WILLIAMSBURG — It’s an important position that’s often overlooked by college aficionados. However, it’s a critical spot on the football team. A kicker must be calm, cool, collected, and, above all else, they must have a strong sense of what it takes to succeed.
Ethan Chang, the redshirt freshman kicker for William & Mary, fits the bill. The Falls Church, Va. native has been playing football since around the age of 12. By the time he reached high school, he was already training with kicking coaches and developing the fundamental skills that he still uses today at the university level.
“There was a bunch of different schools especially at the end of my recruitment that had made me offers and wanted me to go there,” said Chang. “I think William & Mary really stood out because of the excellent academics here. Also, it’s only about two hours from my home in Northern Virginia. So there are lots of people that I know that go here. Also, my family can come to games. I really like the coaches too. It’s just a great experience.”
The Tribe kicker has been able to deliver a very reliable performance so far this season. There have been games where a Chang field goal is the only addition to the scoreboard from both sides during an entire quarter. In close games, like last week’s 34-31 victory against Elon University, every additional point matters.
“I don’t really feel much pressure in any game or any situation. I haven’t really had the opportunity yet to try to win the game for us, but I don’t know if it will be any different then,” said Chang “I think with all the reps you get during practice and the trust you have in your teammates, and with the coaches, it all puts you in the right position to succeed. I don’t really get nervous. I don’t really feel much pressure. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
The Tribe’s record is now 3-1, which means the university’s team is off to its best four-game start since 2014. Chang credits his teammates with how successful they’ve been so far during the season. They not only provide him with opportunities to increase the margin but, on numerous occasions, the defense has been able to completely keep their opponents off the scoreboard.
“I think our defense has been playing great. Gage has like 3 interceptions already this year. The D line has been playing amazing,” said Chang. “You know, I can name all the different guys. Will Kiely, who’s had I don’t know how many tackles. Trey Watkins is in the center of our defense and he has really been paramount in our success I think.”
Chang is currently majoring at the university in Engineering Physics & Applied Design. He says it’s important for student-athletes to find a schedule where they can have not only a daily routine, but a weekly one as well. He focuses on his rigorous studies from Monday through Friday, but he says that on Saturdays, his only focus is the game.
“I think everybody has their own strengths, and I think engineering and physics always kind of clicked in my brain. When I committed here and signed here, I knew this is exactly what I wanted to do,” Chang said.
Every Saturday is considered a new fresh slate for college football players. This weekend is what some would consider a “big one”: William & Mary’s homecoming game against University at Albany. In Chang’s mind, it’s just another game.
“Nothing special this week. I mean, Albany is a good-looking team, but I think my responsibilities don’t change. I kick my kick-offs, kick some touchbacks, and make all my field goals. Kicker-wise, nothing really changes week to week,” said Chang. “I keep the same mentality you know. You can’t sleep on anybody. You have to keep working, and you can’t get lackadaisical at all. We’re getting some good guys back from injuries and stuff like that. So I’m feeling confident going into the game.”
As Chang prepares for the homecoming game he has a message for high school kickers who are thinking about trying to play at the next level.
“As a kicker, a lot of times recruitment can get pretty tough. There’s a lot of spots where maybe you feel like you’re overlooked, or you feel like you’re not getting the recognition you deserve but I think there is a plan for everyone,” said Chang. “Everything is going to work out just fine. I think college is a great gateway to success, and I think football is a great gateway to college. As far as kickers, or specialists in general, just try to focus on doing your part week in and week out for your high school team. Just know that your work will get recognized.”
“Come out to the homecoming game and go Tribe!” he said.