Clemson kicker Greg Huegel talks about staying calm in pressure situations
Greg Huegel went from walk-on to all-conference performer during his career at Clemson.
Huegel, nicknamed “Ice Cold” for his ability to handle pressure situations from his days at Blythewood High School, will play his final college game Monday when Clemson takes on Alabama in the national championship game.
“I have worked with over 200 players in the Carolinas and Greg’s story is one I always tell kids,” kicking coach Dan Orner said. “He was initially turned down because of numbers and willing to do anything, and that was most impressive about him. The cards were stacked against him, nothing was given to him and he ran with it. He was a true workhorse.”
Orner, who is based out of Charlotte, N.C., worked with Huegel during his high school days and some more while he was in Clemson. One thing that stood our early about Huegel was his ability to kick right off the ground and not need a tee, he said.
“I would say he wasn’t a kid with a monster leg,” Orner said. “He was so consistent and had a great work ethic. It was like he hit a nice 3-wood off the tee and hit it down the middle each time.”
Huegel almost didn’t end up at Clemson. He initially accepted a walk-on opportunity at Auburn, but a coaching change there ended that chance. So the Blythewood standout joined his sister as a student at Clemson.
Still, Huegel continued to practice his kicking and Orner remembers former Clemson kicker Bradley Pinion working him on his punting. But it is Huegel’s field-goal kicking abilities that have been at the forefront of his career at Clemson.
He walked on to the team and took over kicking duties in 2015 when Ammon Lakip served a suspension and Huegel never looked back. He had a school-record 138 points that season and became the first Clemson player to earn All-American honors as a walk-on.
This season, he became just the sixth Clemson player to have more than 300 points in his career and holds the school record for PATs in a career.
“If I went back in time and saw myself whenever I was a senior in high school, and I told him everything I’ve gone through, there’s no way that I would believe a single word,” Huegel told reporters last week. “Just because of the journey I’ve gone through. Working every single day on kicking and in the weight room was what I had to do to make that dream happen. It’s really cool and an absolute blessing. I thank God every day for the experience.”
Huegel missed most of last season after tearing his ACL at the end of practice. Orner remembers getting the phone call from the kicker in the training room after it happened.
Huegel returned this year and earned second-team all-ACC honors. He is 10-of-15 on field goals and 71-of-72 on extra points with his lone miss coming last week against Notre Dame. Earlier this year, he appealed to the NCAA for a medical redshirt and sixth year eligibility for next season but that was denied.
Huegel needs one more extra point to break his own school record he set back in 2016 when Clemson won the national championship. He recovered the onside kick to seal the Tigers’ win over Alabama in the national title game.
“Last year was definitely a tough time. He called me and said, ‘I’m going to come back better than before,’ ” Orner said. “He didn’t seem affected. He has really looked better.”
Midlands title game connections
Greg Huegel (Blythewood) – Senior is 10-of-15 on field goals and 71-of-72 on extra points this season
Denzel Johnson (AC Flora) – Defensive back has 40 tackles and three pass break ups
Patrick McClure (Ben Lippen) – Walk-on quarterback appeared in one game this season
Marquis Sease (Swansea) – Offensive lineman appeared in one game this season
Cannon Smith (Hammond) – Tight end has played in every game this season and has three catches for 34 yards
Jalen Williams (Blythewood) – Linebacker had 19 tackles and one pass break-up
Christian Miller (Spring Valley) – Senior has 36 tackles, 11 ½ tackles for loss and 8 ½ sacks this season.