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Persistence Pays Off For Kicker/Punter

Sept. 5, 2000

By Brent Coleman Contributing WriterThe Citadel Game Program – September 2, 2000

He is 6-1, 220 pounds, bench-presses 430 and has a vertical jump of 36 inches. He hang cleans 330 pounds, power cleans 300, and can bench-press 225 for 24 repetitions. He finished second in the state of South Carolina in the shot-put as a high school senior and came to Clemson in the fall of 1996, in part, to be a decathlete on Bob Pollock’s Tiger track team. And he is a punter/placekicker?

Ever since Jamie Somaini entered Dorman High School in Spartanburg as a high school freshman, he has awestruck coaches with his raw physical strength and kicking ability. With weightroom numbers more suitable for a prototypical inside linebacker, Somaini has had to adjust to the technical necessities required of both punting and placekicking and the mental trials every walk-on Division I football player must endure.

Somaini remembers how his football career began at Clemson, waiting outside of then Head Coach Tommy West’s office. “Clemson had recruited me in high school but I was never offered a scholarship. When I got to Clemson my freshman year, I spent two days trying to track coach West down. Finally, on the third day, I got to his office at 6:00 (a.m.) and waited outside his door until he arrived.” Somaini quickly grabbed the attention of the Tiger coaching staff with his strong leg and earned a spot on the Tigers 1996 Peach Bowl squad.

In 1997 and 1998, Somaini persevered through nagging injuries and disappointments. The eternal optimist, Somaini would never give up on his dream of garnering playing time for the Tigers. “My constant drive was to prove the people wrong who told me I could not play for Clemson. I could have gone to some smaller schools on a full scholarship and played immediately, but I only wanted to play here.”

In 1998, Somaini headed into the fall destined to be the number-one kickoff man, but in early pre-fall practices, he tore a hip flexor that hampered him for the entire season. “That was definitely my toughest year both mentally and physically,” Somaini said.

Through three long years on the sidelines waiting for his opportunity, Somaini leaned on his mother, Laraine, for inspiration. “My mom has been my coach from day one. She has taught me that all things happen for a reason. I learned from her to walk by faith and trust in God. She taught me to always think positively.”

Somaini’s tenacity and work ethic finally paid dividends for him in 1999. He shared kickoff duties with Tony Lazarra and backed up Ryan Romano at punter. In 28 kickoffs, Somaini had five touchbacks and six more were returned out of the endzone. Opponents averaged only 20.6 yards a return on his kickoffs. He even made a touchdown saving tackle versus Marshall in his first game.

Somaini said the most valuable thing he learned in 1999 was how to be a kicker. In high school, he played tight end, fullback and linebacker in addition to his punting/placekicking duties. He first played in Death Valley as a high school junior when Dorman met cross-town rival Spartanburg High for the Big 16 state championship in 1994. That year, Somaini earned all-region II-AAAA honors and was named all-area by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. “It is tough to get in the flow of the game when you only run out there four or five times a game. Now, I’ve had a year of playing as a kicker only and I think it will help my mental approach to the game. I wish the average fan could understand how hard kicking really can be.”

Over the last two summers, Somaini has worked individually with Randy Brown, who personally coaches 11 punters that are currently on NFL rosters and has coached with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals. Brown says that Somaini’s potential is unlimited. “Jamie is extremely talented. We have worked hard on his technique. I want him to utilize his great leg strength by driving through the ball rather than on the side of the ball.” Brown said Somaini is raw but that he has the physical attributes to even play at the next level. “Jamie controls his own destiny. Once he masters the proper technique, the sky is the limit. It is a great plus for any team to have a guy that can not only punt, but kickoff and handle long field goals.”

Somaini already has a link to the NFL. His older sister, Michelle (who graduated from Clemson at the age of 20) is married to Brent Coleman, who works in the front office of the Atlanta Falcons as the team’s Assistant Director of Ticket Sales and Operations.

Somaini has set his individual goals high for the 2000 season. “I want to average 45 yards a punt and lead the ACC in punting. If I am as consistent as I should be, I think that is a realistic goal.” As for his collection of teammates, Somaini sees a noticeable difference in this group of nationally-ranked Tigers. “Everybody on this team really, really wants to win.”

When Tommy Bowden and his coaching staff arrived after Somaini’s third year in the Clemson program, he noticed an immediate difference. “We have a great coaching staff. They are vocal, intense and are perfectionists. If someone makes a mistake, it’s immediately corrected. I love playing for Coach Bowden.”

In the weightroom, Somaini has continued to re-write virtually every Tiger strength and conditioning record for punters and kickers. This spring, he became one of two current Tigers (Henry Owen is the other) to be named a “Manster” by Joey Batson, Clemson’s Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. The word “Manster” means half man and half monster. To attain “Manster” status (considered improbable by Batson), an athlete must reach the sixth level of weightlifting goals in various lifts and combinations of lifts.

So Jamie Somaini takes the field today versus The Citadel as a strong-legged punter/placekicker who has waited and endured to have his opportunity. If he plays to his potential, he will have a major impact on the Tiger football program in 2000. I wonder what kind of decathlete he would have been?