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Panui's famous kick continues to resonate

April 28, 2005 - National Indoor Football League (NIFL) - Kissimmee Kreatures News Release

Despite the fact the majority of players in the National Indoor Football League labor on one side of the ball, there is room for an occasional two-way player since rosters aren’t deeper than 22 come game day.

Has anyone seen a five-way guy? Obviously, these are a rare species, destined for playing time only when the desires of the team warrant such an interesting situation.

Enter a young man, who not only had little chance to perform in college, let alone in professional football, until now.

James Panui, (pronounced: Pah-new-ee), has found a home with the Kissimmee Kreatures. A team he has helped all season, including connecting on a 38-yard field goal on April 16 to upset the highly-touted Miami Morays.

The Kreatures and Panui are on their way to Casper, Wyoming, to meet the Wyoming Calvary in an NIFL game Friday night.

Panui would be considered more than an iridescent man when you figure he is a five-way player. His superiority abounds in the areas of receiving, running, returning kickoffs, kicking off and kicking field goals and extra points.

So why, after several tryouts at the University of Central Florida where he attends school, did Panui not get a fair shake? “I tried to walk on several times, but I think it was my size,” said the 22-year-old.

Size can’t be the issue. There are a lot of 5-foot-9, 180 to 186-pound players at all levels of indoor football. “Jay Gruden has spoken to me,” he said of some interest generated by the AFL Orlando Predators head coach. “He was impressed with me and was going to continuing looking to see what I do this season here at Kissimmee.”

The flashback of his life begins in Liverpool, England, where he was born to Daniel and Lynda Panui. His father was a career U. S. Army man, so James and family traveled extensively in the 24 years.

In fact, he still makes Kauai, Hawaii, his home, although he has lived in Orlando for quite some time while attending UCF where he will graduate in the spring, after majoring in sports and fitness.

One has to go back to Hohenfels, Germany, where he starred in football, soccer and basketball. He made the all-Europe High School football team that defeated an all-Japan contingent, 27-16, back on Jan. 2, 2002.

Panui had a 50-yard run and an 80-yard punt return for touchdowns in that championship game, but prior to that he led Hohenfels High School to a European Division III title. He also played linebacker and did some kicking. Games of 150 yards rushing (82-yard record run) were common to him.

“He’s very solid, he does everything extremely well,” said his high school coach Shawn Rodman. “He’s just a super football player and a great kid.”

His 12 goals in only eight matches earned him a 1st team forward position on the all-Europe High School soccer team. He also was a “deadly shooter” on the Hohenfels basketball team which played for the European Division III hoops title.

High school aside, he came to Florida and after being rejected at the collegiate level, he toiled in the recreational leagues for flag football. Again, Panui had outstanding results in being named ‘Competitive Final MVP’ in the 4-on-4 championship. He also was the Male MVP of the co-recreational tournament.

All his exploits have resulted in success. “He’s very driven to achieve goals,” said Kissimmee Kreatures head coach Marquette Smith. “One of the best players I’ve seen at the indoor football level because he’s good in all areas of the game.”

He’s led the NIFL in receiving and currently is second (377 yards, 13.5 average, 5 touchdowns) and ranks third in all-purpose yards (126.5 per game).

What makes Panui’s story jump out, however, was that 38-yard field goal to beat, previously undefeated Miami.

He had not kicked since high school. Forced into action after starting kicker Jeff Bacigalupi was injured near the end of the first quarter, Panui took over all the kicking duties. His numbers speak for themselves. He was two-for-two on extra points before that marvelous game-winner as time ran out.

“Earlier in the game I had told a teammate along the sidelines I was going to kick the winning field goal,” Panui said with a grin. “The day before in practice, I had the kicking coach (Jason Archambeau) go through the steps,”

Panui said he never imagined “the kicker getting hurt” in a game. “There was even a debate at halftime by the coaches whether I should kick field goals, but after I hit those two extra points, they seemed to think I could do it.”

Normally, Panui is the holder for extra points and field goals. Here he was, having the entire outcome of the game at his foot. “The backup quarterback (Brock Jones) held for me on the wining kick,” he said.

But the most interesting thing about “the boot” was Panui said he was hurt on the previous play and a five-yard penalty put the ball five yards further back. “I actually had a cramp in the kicking leg from getting hit on the prior reception,” he said.

Panui said before the second extra point conversion, “the lights went out and delayed the game 20 minutes, but I still made it.”

Guess there is nothing like trying to freeze this kicker. A guy who also averaged 49.4 yards on five kick offs, had the opposition return his kick offs only 17.8 yards and ran back five kick off returns of his own for an average of 20.8 yards.

“It all happened to so fast, everybody was celebrating after the kick,” Panui added. “I’m more nervous now than ever before.”

Actually Panui has nerves of steel.

NEXT HOME GAME: Friday, May 13 -- Fayetteville Heat at Kissimmee Kreatures, Silver Spurs Arena, 7 p.m.

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For additional information about The Kissimmee Kreatures, the NIFL, or season ticket and corporate sponsorship information, please visit our website at www.kissimmeekreatures.com or call 863-687-8110. Additional information about the team can be found at the league website, www.nationalindoorfootballleague.net, or 888-422-9682.

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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