Bahamian gets a kick out of playing football
|Maryville's Jonathan Sykes
can make a soccer ball do pretty much whatever he wants it to do.
He's learned, though, that a football is much more
Maryville athletics photo
It seems like a dream. A Bahamian soccer player with one semester of NCAA eligibility remaining decides he wants to try a new sport. He patiently learns the new game before taking over a starting role for the final three games of the season. Over the next three weeks, he scores 33 points as his team wins three straight games. In the season finale, he nails a school-record five field goals, leading his team to a share of its first conference championship since 1931.
Wake up. In just three weeks of action, Jonathan Sykes cemented his legacy in Maryville football lore. Sykes, a fifth-year senior from Nassau, made eight of 10 field goal attempts and was perfect on nine point-after tries after ascending to the starting placekicker job.
While everyone was paying attention to the USA South Conference race between Ferrum and Christopher Newport, the Scots quietly rallied down the stretch. With some help from Methodist in the final moments of the regular season, the Scots earned a share of the conference title, finishing in a three-way tie with Ferrum and Christopher Newport.
"Any time you win the last game of the year, it's huge," said first-year head coach Mike Rader. "Our kids were extremely excited."
None were more excited than the man they call "Boomstick." Sykes was born in England and has lived in the Bahamas since 2003. From 1996 to 2000, he and his parents lived in Maryville. His father is a Methodist minister, and the family made close friends during that four-year period. When it came time for the Bahamian to choose a college, he went somewhere familiar.
"I remembered the area, and we have family friends from the church here," said Sykes. "I felt comfortable with the area."
He grew up playing soccer and running track. He was a football fan, but there were no organized leagues in his hometown. He excelled in the sports that were offered in the Bahamas. Sykes was selected to play for the Bahamian national team in its World Cup qualifiers in 2011. After playing four years of soccer for the Scots, the education major with a psychology minor had a semester of school to finish and eligibility remaining. Maryville's soccer coach suggested that Rader give his star player a placekicker tryout.
"Growing up, I never had the opportunity to put on a helmet and pads," said Sykes. "I was learning a whole new sport that I admired."
At first, there were some growing pains.
"His first few kicks went straight into our linemen," said Rader. "It was almost comical. Watching him grow and take over the starting job was something special."
Sykes can make a soccer ball do pretty much whatever he wants it to do. The football was more stubborn. In addition to finding the sweet spot on the football, Sykes quickly learned that there was more to a successful attempt than he could control.