Leechburg’s Dudek drawing interest for his kicking
Not many college football recruiters have made their way to Leechburg in recent years.
That could change this year with the emergence of senior punter/kicker Tanner Dudek.
Dudek (6-0, 170) could become a key to the Blue Devils hitting the win column after going 0-10, 0-7 last season.
But Dudek didn’t plan on being a prominent kicker until recently. In fact, he played youth soccer for the Kiski Valley organization and never came out for football until 10th grade.
“I came out my sophomore year, and during heat acclimation, they needed a kicker,” Dudek said. “I told them I played soccer for 10 years, and people told coach (Mark George) that I could kick the ball. I kicked off, and it came naturally to me.”
Although no scholarships or other offers have come in yet, Dudek attended a number of showcase and instructional camps over the summer.
“I got invites to camps of certain colleges such as Temple and Holy Cross,” Dudek said. “I was invited to Kohl’s kicking camp in Milwaukee, Wis. I was unable to go, but I hope to go to their winter showcase.”
“I’ll tell you what,” George said. “Tanner never played football until he came out as a sophomore. We were practicing, and he asked if he could try it. He first kicked the ball to the 9-yard-line, and I said ‘We’ve got something here.’”
Dudek and George credit Jon Bouchat of Natrona Heights for his kicking tutelage the past two years.
Dudek said since Class A schools aren’t looked at for special teams, he took it upon himself to learn as much as he could from his peers at kicking camps.
“These are great mentors, Blake Gillikkin from Penn State and Florida’s punter,” Dudek said. “They actually changed my kicking style. I’m still getting used to my punting style, kickoffs and field goals. It’ll be a great transition for me.”
George is looking for Dudek to get the Blue Devils into advantageous field position.
“We do special teams practice every day,” George said. “He can get it into the end zone in practice. He can kick deep left, deep right. There’s not too many high school kids that can do that. We’ve lost games in that past because of field position. I think he’ll be a real plus for us this year.”
A good kicker is also dependent on his long snapper and holder. For Leechburg, junior Anthony Mangee will be the long snapper and Bret Kardos will be the holder.
Dudek will also play at receiver on offense.
Leechburg will begin its 100th football season Friday against a rival for nearly the entire century - Apollo-Ridge.
Leechburg played the original Apollo High School to open Owens Field in 1919, but Dudek doesn’t mind playing a rival on opening night.
“I’m very eager for it. We’re all looking forward to it,” Dudek said. “We’ll get out there and give it our best shot.”
Dudek held a daytime job before camp started and kicked every evening. He is interested in sales engineering or sports medicine.
Dudek would like to be a chiropractor.