Scott Puschell, undeterred
While a student at Ferrum College, it wasn’t a surprise to his peers that Scott Puschell played football.
They just couldn’t figure out which position.
At 6-foot-4 and over 250 pounds, he often would be asked if he was a offensive lineman.
After the icebreaking laughs, he smiled and revealed he was the Panthers’ starting kicker.
And an award-winning kicker that almost didn’t go to the private school close to the North Carolina border.
The Chantilly, V.A. native wasn’t initially drawn to Ferrum. In fact, fellow USA South conference competitor Shenandoah initially had his interest, as he knew the kicking coach there. But his visit to Ferrum all but sealed the deal.
“Ferrum had my major (computer information systems) and the campus just felt like home,” Puschell said. “Coach (Dave) Harper went to my high school as well.”
It was Davis and his successor, Dave Harper, who both preached a similar message of emphasizing academics as well as athletics. Neither were shy about disciplining players that didn’t maintain their grades.
“Even if you were a starter, it didn’t matter,” Puschell said. “We had weekly report cards to do and if you weren’t doing well in class, you’d sit for a game. Either a series, a quarter, or the whole game.”
This environment was good for Puschell coming out of high school. The admitted C-student barely had the grades and SAT scores to make it to the Division II level after playing for one of Virginia’s Division 6A competitors. With this communal focus on academics, he turned that part of his life around, making the USA South Academic All-Conference Team his junior and senior year and graduated Cum Laude having made the Dean’s List multiple times.
Before knocking footballs through the uprights, Puschell spent most of his formative years playing soccer. He initially tried out for youth football as a lineman but ended up following his brother around, who was a kicker. With solid leg strength from soccer, he slowly made the transition to placekicking, striving to improve as much as possible.
“When we were given helmets, I was one of the last ones,” Puschell said. “I ended up with a lineman’s helmet that has a bar down the middle. Not the best for kicking but kind of provided a crosshair for me while aiming.”
Aiming isn’t the hardest part of kicking, he explained. It’s immensely more mental toughness than physical strength that keeps kickers on track.
“You go out there, you got to be flatline,” he said. “You have to stay in the middle…be as calm as possible. Every kick’s its own kick. It’s kind of like being a pitcher in baseball.”
This mentality came to help Puschell as he made his transition from the prep to college level. He missed out on Chantilly’s state championship bid as a sophomore due to injury, but came back to start his junior and senior seasons. He had the experience and mentality to perform well for Ferrum.
And perform well he did.
He made All-Conference 2nd Team as a freshman by finishing 32 of 33 on PATs, best in conference, and second in conference in field goals made with seven. Ferrum averaged 26.5 points per game, second in conference, and Puschell did what he could to keep the scoring up while maintaining the team mentality.
“Without the long snapper, I don’t get the ball,” Puschell said. “Without the holder, it’s not there for me to kick. Without the line protecting me, someone would probably block (a kick). It’s always a whole team effort.”
His effort for the team only improved with time, as he finished his college career with a perfect 41 for 41 mark on extra points in his 2012 senior season. That effort, along with seven made field goals, earned him USA South All-Conference honorable mention.
“I didn’t really think about it too much at all,” he said. “I just did my best to try and make it. Always be smooth and true, keep your head down and go along with it.”
His senior year had many true and smooth performances, especially in the 51-35 win over N.C. Wesleyan. He knocked through six extra points and made field goals from 44, 29, and 32 yards out.
With his time in college finished, Puschell looked to semi-pro and flag football leagues as tune ups before heading to the National Scouting Combine as well as honing his craft. He recently performed well in a tryout with the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League, going 4 for 4 on PATs and 4 for 4 on field goals. Seeing as he’s married with a two-year-old son, Liam, he has to stay locally in the Washington, D.C. area for his family.
But that doesn’t mean the Chantilly kid has lost any of his determination, grit or focus.
“I don’t make excuses. I put in effort to make the time to do whatever is needed,” Puschell said.
His daily schedule consists of getting up at 4:30 a.m. to get to work by 6 a.m. He leaves after a full shift and goes kicking at a local high school, teaching some of the prep players before putting in some personal practice. After a few hours, he heads home to be a present part of his young family. And repeat.
He’s been a helpful part of the Beyond Sports Network as well, widening the reach of the brand to help athletes of all ages. The true happiness in his voice when talking of helping local high school players shines through, even over the phone.
Whether he’s at work, home or on the football field, Scott Puschell brings his focused, tough attitude wherever he goes.
And as the records show from each level of competition, success is only a matter of time.