During a recruiting visit last weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., Argyle kicker Cole Hedlund and his mother stopped at McAlister’s Deli on North Steele Boulevard for lunch, and he got the news.
Turns out the nearby university liked Hedlund as much as he liked the university. The voice on the other end of the phone offered a scholarship to kick at Arkansas. The kicker accepted.
As a sophomore in 2011, Hedlund set the national high school record for most field goals made in a season. Kohl’s Professional Football Camps — which, according to its website, chooses the specialists for the Under Armour All-America Game — has Hedlund ranked as the No. 5 kicker in the nation.
The soon-to-be senior said first-year Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema told Hedlund he was the right fit for the program.
“What really made my decision was talking to Coach B,” Hedlund said. “He just really made me feel comfortable in that this is where I should go.”
Oral commitments are nonbinding. The first day a member of the class of 2014 can sign a national letter of intent is Feb. 5, 2014.
Hedlund becomes the fourth Argyle player to orally commit to a Football Bowl Subdivision school. Sam Sizelove (Kansas State), Connor Wilson (Kansas State) and Ian Sadler (Texas Tech) all committed to their respective Big 12 schools before the summer began.
The Razorbacks were the first team to make an offer to Hedlund. Oklahoma quickly followed after Arkansas gained Hedlund’s oral commitment. Texas A&M and Syracuse also showed significant interest in the Argyle kicker.
Hedlund said another aspect that swayed his decision was playing for a team that’s in the Southeastern Conference and plays in big games.
Last year, Hedlund hit seven of 10 field goals, including a season-long effort of 40 yards. He hit 67 of 71 extra point attempts.
Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said that last year’s statistics aren’t indicative of Hedlund’s talent, but more indicative of miscues on snaps, holds, blocked field goals and poor fields.
Instead, Rodgers looked at Hedlund’s numbers in 2011. Hedlund hit 25 field goals to break the national record of 22 held by three kickers.
That year, Hedlund missed two late field goals in a playoff game against Carthage but recovered to hit an extra point in double overtime. Carthage missed its extra point in double overtime. Carthage’s 20-game winning streak was snapped, and Argyle advanced to the regional final.
Rodgers said Hedlund’s abilities have been something the Class 3A program has benefitted from during the past two seasons and praised Hedlund’s versatility in other aspects of the kicking game.
“I think that having a kicker only at the 3A level and having a guy that gets the training and goes to the kicking competitions, goes to the lessons and emphasizes that aspect of the game, I think it’s a great advantage for Class 3A,” Rodgers said. “That’s more typical of the 4A, 5A mindset.”
Hedlund comes from a lineage that knows about kicking. Hedlund’s older brother, Chad, is a redshirt sophomore kicker at Wake Forest. The boys’ father is John Hedlund, the women’s soccer head coach at North Texas.
The UNT soccer coach said the Razorbacks’ coaching staff was excited about what his son offered the Arkansas program.
“They loved Cole’s consistency, his accuracy,” John Hedlund said. “That’s what they want more than anything: a pure field goal kicker, a guy that can come in and make field goals.”
Now with his college plans slightly more secure than they were a week ago, Hedlund can focus on his senior year and help the Eagles try to reach their second state final in three years.
“It’s pretty relieving,” Hedlund said of making the early commitment. “Going through the recruiting process is pretty stressful. Now that it’s all over, I’m just glad I found a place that’s right for me. I guess you could say I’m pretty excited.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869.