SALT LAKE CITY — Don’t ask Jadon Redding how he ended up as Utah’s placekicker because he won’t be able to explain it. Just know that he’s the Utes’ kicker — for now — and could be for the next four years.
The freshman from Virginia took over placekicking duties for the Utes last week in the second half against BYU after starter Andrew Strauch struggled by missing a PAT kick, breaking a streak of 182 consecutive extra points for Utah. He also missed a chip-shot 25-yard field goal.
So Redding was called on by coach Kyle Whittingham to come in and boot the final two extra points in the Utes’ 30-12 victory and he split the uprights both times.
It was reminiscent of what happened two years earlier when starting kicker Chayden Johnston was replaced during the opening game after missing his first field goal try. A little-known ex-soccer player named Matt Gay came on to replace him and the rest is history as he went on to become an All-American and winner of the the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s top placekicker.
Redding isn’t concerned about trying to follow in Gay’s footsteps.
“Not at all,” he says. “I’m going to be the next me. I’m not worried about filling any shoes.”
Just playing for a major college football team is a surprise for Redding, who a year ago was attending a community college in New York to get his grades in order.
After a standout prep career at Colonial Forge High in Virginia, where he was a two-time all-state selection, Redding was recruited by the likes of Syracuse, Duke and Maryland, which offered him a full-ride scholarship. But due to some academic struggles, he had to get some extra schooling.
“I needed time to mature anyway, that definitely helped me moving away from home,” he says.
Still interested in playing college football, he sent out videos and letters to various schools and Utah was one school that expressed interest. He says he still doesn’t know how it all worked out.
“Everyone asks me that, but I don’t really know,” he says as he tries to explain it.
“This person knew that person, this person talked to that one ... it all fell into place and I ended up on a visit here. I made a pretty good impression for coach Whit. Yeah it happened, but I couldn’t really tell you how.”
Whittingham has a simple explanation. “He contacted us and wanted an opportunity to come out and walk on. His high school tape was very good, so we let him come out in the spring and he’s performed well.”
The Utah coach also pointed out that Redding might have been the Utes’ opening-day kicker if he hadn’t been injured during fall camp.
“He was hurt for half of fall camp and had he not been, he probably would have been the kicker Day 1,” he said. “We’ll see how he handles this opportunity now.”
Utah special teams coach Sharrieff Shah called his overall special teams play against BYU average to poor, praising the kickoff team and punt return team, but was not happy with the kicking game.
“Unfortunately we missed kicks that we shouldn’t have missed,” he said.
Shah is equally blunt and hopeful about Redding being his kicker for the rest of the season.
“Not yet,” he answered when asked if he felt good about Redding as his kicker. “Let’s see a level of consistency from him. That would make me feel good. He has all the talent in the world, but just has to be consistent.”
Redding is just 19 years old and a long way from home, but is thrilled at the way he has been accepted by his Utah teammates.
“I was definitely timid coming in here to a big-time program, but the team brought me in and it made the transition so much easier than I thought,” he said. “Never in a million years would I guess I’d end up in Utah.”
Redding says he feels comfortable kicking field goals from 50 yards and in, but as long as he’s consistent and he doesn’t miss the gimmes, the Utes should be happy with him. Strauch, the former UCLA kicker, is waiting in the wings and will continue his kickoff duties.
“I’m probably overly worried, but I think we have two talented guys in the program that have shown they have the leg strength,” said Shah. “They have had spurts of hitting distances that were amazing, so we just want to have that show up on game day. We had a phenomenal streak of PATs that was broken and that matters to me. So now we have to create another streak and I think we have the right boys who can do it.”