With a thud and the crack of bone, Sean Koetting’s hopes of playing college soccer vanished. He had no clue that a sport he had never tried would ultimately replace the one he’d played his entire life.
Koetting was a senior at Rock Bridge High in Columbia when he attempted a bicycle kick during a 2016 soccer practice. He launched himself in the air, foot searching for ball, and fell on his left arm. As soon as he landed, he knew his elbow was broken.
Earlier that season, Koetting had missed two and a half weeks because of a torn meniscus, and he ultimately needed Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow. The injuries left him with little hope that large colleges would continue to recruit him.
Two years removed from his senior soccer season, Koetting is on the Mizzou football team as a backup kicker. He made his debut in the Tigers’ season opener against Tennessee Martin — the first football game of his life.
“You see a lot of guys that play soccer that come over and kick for the (high school football) team,” special teams coordinator Andy Hill said. “But not a lot of guys can make the transition from not playing at all (to) then being fairly successful in college.”
A few Division II schools recruited Koetting for soccer before his injuries, and he took an official visit to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. He said he even had a bit of Division I interest.
Koetting waited until after his senior season to get elbow surgery, and he helped Rock Bridge to a third-place finish in the state tournament. He wore an arm-length cast during the playoffs.
When his injuries kept him out of soccer practice, Koetting would work on kicking with the Rock Bridge football team. His leg impressed interim coach Joe Collier.
“The football coach, when I was jacking around with them, was like, ‘Wow, he can kind of kick,’” Koetting said.
Though Koetting ultimately did not join Rock Bridge’s football team — the school trainer advised against it — Collier mentioned his name to Mizzou recruiting coordinator A.J. Ofodile, the former Bruins football coach. Koetting sent kicking film to Ofodile and earned a spot on the Tigers’ 2017 roster.
Ofodile had actually worked with Koetting well before the 2017 season. The coach was Koetting’s homeroom teacher when the kicker was an underclassman, and the two also got to know each other in strength training class.
“He started off as this little guy, and then he kept growing and growing and growing,” Ofodile said.
Now the kicker stands at 6-foot-3 and is listed at 220 pounds. He’s joined a tight-knit unit of Missouri’s specialists, and his dance moves make appearances on punter Corey Fatony’s Instagram story every Thursday.
With Mizzou up 34 over Tennessee-Martin in the fourth quarter, Koetting trotted onto Faurot Field for a 33-yard field-goal attempt. The redshirt freshman frequently went to Tigers games growing up and said he had always joked that he could convert field goals. Now he had his chance.
The snap to holder Barrett Bannister was good, and Koetting lofted the ball through the uprights. His conversion rate still stands at 100 percent — he hasn’t attempted a field goal since.
Koetting beamed after the play ended, and a senior manager celebrated with him on the sideline. Hill said the kick marked a good end to a positive day for the Tigers: a football rookie had just converted his first-ever in-game kick.
“I thought it was hilarious,” Koetting said, “because when has that ever happened?”