High School Football

Leading the cheers: Airport High senior goes from cheerleader to clutch kicker

Airport High has enjoyed a strong line of kickers over the years in Kirk Burnett’s time at the school. Count senior Haden Rimer among the most unique.

Rimer spent the first half of his high school career as a member of the Eagles’ cheerleading squad. His duties on Friday nights once included holding a megaphone and getting the crowd hyped up. He also competed on the school’s competitive cheer squad that finished seventh in the state during his sophomore year.

After knee surgery before his junior season, Rimer decided to give football a try. He’s giving Airport fans plenty to cheer about, especially lately.

The senior kicker booted game-winning field goals in the final minutes the last two weeks for Airport, who are 6-2 after Thursday’s 37-12 win over Aiken. He was 3-of-3 last week against North Augusta, including the game-winner with two seconds left to give the Eagles a 30-29 win.

“We have always had good kickers here. Bryson Summers, my first kicker here, went on to kick at Presbyterian, and Austin Jordan went to The Citadel. Paxton Brooks was an All American,” Burnett said. “I don’t coach them, I just yell at them when they miss. Haden has been a part of a fine line of kickers at Airport.

“He was cheering in the playoffs a few years ago and we have been trying to get him out here forever. That’s an interesting little combination right there.”

Rimer played middle school football but was small and only played in the last game of the season.

Rimer’s sister was the captain of the cheerleading team when he was growing up, and he said always enjoyed doing jumps and flips on the trampoline.

He eventually made his way to the Eagles’ cheerleading squad and was on the team for two years. He said there was some backlash from students who gave him a hard time for being on the team.

“I got picked at a little” Rimer said.

Rimer said being a cheerleader did have some nerve-wracking moments and he remembers dropping a girl during a routine. (She was OK.)

“I almost cried, I felt so bad,” Rimer recalls of the incident.

Burnett was aware of Rimer’s abilities and then got a chance to see him kicking out on the field with Brooks, who is now at Tennessee, and Airport long snapper Robert Williams, a longtime friend of Rimer.

Burnett knew Airport would be in need of a kicker when Brooks graduated and Rimer has filled the role for the Eagles.

In the past two seasons, Rimer has hit four game-winning field goals and was an all-region selection last year. He also is the team’s punter.

“He is really a good athlete. We should play him at linebacker and running back because he is a good athlete,” Burnett said of Rimer. “But what he does on Friday night is good enough.”

Rimer said he occasionally will glance over at the cheerleaders on Friday night. Most of the time he will be working on his kicking and getting ready for moments like he has had the past two weeks.

Rimer said he still has nerves when he goes out there in big moments, but that’s all part of what goes on with being a kicker.

“This is what I am here for. I can either help my team out or screw ’em,” Rimer said. “But this is what I signed up for. It is not as much pressure as it repeats itself.. Definitely helps knowing that my team is behind me.”

Lou Bezjak is the High School Sports Prep Coordinator for The State and Island Packet. He has covered high school sports in South Carolina for 16 years and is a two-time South Carolina Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sports Media Association.