LAKE BUENA VISTA — On Friday, some of the top high school football players in the nation will announce their college destination on national television during the Under Armour All-America Game at Tropicana Field. Their decision will officially end the whirlwind courtship, the endless phone calls, the coaches' visits, the constant questions, the pressure.
For Tarpon Springs kicker Louis Zervos, the recruiting process is only beginning.
While most players selected for Friday's game have committed to a major Division I program or are mulling offers from several schools, Zervos has just one offer, from East Carolina. And that came two weeks ago, well after most players had already been courted.
"I'm pretty sure I'm the only player on either team in this game that has only one offer," Zervos said. "It's tough, but it's something I can't worry about."
Such is the life of a high school kicker aspiring to continue his craft at the Division I level. Most colleges offer limited scholarships to those in the kicking game. Some prefer walk-ons who have to earn their way into a scholarship.
Jamie Kohl, a former Iowa State kicker who runs national camps for aspiring college and professional kickers, said of the 120 Division I football programs, about 50 scholarships are offered each year to specialists (kickers, punters, long snappers).
"There are only 30 to 35 scholarships that are offered for kickers at that level," Kohl said. "And once a school has a kicker, they're probably going to keep him for four years. It can be tough. The top level are only going to have about four to five college offers, on average."
Zervos figured the scholarship offers would come in frequently after he received top honors at a Kohl's Kicking Camp this past summer that earned him a roster spot in the Under Armour game. He rocketed up the rankings and was No. 5 nationally at the beginning of the season.
Zervos had a solid senior season, hitting 35 of 37 PATs and 6 of 9 field goals, including a long of 45 yards.
That piqued the interest of a few colleges, but nothing materialized into an offer until after the season.
"I was surprised because I thought I would have a lot more offers by now, especially after getting selected for the game," Zervos said.
By contrast, the other three kickers or punters selected for the game have all committed to colleges. Justin Yoon, the top-ranked kicker in the nation, is going to Notre Dame. Austin Seibert is headed to Oklahoma. And Drew Galitz is off to Baylor.
"Every year there are one to two kickers in each class that you just kind of scratch your head as to why they don't have more offers," Kohl said. "Louis fits that. There are guys ranked below him who have offers or have committed to schools.
"Louie is not flashy with that big booming kick. But he's very consistent. It all depends on what a college is looking for and having the player fit that need."
Zervos said he has to take the same approach with recruiting as he does with kicking.
"I have to block everything out, and focus on what only I can worry about," Zervos said. "I think in some aspects, that's where being a kicker helps in this process because you're already using a mental approach."
And make no mistake. The kicking game can be a difference maker. Ask Boston College, which missed an extra point in overtime and lost 31-30 to Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Eagles have contacted Zervos, and he said the interest could turn into an offer.
"I know things will pick up," Zervos said. "I'm just enjoying the moment."
So will his family. Zervos said about 200 family members and friends will attend Friday.
"It will be fun being in a hometown game and playing in front of everyone," Zervos said. "That's what has me excited."