Neither athlete will pass the proverbial eyeball test, not even for a backyard football game on Thanksgiving.
But they don’t have to. Size, bulk and power are not what define Andrew Endicott and Thomas Sperbeck in shoulder pads. It’s their hands, feet and determination that make them standout college football players.
Both are basking in their senior seasons as paramount figures for teams that are a combined 10-2 and ranked in the top 15 with bowl-game aspirations: Endicott, a kicker for Wisconsin, and Sperbeck, a wide receiver for Boise State.
I know if I’m ever put in a situation where I’m meant to make some big kicks, I’m ready to make those. Hopefully prove my importance to the team.
Andrew Endicott, Wisconsin kicker
If the former Jesuit High School teammates maintain their production, their football careers could continue on Sunday afternoons in the NFL.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Endicott was a kickoff specialist his first three seasons for No. 10 Wisconsin, where the former walk-on earned a scholarship last fall. And don’t tell a kicker he’s not a player or an athlete.
Endicott made 13 tackles on kickoffs during his first three seasons, a red-clad, ball-hawking missile zeroing in on return men.
Pressed into field-goal duty because of injury this season, Endicott hasn’t missed a beat, going 4 for 4. He made field goals of 46, 32 and 22 yards to help the Badgers take a 16-6 lead over No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday before the Buckeyes prevailed 30-23 in overtime.
“I think any kicker at any program plays a very important role,” Endicott told sconniesportstalk.com last week. “In low-scoring games, the importance of any kicker is glaringly apparent. I know if I’m ever put in a situation where I’m meant to make some big kicks, I’m ready to make those. Hopefully prove my importance to the team.”
Sperbeck played quarterback at Jesuit, where he loved the pressure that came with the position. But he knew his best shot of making an impact for a college team was as a wide receiver. He eagerly made the transition and has flourished.
Last year, the 6-foot, 180-pound Sperbeck set Boise State’s season record for receiving yards with 1,412 and tied the school’s reception record with 88, leading the Mountain West Conference in both categories.
You go out there and you watch him, and he’s just so versatile and athletic, and he’s got amazing hands.
Zak Hill, Boise State co-offensive coordinator, on wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck
Sperbeck is 34 yards shy of breaking Boise State’s career receiving yardage record of 3,063, set by Titus Young. He’ll get his opportunity Thursday on national TV when the Broncos host BYU on their famed blue turf.
“Certainly he’s a guy that when he does (break the record), he’s deserving of it,” Broncos coach Bryan Harsin told Boise State media last week. “He’s been productive, he’s been consistent, he’s been out there in each of the games and has been able to sustain himself throughout the seasons. That’s a big part of it. Not everybody can do that.”
Sperbeck has been durable, partly because he’s tough and elusive, a Wes Welker sort. And the 5-9, 185-pound Welker, a longtime NFL wide receiver, never passed the look test, either.
“Thomas is one of those guys that you look at and you’re like, ‘He’s our leading receiver from last year?’ ” first-year Boise State co-offensive coordinator Zak Hill told the Idaho Press-Tribune. “I was talking to ( wide receivers coach Junior) Adams, and Sperbeck was in his office, and he’s like, ‘This is our leading receiver, Thomas Sperbeck,’ and you’re like, ‘Really? OK.’ ”
Hill soon learned Sperbeck makes plays. He has 38 receptions for 701 yards and six touchdowns this season. And the arm still works, too. Sperbeck has passed for two touchdowns in 2016.
“You go out there and you watch him, and he’s just so versatile and athletic, and he’s got amazing hands,” Hill said. “He runs great routes. He’s very savvy. He understands football. Looking at him, you’re not overly impressed with, ‘Holy cow, this is an NFL receiver.’ But again, he’s just one of those guys that’s very productive and knows football.”