October 3, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 21  

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Pikula back kicking the snot out of football

By Alison Stolz
Gazette Staff

After not playing for an entire season, Western Mustangs kicker/punter Rob Pikula has already made a great comeback this year.

In the first quarter of the very first game of the 2002 season, Pikula unfortunately broke his leg playing against Windsor. He was running down the field in hopes to score a touchdown and was tackled from behind. The irony of his injury is that his father, also a former varsity football player at the University of Waterloo, busted his own knee in a game against Windsor.

Pikula was unable to play the rest of what was going to be his second season for the Mustangs. He went through extensive physical therapy, which proved to be a success. He resumed training in the summer months and was strong and ready to return for Western in 2003.

"My feeling for football never changed, I love the sport. But [the injury is] always in the back of my mind. I just hope something like that doesn't happen again," Pikula says. "It means a lot to me [being a part of the Western football team]. Only a selected few get to play for the Mustangs. It's a really great experience that I didn't want to give up... one that I will cherish forever," Pikula adds.

During rehabilitation, Pikula kept up his spirits knowing he could make a turnaround and earn his spot back on the Mustangs.

"Everyone was really supportive and confident about me. They all said not to worry and that I would be able to come back and get in there."

Pikula has been playing football since he was 10 years old. He played many other sports throughout his high school career, but football stuck.

"Playing on a team is something I really liked," Pikula explains. "I played lots of individual sports, but playing football with a team means a lot more, especially when you win stuff you can celebrate with the team."

Pikula realizes there is a lot of extra pressure on the kicker, but enjoys the thrill of it. He played other positions when he was younger, including running back, but decided on kicking for the Mustangs.

"I played soccer my entire life and when I came here I was only 150 lb." Pikula says. "I was way too small to play anything else, so I just decided to kick. That's where I excelled."

"Rob is a natural kicker, he is very aware on the field and he can run too," says teammate Sean Dutton. "He is a threat to other teams, because they don't know if he is going to kick or run."

"Kicking is a pressure position." Pikula explains. "It's important just to stay calm and tell yourself you are going to make the kick. You have to be in your own place and not let anything interfere."

In this season's five Mustang games, Pikula has beaten his 2001 personal record in rushing with 10 yards over his 8 from his first season. As well, his punting average has increased to 40.45 yards from his previous 38.2 yard record. It appears Pikula will increase most of his statistics if he continues to keep up his current pace.

He is currently sitting at a 95 per cent convert average, attempting 20 thus far and making 19. In his 28 kickoffs he has totalled 1,157 yards, with his longest kick being 75 yards. He has punted a total of 31 times and gained 1,254 yards, a long of 70 yards.

"He means a lot to the team, especially being on special teams," Dutton says. "With kickers, they need to be able to get the ball in deep. We need a good field position and he gives it to us."

On his 14 attempted field goals this year, Pikula has made eight, with his longest being 34 yards. However, according to him, he would really like to improve on his precision.

"I am pretty happy with how I am kicking right now, but I want to improve my field goal accuracy and come out on top this year."

Pikula's goals are quite similar to most athletes at the varsity level; he wants to make All-Canadian. He is intent on working just as hard in football as in academics and has plans to apply for teachers college. He also plans on continuing with football and quite possibly making it to the next stage of football.

"I hope to play the next level up, that being the [Canadian Football League], so if that works out I will definitely do that."





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