Job Matossian kicks a field goal against Lenoir City

Job Matossian kicks a field goal against Lenoir City.

William Blount kicker Job Matossian knows how to block out the noise.

It’s a crucial skill for his position, and his team makes sure he gets plenty of practice.

“Are you choking?” William Blount coach Philip Shadowens teasingly asked Matossian, who was fielding interview questions Tuesday afternoon. “This is going down in history as your first interview. Your mom will have this, so make sure you don’t choke right here.”

Matossian just smiled, appearing unfazed. He doesn’t get rattled by much, not even by the hype of Friday night’s game against cross-county rival, Heritage. Just before halftime, Matossian made a 49-yard field goal en route to the Governors’ 48-6 victory in the Battle of the Bell. William Blount’s field goal record is 51 yards, but Matossian has plenty of time to break it. After all, he’s only a freshman.

“I told him, ‘That’s not going to be your longest field goal in high school,’” Shadowens said, to which Matossian replied, “‘Absolutely not.’”

Outside of competition, Matossian’s personal best is 56 yards. In Shadowens’ 25 years of coaching high school football in Tennessee, he said he has never had a freshman kicker show as much promise as Matossian.

An all-around athlete who first excelled at soccer, Matossian began his kicking career in sixth grade after his uncle saw him kicking around a football in the backyard. Eyeing a potential star, he suggested his nephew attend kicking camps through — a kicking academy co-founded by Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy.

There, Matossian quickly stood out to coaches — many of whom are former players at the collegiate and NFL level. Two veteran kickers who noticed Matossian right away were Jeff Hall and Logan O’Connor. Hall played for Tennessee and eventually the St. Louis Rams, and O’Connor played at Eastern Kentucky.

“We were watching him kick, and we both were immediately impressed just knowing how old he was,” said O’Connor, who is the national coordinator and assistant director of the camps, which are held nationwide. “Even at that age when he was just learning the basics, he had the ability to get up and compete with some of the high school kids.”

O’Connor said Matossian’s most notable strength from the start has been his ball contact, which requires the body control most kids don’t possess until a later age.

Matossian even won some high school competitions as a middle schooler — something O’Connor said virtually never happens. “There were some things that he actually inherently did well without having to be taught,” O’Connor said. “So coaching him was pretty easy.”

For his performance at the camps, Matossian won the Ray Guy Top Prospect Award in May, joining ranks of almost 20 current NFL players who also won the award as teenagers.

One of those early standouts was Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers — Matossian’s favorite NFL kicker for a pretty simple reason. “I just like the Panthers,” he said.

With that award came the opportunity to compete at the National Top Prospect Camp over the summer in Richmond, Ky. Matossian became one of the two youngest athletes to earn an invitation to the prestigious camp, which is dominated by junior and senior participants.

“That’s the best of the best,” O’Connor said. “This is the first year that we’ve considered guys that were younger coming up just because we’ve looked in the past, but nobody has really stood out enough to be put on that list.”

Perhaps that’s because most young kids who want to play football gravitate towards the more glamorous positions. And O’Connor said the ones who do give kicking a shot are often weeded out by the steep learning curve.

“You’re going to be bad for a while before you get good,” O’Connor said. “Kids will second-guess themselves or just lose the confidence. You just don’t normally see that mental toughness at that young of an age.”

Matossian is an exception.

Shadowens described Matossian as the kind of kid who is “consistent with his attitude” and “doesn’t get too high or too low.”

O’Connor said Matossian knows how to let things “roll off of him,” as is apparent in Matossian’s interactions with his teammates.

“They like to joke around with me and say stuff while I’m warming up just to make me better,” Matossian said. “It helps. If you can block that out, you can block anything out.”

Besides a consistent attitude, O’Connor said Matossian also boasts a consistent swing.

“You’ll hear a lot of kickers say, ‘Oh I can make it from 60,’” O’Connor began. “Yeah, but how many are you going to make out of 10, and how many are you going to make in a game?”

Shadowens said he has seen Matossian hit from 55 yards in practice, so he wasn’t surprised to see the ball sail through the uprights from 49 yards out Friday night with room to spare.

The feat was all the more special given it was a rivalry game.

“I just knew it was against Heritage and I really wanted to make it,” Matossian said, a smile stretching across his face. “We lined up for it, my holder told me, ‘You’ve got this.’ Perfect snap, perfect hold.

“I just had to do my part.”

Matossian’s 49-yard field goal set a home-field record for the Governors (2-2). He has made every extra point and hit six of eight field goals.

“It’s a weapon,” Shadowens said. “You don’t want to settle for field goals, but you also don’t want to drive in and not have the option of kicking one when it’s fourth and eight. You take the points. That gives us a great option as a football team.”

Shadowens and O’Connor said what gives Matossian even bigger upside is his work ethic.

While getting interviewed, Matossian didn’t reference his accolades or lose focus in response to his coach’s light-hearted banter. Instead, he mostly talked about what he needs to do to improve.

“It’s pretty much like anything,” Matossian said. “If you want to do it, you do what you have to do to get better at it. I’m just going to do the best I can and see what happens.”

Sports Writer

Taylor is a University of Missouri graduate, who worked in Maine covering sports before moving to Maryville in 2018.

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