Ferrum Family of Kickers
More than one sibling playing football for the same school is rare, but certainly not unheard of. A rarer occurrence is a pair of siblings playing the same position on the same football team for the same coach. The rarest, however, is a pair of siblings playing the same position on the same football team, followed by a nephew also playing the same position, all playing for the same coach. Enter the Huff kickers, Jim ’68, John ’73, and Eddie ’75, who were all placekickers for Coach Hank Norton and the Ferrum Panthers.
Not only did each of these talented family members have successful careers at Ferrum, but each went on to continue his placekicking career at other universities. Jim was awarded a scholarship to play for the University of Miami after graduating from Ferrum and John earned a scholarship and went on to kick at North Carolina State, under the legendary Lou Holtz. Eddie was selected as an All-American Junior College placekicker in 1975 and earned a scholarship to East Tennessee State University. Jim Huff says, “All of us are proud to be Ferrum Panthers.”
Jim came to Ferrum in the fall of 1966, on the recommendation of his Castlewood High School football and baseball coaches, and in pursuit of the opportunity to play both football and baseball at the collegiate level; Jim was also the first in his family of 11 children to attend college. John Huff, Jim’s younger brother, was also a placekicker at Castlewood High School and decided to attend Ferrum in the fall of 1971, with the hope of having the same wonderful experience Jim had some years before; he was the second Huff child to attend and graduate from college. Two years later, nephew Eddie Huff came to Ferrum. Eddie had followed the careers of his uncles and each had taken time to practice placekicking with him during his high school years. As one would expect, he looked up to them and took their recommendations about Ferrum and football to heart.
Not surprisingly, the fondest memories for these men have a great deal to do with their days playing football for or spending time with Hank Norton. For Jim, one of his funniest memories was a swimming class he took as a freshman. Prior to his time at Ferrum College he had never been in a swimming pool, so a swimming class was a daunting obstacle but thankfully, his teacher for the class was Coach Norton. “Since I was his placekicker on the football team, I knew he would not let me drown in that pool,” says Huff.
For as much time as they spent on the football field, some of John Huff’s best memories also involved water. Legendary for his fly fishing abilities, Norton used to take John and teammate Gary Hull ’73 fishing and even showed them his favorite fishing spot on the Smith River. He used to tease them about being “bottle-fed” trout fisherman, as most of the bait they used was purchased at the store. “The days we fished with Coach Norton were some of the best times I had at Ferrum,” says Huff.
Eddie Huff remembers several of the more exciting football trips, one to Clemson University in particular. After arriving on the Clemson campus, the team was housed on the top floor of a building and the only linens they were given were wool blankets. “It was miserably hot,” he says. “Coach Norton got upset and we moved to the Thunderbird hotel somewhere near campus. He was really ‘hot.’” During the game, Huff was kicking an extra point and the ball went over his head; he turned to recover the ball only to find several rather large Clemson players just behind him. He promptly jogged toward the sideline and was immediately met by Norton, who grabbed his facemask and said, “That’s probably the smartest thing you’ve ever done, Huff, because those guys would have killed you.”
Hard work and discipline are subjects that each of the Huffs talk about in conjunction with their years at Ferrum College. “Both Coach Hank Norton and the late Coach Rick Tolley expected a lot from all of their student-athletes. I learned the importance of discipline and hard work, both in the classroom and on the football and baseball fields,” says Jim Huff. He credits Ferrum with teaching him responsibility and instilling an understanding that rewards would come from his hard work, discipline, and responsibility. Those principles have served him well over the last 42 years working in the insurance and financial services industry.
For John Huff, working on campus while he was a student reinforced his own work ethic and demanded that he balance his classes, sports, and job in a responsible manner. Shortly after graduation from NC State, Huff took over the family business, Ma & Pa’s Restaurant, and has run it ever since.
For Eddie Huff, attending Ferrum provided him not only an environment in which to grow up, but the direction in which to do it. “The leadership and consistency throughout the Ferrum staff helped me appreciate the need for discipline, the power of teamwork, and ‘Not Self, But Others,’” he says. Huff believes each of these aspects continues to play a role in his personal life as well as his professional one. Huff spent most of his career in sales and operations, focusing on developing people and teams; his years at Ferrum and the lessons he learned were keys to his successful career.
Over the years, the Huffs have taken note of the changes at Ferrum College. As Jim Huff says, “Ferrum College continues to grow and provide educational opportunities to students, many of whom, like me, are the first from their families to attend college.” Huff believes the leadership of Dr. Braaten has allowed for the growth of Ferrum in so many ways, as she continues the tradition of dedication and vision begun by her predecessors. Huff has been proud to serve Ferrum College on both the Alumni Board of Directors and the Estate Planning Council in recent years.
