IOWA CITY — Miguel Recinos was especially impressive twice last Saturday.
Trailing 10-7, Iowa’s football team chose to go for a first down on 4th-and-less-than-1 at the Northwestern 26. But the Hawkeyes got a 5-yard penalty for a false start, and Recinos was rushed onto the field for a 48-yard field goal try his team needed to be good were it to keep a realistic chance of winning.
Recinos made the kick, his career-long, with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter. The moment soon was a footnote, as Northwestern won in overtime, 17-10. Which led to the second impressive moment.
Recinos, a fourth-year junior from Mason City, was the first Iowa player to emerge for postgame interviews. Since Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz had yet to reach the visitors’ interview room, Recinos was put in front of that room’s lectern to talk about heroics that were hollow in the face of a stinging loss.
He handled what could have been an awkward moment with humility and grace.
“Miguel has always been confident and goal-oriented,” said Western Dubuque High School head football coach Justin Penner, who held that position at Mason City High when Recinos kicked a 58-yard field goal there.
“One of our last games his senior year was against Des Moines Hoover. We were winning that cool night in October when fourth down came up. We had seen as a staff how far Miguel could kick from practices and warm-ups over the course of the year, so we knew he could make one from quite a distance.
“When that fourth down came up, he came up to me and told me that he could make it, so we rolled with it. Our holder knelt at the 48-yard line, and Miguel drilled it. I wish we’d have taken a delay-of-game, because it would have been good from 63.
“I don’t remember much of a wind that night, but I do remember the crowd going absolutely nuts over the anomaly. We won the game going away and the kick didn’t determine the outcome, but man, were people riding high after seeing that. I had never as a coach seen people react to a kick like that before.”
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Some in Mason City know Recinos as a supporter and mentor of young children as much as a big foot.
In January 2016, before he ever tried a field goal as a Hawkeye, Recinos visited Hoover Elementary School in Mason City.
Students made posters for the occasion. Some wore T-shirts with Recinos’ name and jersey number. He read from a children’s book called “Snoozers” to Lisa Paloma’s kindergarten class.
“The reason it came about was because his mom was helping in my room and our sons were friends and played soccer at Mason City,” Paloma said. “Miguel has been a wonderful role model for the kindergarten students. He read to them, shared his experiences in college and football. It definitely made some new Hawkeyes fans.”
Recinos’ mother, Paula Recinos, is a former teacher who served on Mason City’s School Board. Her husband, Dr. René Recinos, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Miguel is a chemistry major.
“The kids still stop me and say ‘Hey, I saw Miguel on TV.’ I love to see the joy he brought to the students,” Paloma said. “My class took away that finishing school and going to college was the best plan for them.”
Recinos has made 6 of 8 field goals this season. Twenty of his 36 kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks.
“I think the big part of the story to me was how bad he was in the spring,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “I should say collectively. The (kickers) group was just really unimpressive this spring. Very inconsistent.
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“But Miguel’s really done a good job. As inconsistent as he was and erratic as he was — I’d use those two words back in the spring — he’s really been the other way.
“The game was on the line, certainly when he nailed that 48-yarder. I think we’ve seen an awful lot of growth. Really happy for him and proud of him for him pushing through.”
Equally prideful are his high school coach and many Mason Citians.
“We are so proud of him for his continued improvement in his physical game and his mental game,” Penner said. “We know that kicking is so much of both. The best is yet to come.”