By RICK PETERSON
Gavin Wilhelm played five different sports at Seaman, but didn't discover football until his senior year.
It's a decision that's paid immediate dividends for both Wilhelm and now the Washburn University football team.
Wilhelm played soccer througout his high school career, earning All-City recognition, before also becoming the Vikings' place-kicker last fall at the urging of a teammate.
"I never played football in my life,'' Wilhelm said. "One of my best friends (Camden Barta) was the quarterback for Seaman and he knew I had a boot on me and I could kick a ball pretty far so he was like, 'Come out and see if you can kick an extra point.'
"The first day of practice I remember making consecutive extra points and actually made a 54 (yarder) in practice and from then on it was a breeze. Kicking a soccer ball and kicking a football is kind of the same for me, as I didn't use a kicking tee. I just kicked off the floor so everything was just kind of simple. It was never an intention of mine but I'm super glad that I did it.''
Wilhelm liked kicking so much that he decided to accept an offer from Washburn to kick and play golf for the Ichabods.
"After playing football I was like, 'This is maybe what I want to do,' but I also wanted to play golf,'' Wilhelm said. "Once this school gave me that opportunity I knew it was a no-brainer to come here.''
Never afraid to try new things, Wilhelm also added punting to his repertoire after reporting for preseason practice last month.
"This is only my sixth week punting, ever,'' Wilhelm said. "I had never punted until fall camp and it was rough at the beginning because you don't punt a football like you do a soccer ball, but it's been a great experience.''
Wilhelm, who made his Washburn debut kicking off four times for the Ichabods in their 45-3 season-opening win over Lincoln, got the chance to punt in last Saturday's 21-13 loss to Nebraska-Kearney, averaging 45.4 yards on two punts with a long of 49 yards.
"Just to be able to go out there the other day and perform and get to play and have success with it was just a great moment,'' Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm helped Seaman win the school's first Class 5A boys state basketball championship as a senior and might be playing baseball in college if not for a career-ending injury in baseball that helped steer him towards golf and eventually football.
"I played baseball my whole life growing up,'' he said. "It's probably one of the best sports I was good at and then I broke my scaphoid bone my sophomore year and I wasn't able to play baseball so I started picking up golf and playing golf. I didn't play golf until my junior year.''
Being a relative newcomer to both of his college sports, Wilhelm knows there's plenty of room for improvement, but is happy with the progress he's made.
"I honestly feel I'm at ground level right now,'' he said. "I feel like I have the capability to perform as good as anybody else (in football) but it's just inconsistency and not knowing what to do. It's the same situation with golf.
"In golf there's nothing that you can completely accomplish so I just feel like there's nothing where I can perfectly succeed but I can compete with other guys and it's the same way in football.''
Wilhelm's primary focus is on football this fall but he is also making sure to do what he can to get ready for the spring golf season.
"My typical routine for a day is I have class from nine to 12, I eat, I have football from about 2 to 4:30 or 5, I eat again and I golf from six until dark,'' Wilhelm said. "I make sure I get some golf work in every day.''
And if the rest of his freshman year goes as well as it's started in football, Wilhelm will be thrilled.
"I think there's roughly 40 freshmen on the football team and there's only three freshmen who have so far gotten to play,'' he ssaid. "So it's just been cool to be the least experienced football player out there and actually getting to play.''