Rivera's kicking was "priceless" for Hawgs
KISSIMMEE, Fla. - One missed extra point (ugh), four sterling kickoffs (yeh).and less than five minutes of exhilarating football adulation.priceless!
"This was not indicative of what I can do," said the talkative Jaime Rivera. "It was very exciting; I would not be truthful if the experience was not as much fun as I thought it would be." Rivera was kicking for the Daytona Beach Hawgs. It was the last game of the season for the National Indoor Football League team in Rome, Georgia, and an aging - by sport standards - Rivera was having the time of his life.
After many years of kicking in semi-pro football in the Orlando area, the 45-year-old Rivera had his opportunity for a chance at the indoor game. He would like to see indoor football remain in Kissimmee, as well.
DID HE KICK 20 YEARS AGO? "I don't want anyone to think I'm bragging, but from the waist down, I'm 25 years old and from the waist up, I'm 45," said Rivera, who the Hawgs signed after several kickers during the season were not effective. "Hey. I got kidded a lot about being a 45-year-old rookie. When we were in the hotel, I was told I looked like a grandpa.
"One player said: 'When did you kick? In 1949,' but I told them, 'I don't know if you would have the courage to do this when you are my age or not.and I am doing it,'" Rivera chortled back. If one is to 'flashback' to the 1970s, you would see why this athlete has had an insatiable appetite for sport. From the time Jaime was 11, and growing up in Rochester, New York, he played soccer.
In fact, today, he still is the all-time career goals scoring leader at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester. His 48 career goals from 1977 to 1980 still remains in the books and is six better than two of the next former Roberts' scorers.
"Some people for years had said I missed my calling by not kicking a football," said the long-time resident of Kissimmee. "I can definitely kick in this league. My leg strength is still there. I just need to get it in some reps (repetition of kicks) and I will be fine."
ROME ADVENTURE ASTONISHING
What Rivera did in Rome was astonishing for a first-time kicker in a competitive situation such as the NIFL. He sure missed the extra point, but here's what happened.
The Hawgs had scored their first touchdown at 12:29 of the second quarter. Rivera came in to attempt the extra point kick and before the ball was even snapped, Daytona Beach was called for offside. That meant an extra five yards on to what normally is a 20 to 21 yard chip shot.
Backed up to the 17, the extra point now becomes a 25-yard 'field goal' in essence and the kickers' pressure is even greater, especially for a 45-year old rookie. "The problem was.never practicing," said a disappointed Rivera. "You have to have timing between the snapper, holder and kicker. All three components have to click."
When the ball was snapped, Rivera saw the placement of the ball, by the backup quarterback, tilted to the left instead of the right, which a soccer-style kicker must have. The ball went left instead of straight, Rivera remembers.
AN OPPORTUNITY LIKE NONE OTHER
"This was my only opportunity," he said. "After the warm-ups, I had felt my groin was pulling because I hadn't gotten much in shape for this adventure. So I showed up 20 minutes before the game with an ice bag on my groin. But, I let her fly on each and every kickoff." Rivera was astounding on kickoffs. He had only four, but averaged a healthy 47.25 yards on each one.with only one going out of bounds that resulted in a penalty which places the ball on the 25 yard line. His net kicks, after the return (which is a special teams stat) was 29. Compared to Brian Tracy, the fine Rome kicker, who had 12 kickoffs for a 46.58 average and a net return of 33, this was an outstanding effort by Jaime.
"I would say I held in there very well," said the 5-foot-7, 175-pound Rivera. "I was booming them and I felt good, even though I have not been in shape."
Rivera has a great story about demonstrating to his son, Adrian, how he could kick. Two years ago, on the Gateway High School field, with jeans and running shoes, Rivera lined up what would have amounted to a 63-yard field goal.
SHOWS SON THE KICKING 'ROPES'
"My son held for me and I let one fly," said the career development director. "Well, I missed that thing by only a few inches. I was 43 then and realized I could do it. My son, who is now 12 was amazed." Rivera has three other children, Alayna, 17; Sabrina, 8; and Jordan who is 6. "They all are for me doing this. Adrian, in fact, is pretty good himself and kicked a 30-yarder here recently. I think he'll kick in organized football."
Rivera, who besides working in career development also has a film he is producing, said he believes Kissimmee is still a viable indoor football market. "The people are more excited about the Kreatures now than possibly when they played the season," he said of pending negotiations with buyers of the team.
"Being a 45-year-old professional kicker is quite a gimmick and could stimulate some promotional avenues for the new team," he said with a smile. "My motivation is to do whatever I can for the local team, even if it's not kicking.
"I want to have a relationship with the team off the field, and on the field if they can accept a 45-year-old from the waist up," he said laughing.
Whatever Rivera's shtick, he's sure to sell some tickets, whether he plays or not. This isn't a senior league (NIFL) by any means, but it's 'priceless.'
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- Rivera's kicking was "priceless" for Hawgs - Kissimmee Kreatures
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