For a professional football team, a kicker can often prove to be the decisive edge that allows a team to win a close game. On the other hand, fans of six and eight-man football aren't used to seeing much in the way of kicking other than kickoffs and punts -- field goals and point after touchdown kicks? Forget about it. However, an exchange student is changing that for Joseph Eagles fans.
Federico Buoncompagni, from a small community on the east coast of Italy, about the same size as his temporary adopted Joseph home, can often be seen doing his soccer-style kicks for PATs and the occasional field goal.
He became interested in volunteering as an exchange student after an AFS (formerly American Field Service) presentation at his school.
"My father came to listen to the presentation and asked me if I wanted this experience," Buoncampagni said. "I said, 'I'll try.'" He lives in the home of Randy and Jeni Greenshields.
"She (Jeni Greenshields) said that a lot of exchange students played football, and everybody had fun," Buoncampagni said.
Buoncompagni didn't grow up playing or watching American football of course. Like most Europeans, he plays and follows soccer or Rugby. Even then, he didn't come by his skills as a star offensive player, although he said he was a good defensive player.
"I don't kick in Italy," he said. "I play center back."
He didn't really know what to expect when he started practice, but he laughingly described his first efforts as, "very bad." But he also kept improving. He now sometimes plays running back in addition to his kicking duties.
"I'm quite fast," he said without a hint of braggadocio. Kicking is his favorite part of football.
As some Eagles players run to get some water, Buoncompagni doesn't get a chance to answer if his teammates were surprised at his kicking ability.
"Not really," a teammate said. "Look at his legs." The exchange student also noted that the spirit of camaraderie is similar in American football and Italian Soccer.
Will he play other sports?
"This winter, I'll play basketball and after that, track," he said.
In the meantime, he's enjoying his stay.
"I like it here," he said. "I'll come back. I don't know when -- maybe on a vacation."
Coach Duncan Christman said that Buoncompagni is a great addition to the team and is happy to have him. He said that with some training in kicking the American football, Buoncampagni is barely missing 50-yard field goals.
"He surprises us every day, and he's taking to American football more and more," he said. "Federico's our second-team running back and on our games when we're a bit ahead, he plays second-team defensive back."