Oct. 19, 2009
Like the easiest of field goal attempts, Rice senior kicker Clark Fangmeier appears to have his immediate future perfectly aligned.
He is on pace to graduate in December of 2010 having studied mathematical economic analysis and with an occupation as an energy trader, consultant or investment banker at his fingertips. He has wielded positive influence upon youngsters attending Rice football camps and taken the time to reflect on his days as a youth camper. And Fangmeier has made inroads to groom his successor, freshman kicker Chris Boswell, by showing him everything he has learned in his career.
That career hit a speed bump last year when a painful hip injury limited Fangmeier on the field. When the time came to determine if rotator cuff surgery was absolutely necessary for someone with such a bright future off the field, Fangmeier didn't need long to evaluate his love for football.
"I will say that the thought crossed my mind, but it immediately disappeared after I thought back on my junior season and all the ups and downs that come with kicking and the sport of football," Fangmeier said of bypassing surgery and retiring from football. "Even if I knew there was a chance I'd be out (in 2009) I still would have had the surgery, (sought a medical redshirt) and played the next year.
"I enjoy kicking. I enjoy being on the football team with all the guys and the bonds that come from that. In fact, it made me more determined to see how soon I could get back and beat the rehab schedule."
Fangmeier underwent surgery in Vail, Colo., and returned to Houston for an arduous rehabilitation. He watched as teammates pushed on without him during offseason workouts, and labored mentally with his position on the sidelines after being actively involved for three seasons.
"When I was returning from that surgery I really realized how much the game mattered to me," Fangmeier said. "I couldn't do anything. I had that big hip brace on, I was on crutches, and I was worthless to the team. I had never been injured before; it's really different when you're on the sideline watching everyone else play."
Persistence has paid dividends for Fangmeier. He ranks third in program history in scoring (244 points) and fourth in field goals (26), lofty totals for a former walk-on. At his current pace, Fangmeier will pass former Owls tailback Trevor Cobb (1989-92) for second place all-time in career scoring, and he needs eight field goals to surpass James Hamrick (1983-85) atop the Rice chart. Fangmeier is second all-time in Conference USA with 166 PATs, a total that ranks 22nd in NCAA history.
By having accomplished so much in his career, it would be easy for Fangmeier to become reflective as his final season winds down. However, Fangmeier opts to live in the moment, and part of that task entails sharing wisdom with Boswell, the Owls' future feature kicker.
"Most of it has been preparing Chris Boswell on the mental side of the game," Fangmeier said. "I've been able to mentor him a lot this season, and I'll also be around next season too since I wont be graduating until December. I've made it a point this season to make sure he starts off on the right foot."
That sense of immediacy has played a role in how Fangmeier approaches life away from football. He has gained perspective from those little eyes looking up at him during summer camps, and that has bolstered his appreciation for an opportunity to share his precious time.
"When you go out there and get in front of those kids, you understand how big of an impact you can have on them," Fangmeier said. "You think back to when you went to camp and you saw all those big guys running around, and you wanted to be just like them. You wanted to be big and strong and throw the ball like them. Kids are great. It's a lot of fun running those camps."
And the challenge of allotting time to camps, football and internships like his summer work at Kinder Morgan as an analyst has helped Fangmeier hone in on the things that really matter. Thriving as a student-athlete at Rice takes a special commitment, and over time Fangmeier has embraced all that is required of him on and off the field.
"It's tough, but ultimately it sets us up to be outstanding individuals," Fangmeier said. "Here we have a rigorous regimen ... and it really sets you up for what the real world is going to be like. It's great to do an internship and do the football in the summer. I think it really helps."
By reveling in his numerous commitments, Fangmeier is poised to become one of Tomorrow's Leaders.