Camas kicking and punting phenom Bryce Leighton has been selected as one of the top 100 high school football players in the country.
The Camas High senior will get a chance to show the entire nation his punting ability on national television during the Under Armour All-America Game, to be held Jan. 2, 2020, in Orlando, Florida, and broadcast on the ESPN2 channel.
It is the first time in history that a Camas player has been selected for the Under Armour All-America honors and Leighton said he’s thrilled.
“I’m really excited. It’s so cool (the Camas football team is) getting that recognition on a national level because we really are a great program that puts in a lot of work,” Leighton said after the Papermakers’ 65-7 win over Heritage at Doc Harris Stadium on Friday, Oct. 4. Leighton didn’t get a chance to punt in the game against Heritage, but he had quite a kicking workout in the rout over the Timberwolves, kicking seven extra points, a 31-yard field goal and kickoffs every few minutes throughout the night. The longest field goal kick of his career was 47 yards during a 2018 game against Bothell. He had a chance to beat that record late in the game against Heritage when Camas head football coach Jon Eagle gave Leighton the green light to try a 53-yarder, but a Timberwolf managed to partially block the ball on its way up.
“I’m mad about that because I was thinking I needed more time to set up, but I took way too long. I had plenty of leg but waited too long to kick it. I do feel bad for that guy that got a piece of it. Man, that had to hurt,” Leighton said of his semi-blocked kick.
The win against Heritage capped off a very special day for the kicking and punting specialist who has already committed to punt and kick for Montana State University. It all started in the morning with a packed pep assembly in the Camas High School gymnasium, where Leighton was honored for his All-America selection. During the rally, Eagle presented Leighton with the game jersey he will wear in the Jan. 2 All-America game.
“It meant so much that coach gave it to me like that. It was cool seeing the whole school get loud and cheer,” Leighton said.
The momentum carried over to the homecoming game against Heritage, which was never in question as the Camas train rolled over the Timberwolves and pushed the Papermakers’ record to a perfect 5-0.
From futbol to football
Raised in Camas by parents who are both teachers, Leighton played soccer for nine years before trying out for football in eighth grade.
“My buddies and I started playing around with a football, and they noticed I kept kicking it instead of throwing it and they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you tryout for football?'” Leighton said. Kicking and punting quickly became a passion and now Leighton enjoys spending long hours refining his craft.
“He’s kind of a lone wolf, trains mostly on his own,” Eagle said of Leighton.
Over the past few years, Leighton started looking to some of the top kicking experts in the country by attending Kohl’s Kicking Academy, an organization that holds kicking and punting camps and caters to top kicking prospects. According to the organization’s website, 43 Kohl’s athletes started in NFL regular season games in 2018.
The Kohl’s Kicking Academy currently ranks Leighton as the No. 2 high school kicker in the nation.
In addition to Kohl’s, Leighton now trains year-round with a local kicking coach not connected to the Camas football program. Ironically, that coach is Daron Alcorn, a special teams coach for the Papermakers’ biggest rivals, the Union Titans in Vancouver.
“It’s pretty funny really, but he’s (Alcorn) helped me a lot with refining my technique,” Leighton said.
Looking forward to his future at Montana State, where he plans to major in environmental engineering, Leighton said he fell in love with the school and the town of Bozeman, Montana during a visit over the summer. It wasn’t long before he received an offer from Montana State, but he also got a similar offer from Washington State University.
“I’m not one of those guys who needs to go to a big school. Montana State has everything I could ever want. It’s just awesome,” Leighton said.
His Camas teammate, Rush Reimer, also has committed to play for Montana State.
While Leighton couldn’t be more excited about his upcoming college adventure, his focus now is helping the Papermakers bring another state championship to town.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Camas is just a great place.”