“Ferrum College continues to grow and provide educational opportunities to students, many of whom, like me, are the first from their families to attend college.” – Jim Huff ’68
Eddie Huff echoes the sentiments of his uncle in saying, “Every time I come back to Ferrum, I am impressed with the new and improved facilities, but it appears one thing has not changed, and that’s the positive environment. The involvement and support by the staff seems every bit of what it used to be, if not more.” While Huff has not been involved at the same level as his uncle Jim, he has visited several times in the past, crediting Ferrum’s interest in reaching out to him as the catalyst for those visits.
Being one of the “Huff kickers” means a great deal to these three Ferrum College alumni; to have been a part of something so unique at an institution where relationships are so valued has remained something of which all three are proud. For Eddie, following in the footsteps of his uncles was quite important. “It meant a lot to meet their standards and have similar accomplishments. I always looked up to them, and still do,” he says. Adds Jim Huff: “Because of the special place that Ferrum College was for me, the choice to attend Ferrum was an easy one for my brother John, and my nephew Eddie. We are all thankful to share a special Ferrum connection as the ‘Three Huff Kickers.’” John believes that excelling as placekickers assisted all of them in getting a good chance at an education. “To look back now, it is a very unique situation, but I didn’t think so at the time. Scenarios like this just don’t happen often,” he says. Quite a legacy for both the Ferrum football family and these “Huff kickers” indeed.
Long before specialists became crucial in the NFL, Ferrum was a hotbed of great kickers and punters. According to legendary coach Hank Norton, “I don’t really know how it happened. We didn’t kick much back then, except to punt, but when I was recruiting I was able to draw some very talented kickers. We even ran statewide high school kicking clinics. It got to the point where the Ferrum program was really well known for producing talent for Division I powers and several went on to the pros.”
A few of the Panther standout kickers throughout the years include:
|Bruce Gossett ’63
Norton’s first kicker at Ferrum and starting quarterback; went on to the University of Richmond and then the Los Angeles Rams; NFL ProBowl selection in both 1966 and 1968; led the NFL in field goal percentage in 1964; led the league in scoring, field goals made, and field goals attempted in 1966; over the next few years, finished first in five more NFL statistical categories before closing out his professional career with the San Francisco 49ers in 1973.Ray Harris ’65
Guard and place kicker; Went on to play for the University of Miami after leaving Ferrum; in 1966, kicked the game-winning field goal to help the Hurricanes beat the University of Southern California.Jim Huff ’68
The first of the Huff dynasty to come through Ferrum; followed Harris to the University of Miami and broke most of his kicking records.Cary Stockdell ’68
Played for Arkansas Razorbacks after leaving Ferrum; according to Coach Norton, “The best punter I ever saw at any level.”Florentino “Frank” Fontes ’69
A native of Portugal; first “soccer type” kicker at Ferrum; once kicked a 70-yard field goal during a clinic; one of the most sought- after kickers in the country; eventually went on to Florida State University and played in the inaugural Fiesta Bowl in 1971, scoring four field goals; led the NCAA in scoring by kicking.
|John Huff ’73
Followed his brother Jim to Ferrum; went on to North Carolina State University; leading scorer by kicking.Mike Fallon ’74
Left-handed and left-footed quarterback/punter; known for punting the ball into orbit; helped Ferrum win the 1974 National Junior College Championship; went on to play for the University of Massachusetts where he led the Minutemen to the playoffs.Eddie Huff ’75
Followed both of his uncles, Jim and Johnny, to the Panther program; earned All-America honors for Ferrum in 1975 as the nation’s leading scorer among kickers; playedRussel Klaus ’84
Headed to the University of Akron after leaving Ferrum, earning All-America honorable mention for the Zips in 1985.Tim Mercer ’91
Became one of the nation’s top kickers during the transition from junior college football to the NCAA Division III ranks; led the nation in scoring, in consecutive field goals, and in most extra points in a row during Ferrum’s powerhouse 1988 and 1989 seasons.David Waddell ’96
One of Coach Dave Davis’s best punter/kickers; hit five field goals in the game against NCAA FCS (Division I-AA) Charleston Southern.
Ferrum College kickers have remained true throughout the years to the Panther kicker heritage of outstanding accomplishments. Here are a few of the most recent:
|Richard Harr ’05
Punter set the school’s record for longest punt when he blasted a 68-yarder in 1997 against Division III powerhouse Rowan University, then equaled the mark in 1998 against Methodist.TJ Grzesikowski ’11
Wrote himself into the history books with his 43.8 yards per punt average as a sophomore in 2008; named to three All-America teams in 2008 and added the NCAA Division III yards per punt statistical championship to his resume; earned All-America honors as a senior in 2010.
|Clint Slappey ’10
Tied for the record for the longest Ferrum field goal of 47 yards.Scott Puschell ’13
Tied for the record for the longest Ferrum field goal of 47 yards.Wesley Franklin ’14
From Morganton, North Carolina; started the season ranked 18th best punter (out of 240 teams in Division III) in the nation; six weeks into the season moved to 14th in the nation; ended up ranked 8th nationally, first in the conference.