Some coaches are surprised to hear that this is the first year of high school football for Brookwood’s Erick Yang.
Yang is an overnight sensation for the Broncos, rapidly developing into one of the state’s top kickers within the short span of three months.
“Are you serious that he’s never played football before?” asked Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford.
“That dude can boom it. He is, by far, the best high school kicker that I’ve ever seen because of his length strength. He attacks the football, and it just explodes off his foot.”
Against Central Gwinnett, Yang booted three kickoffs out of the back of the end zone, including one that sailed through the goalposts.
Yang says he had never seen Brookwood’s football team play in a game — even as a fan — until he was wearing the Broncos uniform last August, kicking off against Walton at the Georgia Dome in the Corky Kell Classic.
“It was pretty exciting and nerve-racking at the same time,” Yang said.
Yang, who is one of the Gwinnett school’s top soccer players, went out for the football team as a senior because he heard they needed a kicker. He says he never really focused on kicking a football until tryouts this past summer.
“I kick a football the same way I kick a soccer ball. I’ve been playing soccer my whole life, so it was an easy thing for me,” Yang said.
Brookwood coach Mark Crews knew he had something special after observing only a few minutes of the tryout. With his future teammates watching on, Yang made six of seven field goals from distances ranging 25 and 45 yards.
“Eric has been kicking the football seriously for about seven to eight weeks,” said Crews in reflection. “In my 35 years of coaching, I’ve never seen someone kick it as far as he does.”
The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Yang blasts 60 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone, with Crews estimating “about a third” of them floating across the end line before they land. He’s 5-of-9 on field goals, including a 45-yard kick against Archer that would have been good from 60. Yang has converted 29 of 30 extra points.
“The kickoffs are huge because we play against teams with some awful good return guys,” Crews said. “That’s a big part of people’s games, and when you can take those returns out of the game, that’s big.”
For Brookwood, it’s double the emotional lift to score a touchdown and then line up for the ensuing kickoff, with Yang leading the way. “When the return guys are waiting for the ball to make a big play, and Erick kicks it 5 to 6 yards past the end line, that’s like an exclamation point on your score,” Crews said.
What is also unique about Yang is that he can kick with either foot. He is naturally right-footed and has made 60-yard field goals in practice. With his left foot, he can make 45-yarders. He has exclusively kicked right-footed in games, with the exception of a kickoff against Central Gwinnett that landed around the 15-yard line.
Crews thinks Yang has enough raw talent to earn a college football scholarship. Yang had dreams of playing soccer at the next level, but is open to opportunities in his new sport.
“I never knew football would be so much fun,” Yang said. “Yes, I’d love to play college football. I just find football more exciting than soccer. There are more people at the games, and I love the adrenaline rush.”