Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Fairbairn seeking a spot in UCLA kicking tradition
By Peter Yoon
LOS ANGELES -- With a name like his, it's no wonder John Christian Ka'iminoeauloameka'ikeokekumupa'a Fairbairn ended up at UCLA.
His Hawaiian first name means "To seek wisdom and talents with knowledge and a firm foundation" and when you are a kicker, there are few schools better than UCLA to do just that.
Fairbairn, a true freshman, is slated to kick field goals and extra points for UCLA when the Bruins open the season Thursday at Rice. A touted recruit, he hopes to continue the tradition of strong UCLA kickers, joining the likes of John Lee, Chris Sailer, Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath in the run of Bruins' elite.
"That was definitely a reason why I wanted to come here," said Fairbairn, who attended Punahou High in Hawaii. "Those guys have all helped me and they were a big influence. I went to Sailer’s camp twice and he helped me a lot and I owe him a lot."
Fairbairn goes by the shortened version of his first name, Ka'imi. That means "seeker" and while he is seeking to join that exclusive list of kickers, it's clearly too early to put him in that same class just yet. Still, just by winning the job he's at least starting off on the same track. Lee, Sailer, Medlock and Forbath were all four-year starters for UCLA.
But winning the job is only the first step of continuing the legacy. All four of the aforementioned also went on to earn All-American honors of some sort and Forbath won the Lou Groza Award for nation's top kicker in 2009. Fairbairn has yet to set foot on a field for a college game.
"I don't see it as pressure," Fairbairn said. "It's more of an honor to be recruited here as a kicker with that kind of history here. Obviously, I want to do well. Not only for me, but for my team. And even better if I can carry on the tradition."
Fairbairn was the No. 4-ranked kicker in the nation coming out of high school this year. His resume includes a 55-yard make in high school and during training camp earlier this month, he hit from 54 yards. But that means little when it comes to game time.
The Bruins found out he hard way that touted kickers don't always pan out. Last season, Kip Smith struggled with his confidence and technique all spring and summer and then sat out most of the season with an injury before transferring. UCLA wound up recruiting walk-on Tyler Gonzalez, the UCLA men's soccer team manager, to kick last season.
Fairbairn acknowledged a bit of nervousness about his first game, but said he was channeling it in a positive way.
"I’m really excited about it and really anxious about it," he said. "But I think our whole team is and we just can't wait for it."
Coach Jim Mora saw enough after about two weeks of camp to give the job to Fairbairn and said he has no qualms about sending a true freshman on to the field if the team needs three points.
"We don’t know what’s too big so we’re going to send him out there and have confidence that he’ll do a great job for us," Mora said.
Fairbairn said he kicked in the Hawaii state championship game last season in front of about 20,000 people and that it wasn't that big of a deal.
"I don’t really remember the crowd," he said. "It didn’t phase me; I was in the moment. When I'm kicking, I'm just zoned in the whole game."
He was an all-state selection as a junior and a senior, and in that state championship game he made a 25-yard field goal and was three-for-three on extra-point attempts, so the zoning-in thing seems to work.