East Lake's Daniel LaCamera isn't your normal, run of the mill high school football kicker.
At 6-4 225 pounds, he easily could be mistaken for a linebacker, defensive end or even a power forward for the Eagles basketball team. Yet with that body type LaCamera actually played soccer from the time he was 7 years old and has been a member of a local club soccer team up until this year.
The 16-year old spent time in, of all places, Milwaukee and Whitewater, Wisconsin the last two summers. There are no relatives to visit there and he doesn't have an affinity for the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team. LaCamera was invited to Wisconsin to participate in the Kohl's Professional Kicking Camp.
This past July when Max Preps released their 2013 Florida All-State Preseason Team, it was a no-brainer that Eagle seniors wide receiver Artavis Scott (Clemson) and offensive lineman Mason Cole (Michigan) were on there. The last player listed for the offense was the kicker and it too was an Eagle player: LaCamera, the only junior to make the team. The other 28 players were all seniors.
Last year as a sophomore when Scott and Cole were getting all the publicity, LaCamera was ever so quietly making the Eagles sound in the kicking game. LaCamera converted on 92% of his extra points, made 10 of 14 field goal attempts, 20 of his 34 kickoffs went for touchbacks and scored 65 points. The impressive numbers placed him on the All-County second team.
"The 42-yard field goal against Clearwater was probably the highlight of the year for me," LaCamera said after practice earlier this week.
It was in the eight grade when LaCamera started getting serious about kicking in football. After so many seasons with the club soccer team LaCamera gave it up this year to concentrate on kicking the pigskin.
"You can train (to kick) everyday," said LaCamera. "You shouldn't kick everyday. The days when I don't kick I (work out) to strengthen my legs and do core exercises."
The daily workout routine to develop his kicking abilities and improve his body were forged in LaCamera while attending kicking camps and working one-on-one with seasoned kicking instructors. Kohl's kicking camp, started by kicking brothers Jamie and Andy, and the camp run by Tom Feely, the father of NFL kicker Jay Feely, have given LaCamera an incredible amount of confidence. His punting ability has also improved dramatically working locally with Santiago Gramatica, the former USF and Arena League kicker.
"It was difficult in the beginning. It wasn't fun," said LaCamera. "But nothing comes without hard work."
The most noticeable improvement LaCamera has made from the camps is his foot-to-ball placement. Knowing exactly where on the ball the foot should strike for punts, kickoffs, extra points and field goals has made a tremendous difference.
By no means is LaCamera a Youtube sensation but his video highlight reel on the Kohl's camp website is impressive. His form, particularly on his punts, looks like that of an NFL player. Field goals from 40-plus yards and kickoff that are inside the 5-yard line are also shown.
Friday when the Eagles open the season at Palm Harbor all eyes will be on Scott and Cole, the two Eagle players bound of division 1.
At first spectators will notice East Lake's kicker just because of his size. They'll look at LaCamera with even more appreciation when he kicks.