116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
ANKENY — J.J. Kohl used to excel at throwing and kicking — until a growth spurt made the latter problematic.
“I actually tried kicking all the way up to my freshman year,” said the standout Ankeny High School quarterback, who announced his commitment to Iowa State Monday night on Twitter. “But then I got too big a (pair of) feet.”
Way too big.
Kohl — a four-star recruit who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 227 pounds — wears a size 16 shoe. Most pro kickers, he said, tend to have smaller feet.
Kohl likely knows such relatively obscure kicking facts because his father, Jamie, was the starting kicker for the Cyclones from 1995-98, and runs the highly-regarded Kohl’s Professional Camps for kickers, punters and long snappers.
But Jamie didn’t nudge J.J. toward ISU. He and his wife, Charlene, simply helped their son navigate the roughly 10-month recruiting process by observing, listening and offering advice.
“It’s kind of nice, because my dad went through this process and my mom, she’s really good with just seeing things,” said Kohl, who chose the Cyclones over offers from Florida State, Iowa, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin, among others. “She worked HR and management for 15 years so she knows how to read people and she’s provided me a lot of insight and things to look for. … I’m very thankful for my parents.”
Kohl is currently ISU’s top-rated recruit in the class of 2023, according to 247 Sports, and will bring an array of arm-based skills to the program.
“The biggest thing I feel like I do differently is I have great touch,” said Kohl, who totaled 25 touchdowns and four interceptions while helping lead the Hawks to the Class 5A state title game last season. “I’m very accurate and I have a very strong arm. (And) for my size, I can make a lot of plays on the run. I’m very athletic for my size.”
Kohl knows his skill-set is a work in progress, however.
“On thing I want to work on a lot is just manipulating defenders,” Kohl said. “Getting guys to move to places where I can make them miss, I guess, or just moving defenders with my eyes. Getting good at doing stuff like that, because you see guys all the time in the NFL, like (Los Angeles Rams quarterback) Matthew Stafford, he’ll be looking one way, and move a linebacker, or get a linebacker out of the way, and then he’ll throw a dig route right behind him, because he looked that linebacker out of there.”
So Kohl’s working on the finer points of the game, which could help him achieve his primary goal: Winning the state championship with Ankeny, not just participating in the title game.
“They’re going to get my all the rest of the spring, this summer and this fall,” Kohl said. “But at the same time, I’m going to reach out to other (ISU recruits) and hopefully bring a really special recruiting class to Iowa State.”
The Cyclones were the first to offer Kohl. That meant a lot to him. And his next growth spurt of sorts will only enhance his ability, not force him to give something up.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to go play for Iowa State,” Kohl said. “And I’m looking forward to the challenge.”