football easier and more enjoyable by being friendly and welcoming.

“Once I got guys sort of helping me out, all of the boys, the special teams boys, have been quality,” he said. “They’ve just been helping me out with technique and just like getting a lot better from when I first came in and getting the technique a lot more down.”

Haidarovic will always have a passion for soccer, but he is enjoying his time as a football player and becoming more familiar with the sport.

“I still don’t really watch it that much, but yeah, I’m a bit of a fan,” Haidarovic said. “A Baker football fan.”