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Just kickin’ it

Los Alamos High School alum George Steinkamp is a walk-on kicker for the University of New Mexico, despite never having played football before last spring. (Courtesy of UNM Athletics)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

When George Steinkamp attended Los Alamos High School, he was very much into athletics.

Soccer was his primary sport, but he also played lacrosse. Football, not so much.

But when the New Mexico native finally hit the field a week ago at San José State, lining up for a 46-yard field goal, it was Steinkamp making the attempt, not veteran Andrew Shelley, who has held the placekicking job the previous two seasons.

A senior studying business, but who will have two additional years of eligibility following this season, Steinkamp said he just missed the day-to-day feeling of being a part of a team.

“I’ve always been very interested in kicking,” he said. “I really prioritized soccer, as that was my main sport. When I went to UNM, I pursued my studies, but I have always been a very competitive person. When I got my studies squared away, I wanted to continue. I found an outlet in walking on to the team as a kicker. I always wanted to compete and I missed that.”

Steinkamp’s methods were far from scientific, but they worked well enough to catch the eye of the Lobos coaching staff.

“I practiced every day, practicing and practicing and practicing until my time came to show up and perform as best as possible,” he said. “I learned to kick from soccer. Very similar concepts, it’s just a different ball. I practiced until satisfied with a session or I hit a certain percentage of shots. I would train wherever I was allowed. I just kind of squeezed it in wherever I possibly could.”

The Lobos coaches let him walk on in the spring before COVID-19 shut down practices and he remained with the team as football slowly geared up this fall.

George Steinkamp

Although he attempted that Lobos’ first kick – and missed – Steinkamp made three subsequent extra points. But that doesn’t really mean anything when it comes to his long-term hold on the job, said UNM head coach Danny Gonzales.

“Kicker is a weekly competition until one of them asserts himself,” he said.

The Lobos game Saturday at Hawai’i started after the Journal North’s deadline.

A soccer midfielder, Steinkamp said he was known for having a strong leg.

“I was viewed as a strong player,” he said. “I was very good at bringing it up from the back to the front. I would say I had a big foot in soccer.”

A 2017 Los Alamos grad, he finished his high school soccer career with 20 goals and five assists, and twice helped the Hilltoppers reach the state championship finals, although they lost both times.

Now that his attention has turned to football, Steinkamp’s goals are to help the Lobos regain respectability and to advance as a program.

“It’s so intense,” he said. “Everyone is able to push themselves. It’s been an amazing journey over the past couple of months being surrounded by such intense players and coaches. We’ll just continue to do what we’re doing and it feels great to be a part of that.”

As for that miss on his first field goal attempt, Steinkamp said he’s already forgotten about it and focused instead on his successful point after touchdowns tries.

“As a team, we practiced it a lot,” he said. “We go through situations on the field and PATs is one we focus on because we encounter it so frequently. I felt like we practiced it and were very prepared for it, and our performance as team reflects that.”

And seeing that football curl through goalpost made the hard work worthwhile, Steinkamp said.

“Seeing a successful ball go through the uprights feels good,” he said. “It means everyone was dialed in and did their exact job, the kick was good, it feels good to see everyone succeed and execute a rep, and get that desired outcome.”

Steinkamp will be finishing up his business undergrad degree this semester and has already been accepted to the Anderson School of Management to work on a master’s while he finishes his final two seasons of football eligibility.

“My long-term goal is to give it 100% every single day. It’s the best for me personally and for the team,” Steinkamp said. “Great things are going to happen. There’s a huge turn around coming in the program and it’s very exciting to see what the future holds for us.”



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