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June 16, 2010

Sharp lives up to name at UT camp

The 55-yard field goal to win the competition during a portion of the University of Tennessee kicking camp last week should have been Zach Sharp's most impressive kick.

It wasn't. The rising senior at Maryville High School, who shined during the Vols' kicking camp conducted by renowned specialist Chris Sailer, instead faced a barrage of kicks with UT head coach Derek Dooley trying to knock Sharp off his game.

He didn't. Kicking from a variety of spots with the Vols' first-year leader taunting him, Sharp connected on each of the kicks and then spent some additional time visiting with Dooley and other members of the UT coaching staff.

"(Dooley) was really funny. I won that competition and he moved me up to about the 1-yard line and he said he was in my head and was going to make me miss and that I was going to choke," said Sharp, a stalwart for the powerhouse Rebels since his freshman year. "It was just random spots on the field, really close to the goal post and other spots. I just didn't miss. I wasn't really nervous."

Sharp credited simply maturing on and off the field for his calm demeanor with Dooley looking on. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder likewise has competed in a bevy of camps already this summer ranging from the University of Virginia to LSU to UT to Penn. Today Sharp is competing at UNC's camp in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Thursday will participate in a Ray Guy camp in Knoxville. Next month Sharp will do a camp at Princeton and then fly to Los Angeles for Sailer's elite, invitation-only camp.

"I think kicking has changed how I feel pressure in different areas of life," said Sharp, who kicked a career-best field goal of nearly 45 yards during a frigid playoff win at Rhea County. "I think it's been some maturity too since my freshman year. Freshman year I couldn't control what I was doing. There were so much nerves, I was just sort of numb. Now I really don't get nervous at all. It was just like kicking in practice (in front of UT's and other college coaches). I think that really happened just gradually. I'm really not affected by pressure as much as I used to be at all."

Nor is Sharp affected by the wait-and-see approach that several schools, including Tennessee, often employ when evaluating kickers and/or punters. The Vols signed prep All-America Michael Palardy in their 2010 class, and Palardy is considered a rare talent who could both place-kick and punt at the collegiate level.

However, UT's coaches informed Sharp - who began kicking in middle school after first excelling on the soccer field -- they intend to take a specialist - kicker or punter - in this class.

"I went into that (UT) camp, and I wasn't really expecting for them to be interested in anyone because they just signed (Palardy) last year," said Sharp, who said he's getting consistent correspondence from both UT and MTSU, among myriad others. "(Coaches) came out and said they pretty much said we have a scholarship to give and we're considering a punter or kicker."


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