116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY ‒ Drew Stevens lines up for a 47-yard field goal with Iowa special teams coordinator LeVar Woods looking on at the indoor Stew and Lenore Hansen Football Performance Center back in June.
He shuffles and launches a high, sharp ball through the middle of the uprights.
“Coach Woods was like, ‘How do I throw him off?’” former Iowa kicker Keith Duncan said. “I was telling him to go get his mom to stand right behind him when he kicks. He didn’t do that, but he was trying to rattle Drew and Drew just shrugged him off.”
Stevens is poised to be Iowa’s second kicker from Duncan’s neck of the woods, but Duncan is from North Carolina while Stevens is from North Augusta, S.C. Nonetheless, Duncan likes that there will be another Carolina kicker sporting the black and gold, but it’s not by coincidence.
It helps that Stevens has family ties to Iowa, but the real connection might’ve started with Duncan himself, cut from the thread of Dan Orner Kicking and Punting. Orner, who kicked for the University of North Carolina and briefly with the Minnesota Vikings, has trained some of the the best in the country across the college and NFL levels. He holds the NCAA record for most 50-yard field goals made in a single game, with three in UNC’s 30-22 victory over Syracuse in 2002.
Despite the age gap, Stevens knew Duncan through Orner’s training camps. Both have similar kicking styles, too. Orner said that both kick a more piercing type of ball rather than a high ball like traditional southern kickers. The piercing trajectory of the ball flies better through inclement or cold weather.
“Some of these big-leg guys that hit such a high ball, it gets really affected by the winds, especially in the conference that y'all play in, which, from a wind standpoint, is really tough,” Orner said. “It doesn’t have that much of a ‘wow’ factor, but it’s very effective.”
Stevens ‒ unrated by major recruiting services ‒ is rated as a five-star kicking recruit by Kohl’s Kicking, but Orner said there’s more to him than that. His laser focus is an intangible that can’t be taught, and when it came time to make a commitment, Stevens embraced the idea of working his way to the top through competition.
He’ll arrive on campus as a preferred walk-on with a chance to earn a scholarship. Orner doesn’t think it will take long.
“We have guys come in from all over the state, like Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye, and he called Drew, ‘lead foot,’” Orner said. “He's like a boxer with heavy hands, it's kind of stuck with some of the pro guys here locally, so I'm not trying to put him out in front of the horse but it bodes well.”
Stevens played soccer growing up, but was more drawn to football during his freshman year of high school because of its electric atmosphere. He loves the pressure with having all eyes on him when he kicks.
Off the field, Stevens’ competitive nature holds up. He received the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Student of the Year after he teamed up with classmates to help raise money for the organization in honor of a survivor at a nearby school.
“It was kind of a competition, they asked me to be on their team to help raise money,” Stevens said. “We didn’t raise the most money, but we raised $20,000 and received the student of the year award. We wrote letters, made phone calls. We literally would get people to come over to our house and have a big letter-writing session and send them to a bunch of people.”
But it’s not just competition that fuels him ‒ it’s pressure. North Augusta High School head football coach Jim Bryant said that he’ll make additional conditioning workouts contingent upon Stevens making field goals from a variety of angles. If he misses, the team has to run.
“When it comes to Friday night and we just put in the situation to win the game, he’s used to it,” Bryant said.
Described as the “Keith Duncan 2.5,” by Orner, Stevens hopes to etch his own name in Iowa’s hall of fame someday. The people around him think he will. Like Duncan, his laid-back demeanor and laser focus are textbook qualities to success at the position. He’s also made a 60-yard-field goal before in practice.
“I saw Nate Kaeding’s picture on the wall, as well as Duncan’s, and I understand the situation,” Stevens said.
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