Ask John Carpenter a question – almost any question – and the William & Mary kicker’s deadpan, self-deprecating personality shines like a flashlight through a paper towel.
How often do his parents see him play?
“They come to Williamsburg a lot, but they don’t always come here to watch me play,” he said in mock seriousness about Robert and Judith (Spooner), both ’83. “They just really like Williamsburg.”
Does he have a favorite Homecoming memory?
“No,” he answered, shaking his head. “Not yet. I guess this is the year.”
What is his range on field goals?
“The usual answer I give is ‘whatever Coach (Jimmy) Laycock wants it to be,’” he answered.
He went on to explain that at halftime against Stony Brook, he was lined up 63 yards “and hitting it pretty well.”
“But when I had two chances to hit from 51 yards during the game, I missed one right and one left.”
Nonetheless, he has already kicked a career-long 49-yarder this season against Lafayette.
Does he have a particular ball he kicks during games?
“No, but we have a bit of a reputation for stealing everyone else’s balls in practice,” he said, this time unable to suppress a laugh. “One of the first things I learned in a kicking camp at West Virginia was from a guy named Paul Woodside. He realized we didn’t have any balls, so he said, ‘We’re going to learn something today, and it’s a most valuable skill: How to steal the quarterback’s balls.’”
What Carpenter does seriously well is kick the football. Third-team all-Colonial Athletic Association last season after leading the Tribe in scoring with 72 points, Carpenter already has punched through 11 field goals and all 12 of his extra points. With 29 career field goals, he ranks eighth on W&M’s list in career field goals made.
That’s quite a journey for a former high school soccer player who, together with friends, decided they would try out for football in the ninth grade. Carpenter quickly emerged as the best kicker in the group.
Recently, Carpenter was informed that he is a nominee for the Fred Mitchell Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate kicker among the more than 750 Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, III, NAIA and NJCAA football teams.
For the unfamiliar, Mitchell is a long-time Chicago Tribune sports columnist who enjoyed a distinguished career as one of the nation’s first prominent small-college kicking specialists at Wittenberg University in the late 1960s. Among his many other achievements, Mitchell presented Wilson Sporting Goods with the idea for a net that could be placed on the sidelines and would allow a team’s kickers to practice and keep warm during games.
The winner is chosen by a distinguished committee that includes former Tribe football coach Marv Levy. Nominees are judged on their football performance, but also their work in the classroom and the community.
He has been named to the CAA’s Academic All-Conference team the last two years, been a member of the Dean’s List and has been nominated for the National Football Foundation’s national scholar-athlete award. Carpenter also volunteered with Team Apple, HOPE (Health Outreach Peer Education) and Beta Theta Pi fraternity.
Among the issues HOPE tackles, Carpenter said, “is how to be a good bystander.”
“When you see things transpiring that you could do something about but are not sure, we teach people how to get involved in situations that could go somewhere you don’t want it to go," he said. "A lot of times as a bystander, we can defuse a situation if we know how.”
While HOPE also deals with alcohol and substance abuse within the university community, Team Apple is more focused on the issue among student-athletes.
“Even things like caffeine and coffee,” he said. “How they affect day-to-day life, how you can better yourself (by not abusing) alcohol or by not using caffeine because of what that can actually do to mental and physical performance. Especially where that’s involved in sports.
“For me that has a greater significance because when you talk about athletes we aren’t just concerned about schoolwork. We’re also very concerned about our athletic performance and the effect that substances can have on athletic performance, positive or negative. It can be really important.”
Carpenter will graduate in December with degrees in philosophy and religious studies. Soon after that, he’s getting married to a W&M graduate now in medical school in Charlottesville. In August, Carpenter will begin graduate school and the road to becoming a college professor – unless the pros come looking.
Does he have any indication there is interest?
“I have absolutely no indication there is interest,” he said, offering a smile that led you to believe it really didn’t matter all that much.