Sports

Arroyo Grande's Owens getting national attention

Tribune photo by Jayson Mellom: Arroyo Grande’s Garrett Owens, center, is dragged down by a host of Madera players in a game last year.
Tribune photo by Jayson Mellom: Arroyo Grande’s Garrett Owens, center, is dragged down by a host of Madera players in a game last year. The Tribune

In the world of college football kicker recruiting, what Chris Sailer says usually goes.

And now he’s saying big things about Arroyo Grande High’s Garrett Owens, about to enter his junior season.

Owens came into Sailer’s national top 12 elite invitational-only camp this week in Los Angeles ranked by Sailer as the fifth-best college place-kicking prospect in the country for the class of 2012.

After the camp’s first two days, Owens has been elevated by Sailer to No. 3, and Sailer said Thursday that by the time the camp wraps up today, he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Owens leaves No. 2.

Sailer, a former two-time All-American kicker at UCLA, went on to a five-year career in the Arena League. But it’s his legacy as a mentor and talent evaluator where he has really made his mark.

In 2001, he started Chris Sailer Kicking, an enterprise meant to provide recruiting exposure for specialists as he was, oft-overlooked compared to every-down positions.

“I got into this to help kickers and punters get (the recruiting attention) they deserve,” Sailer said. “The proper resources weren’t really out there. I just saw a need for it.”

His first pupil was Nick Folk, then at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks.

“He was really good, but he was getting no recruiting attention,” Sailer said. “I wanted to do something about it.”With Sailer using his connections to pitch his talents, Folk landed at the University of Arizona, and went on to kick the past three seasons for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys before signing this offseason with the New York Jets.

Sailer’s website, ChrisSailerKicking.com, lists more than 100 of his alumni from the class of 2010 who landed opportunities to kick or punt at four-year universities.

Teddy Dellaganna, a 2006 Templeton grad, spent a year punting at Bakersfield College before translating Sailer’s stamp of approval into a scholarship at Rutgers, where he won a Big East Special Teams Player of the Week award in 2009.

Sailer was first introduced to Owens last summer at a regional Nike camp.

“You could see a kid who absorbed everything, wanted to learn and wanted to get better,” said Sailer, who ranked him just inside the top 15 of his class at that time.

Owens was called up to the Eagles’ varsity squad in a backup capacity late in his freshman year. As a sophomore, he went 3 for 4 on field goals with a long of 42 yards, and also saw extensive time at receiver and kick returner, compiling 590 all-purpose yards.

“We knew he’d be a very, very good kicker,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “Certainly, we’re going to try to use him as much as we can.”

Owens estimates his ultimate field-goal range has improved to about 50 yards, and puts his kickoff ability at just over 70. Sailer backed up both figures.

“He’s small in stature,” Sailer said of the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Owens, “but what he has going for himself in terms of athleticism, mental toughness and intangibles — those are all things college coaches really enjoy. I see no reason why he won’t stay in the top five nationally.

“There’s no reason why — if he continues to work hard — that he won’t be a Division I kicker.”

Emphasizing muscle memory has been among the main focuses of the camp thus far, Owens said. The camp is also meant to acclimate kickers to competitive, pressure-packed settings.

“I love the pressure of coming out here and kicking with the best of the best,” Owens said.

For Central Coast hopefuls hours removed from the state’s far more populated areas that are more consistently perused by scouts, such summer showcases have become arguably as important as the games themselves in marketing oneself.

At least two other San Luis Obispo County stars have also drawn high-profile praise of late due to their summer showings.

Templeton senior-to-be linebacker Tyler Gray is currently ranked as the No. 31 linebacker recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, which has him as the No. 52 player in the state regardless of position.

The 6-3, 215-pound Gray was a Tribune all-county first-team honoree defensively as a junior after racking up 116 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions returned for 71 yards and two touchdowns.

Also this summer, Arroyo Grande junior-to-be Seth Jacobs, a 6-2, 190-pound safety, was called by Scout.com “one of the top prospects in Golden State’s 2012 class.” He earned all-county honorable mention status as a sophomore, making 32 tackles and returning two interceptions for 30 yards.

“In the last three to five years, there has been a tremendous upswing as far as how many (summer camps) are being offered,” Goossen said. “I truly believe kids will be found (by recruiters) if they never attend a camp. If you have talent, you’re going to be found. However, exposure is always good. The more people see you, the more chances you have.”

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