Baylor's Star Kicker Started Out On Soccer Field

Sunday, October 2, 2011 - by John Shearer
Henrique Ribeiro
Henrique Ribeiro
- photo by Eddie Davis

When Baylor School kicker Henrique Ribeiro was growing up in Brazil, he saw films on the United States and American football games.

However, he never pictured himself wearing a uniform with all the pads.

With the accomplishments he has already experienced after becoming involved with the Baylor team basically by chance last fall, plenty of people may be watching him on future films and TV broadcasts as a college kicker.

The senior from Sao Paulo had a 57-yard field goal at Bradley Central on Aug. 26, and against rival McCallie on Sept. 23, he made a 52-yarder that cleared the bar with as much space as one usually sees on a PAT.

And Friday night at Brentwood Academy, he had a chance to tie the game late with a 54-yard attempt, but the kick fell just a little short. As a result, top-ranked Baylor lost its first game of the season after six straight wins.

Ribeiro has been like an additional weapon on both offense and defense, as most of his kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks as well and forced the opponents to start a drive at their own 20-yard line.

“He has made a big difference in our team this year,” said Baylor coach Phil Massey. “I’ve been coaching 26 years and he’s by far the strongest kicker I’ve had.

“And he’s a great kid. He’s adapted really well.”

For Ribeiro, the experience has been almost surreal.

“It’s been fun and very exciting,’ he said. “I never pictured myself wearing a football uniform.”

Ribeiro had learned about Baylor through a mutual acquaintance of both one of his parents and Red Raider boys’ soccer coach Curtis Blair.

A goalie in soccer, he was at the age where he would have to start playing for a club team in Brazil and practicing twice a day and going to night school, all with the hopes of becoming a pro.

Ribeiro said he felt making the pro soccer level in Brazil might be hard, and he was not sure he wanted to quit going to school during the day. So when he heard about Baylor, he and his family thought that might be a good opportunity for him to continue going to a regular school and playing soccer competitively.

And the fact that he already spoke English well, despite Portuguese being the national language in Brazil, made the transition easier.

But what he did not expect was also to immerse himself fully in another aspect of American culture – football.

When he quietly arrived in the fall of 2010 as the latest of a number of South American students who have attended Baylor as boarding students dating back decades, he was a manager for the girls’ soccer team.

Even in that seemingly inconspicuous position, however, observers soon noticed how far he could kick a soccer ball. Word quickly spread around campus, and the football coaches invited him to try out as a kicker.

So after a weekend of kicking a football for the first time as part of a fun dorm activity, he tried out for the football team as a kicker in only his third week of being in school. A place was soon found for him, although it was still slightly inconspicuous.

“Last year I only did kickoffs and I thought that was going to be it for me,” he recalled with a laugh.

This year, he has done extra points – making 27 of 28 – in addition to kicking field goals, with former kicker Andy Priddy now handling the punting duties.

Ribeiro said he actually finds the field goals easier than the extra points.

“I get nervous more for the PATs than the long field goals,” he said, adding that he feels a stronger obligation to make those.

But when he attempts the field goals, opposing coaches are the ones likely getting nervous.

Ribeiro said that when he tries a field goal or extra point, he simply imagines that he is at practice with no one else there.

The technique has apparently worked, as after the 57-yarder at Bradley, Ribeiro’s reputation quickly reached almost legendary status. And word of his skills has now spread to a number of colleges.

“He’s getting a little attention from the schools now,” said coach Massey. “That will continue to pick up once the word gets out about him.”

Coach Massey said he first asked Ribeiro if he were interested in playing college football before talking with the coaches. However, Ribeiro jokingly said his coach has not yet shared with him all the schools interested to keep him focused on Baylor’s season.

But Ribeiro is interested in receiving a football offer.

“That would be good,” he said.

While the Baylor kicker now knows plenty about American football and the passion people have for it, he admits it is still different from soccer in Brazil, which has been as successful on the world stage over the last few decades as the New York Yankees have been in baseball.

“Soccer in Brazil doesn’t compare to any sport in America,” he said. “Here you have seasons. In Brazil, soccer is year-round.”

Despite the differences in the sports, he is enjoying being in the United States and has admittedly found his place at Baylor, and not just on the football or soccer fields.

“I’m glad I came here,” he said. “It was a good choice. I get to meet all these new people and friends from all over the place.

“It’s a wide range of people I would have never met. I think the people are the best part about coming to Baylor.”

Taking aim
Taking aim
- Photo2 by Eddie Davis

Moc Golfers Fifth At Palmetto Intercollegiate

The Chattanooga Mocs women’s golf team is in fifth place at the Palmetto Intercollegiate. Monday’s 299 (+11) gives the Mocs a two-day total of 591 (+15) with 18 holes to play at Turtle Point in the Kiawah Island Resort.   Sophomore Monica San Juan followed up yesterday’s 70 with a 73. Her 1-under total of 143 is tied for second, one shot off the pace set by Coastal Carolina’s ... (click for more)

Bagley, Davis Garner National Recognition

A pair of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football student-athletes garnered national recognition for their performances against VMI over the weekend.  Junior Richardre Bagley ran for a career-high 189 yards while senior Keionta Davis tied his best mark with 3.0 sacks in the Mocs' 30-13 win. Bagley filled in for injured starter Derrick Craine and had an outstanding ... (click for more)

Howard Simmons, 47, Shot And Killed In St. Elmo Monday Morning; Police Interview Person Of Interest

Howard Simmons, 47, was shot and killed in St. Elmo Monday morning. Police said they had interviewed a person of interest in the slaying. Chattanooga Police at 8:30 a.m. responded to a person shot at the 5000 block of Florida Ave. Upon police arrival the victim, Simmons, had already succumbed to his injuries. Ms. Simmons suffered at least one gunshot wound. At this time ... (click for more)

Erlanger To Open Cancer Center On Gunbarrel Road At East Campus

Work is set to begin soon on construction of a new Cancer Center by Erlanger Health System at its Gunbarrel Road East Campus. Erlanger is joining with a development firm, Chatt East 3 LLC of Alabama, on the four-story project located just south of Women's East Hospital on a wooded five-acre tract. Erlanger will be leasing the bottom three floors at a rate of $16.05 per square ... (click for more)

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Picture a sold-out baseball game at Wrigley Field or Nationals Park packed with 40,000 fans. That image represents roughly the same number of women and men who die from breast cancer each year.  In Tennessee alone, an estimated 900 women will die from the disease in 2016. It is a sad statistic, but there is some good news: thanks to early detection and improved treatments, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Testerman Forum

I badly misjudged how long it would take me to do my “early voting.” I was in-and-out in no time so I got to the Hamilton County School Board’s agenda meeting well enough beforehand to have an “educational forum” with board member David Testerman. If you haven’t noticed, forums and summits and “community enlightenment” groups are the new rage and, as my friend David laughed, “They ... (click for more)