Editors's note/clarification: Griff Amies does have a pacemaker but it is turned off, according to his father, and the family plans to have it taken out over the summer.
, who has had a pacemaker since age 7, led the nation this year with 22 field goals. Amies didn't anticipate such great success, but he knew that his hard work would enable him to reach a peak effort.
told MaxPreps, "I never would have dreamed that would happen and at the
start of the year I never dreamed of having this kind of a season. It's
a great feeling inside. I feel my hard work paid off - all my 10 years
of kicking. It's an honor to share it with Chris Sailer. It's great to
know I have the most field goals in the nation, but it's most important
to know we won the CIF (Southern Section title)."
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior from Corona del Mar (Newport Beach, Calif.)
also tied the California state record that was set by Chris Sailer of Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) in 1994. USA Today named Sailer, who now runs highly regarded kicking camps, the No. 1 placekicker in the country in his senior year - the same year that Amies was born.
Amies actually twice had the opportunity in his final game to grab the record for himself. In the second quarter he kicked a 23-yarder, but a roughing the kicker penalty enabled the Sea Kings to get close enough to score a touchdown, which they did instead of again going for the field goal. He kicked one from 43 yards to tie the record and missed a 57-yard boot by less than 2 feet that would have given him a new record of 23.
The bottom line, however, is that the Sea Kings (12-2) defeated Garden Grove 35-10 to win their second-straight CIF Southern Section Southern Division championship at Angel Stadium.
Born with a heart defect (his heart slows down when he sleeps at night), Amies had surgery shortly after birth and spent four months in the hospital. The pacemaker was inserted in the lower part of his stomach at age 7 and at age 14 a new one was placed in his upper chest.
Amies played soccer from 3 to 13, tutored by Ryan Baker, who was hired by his parents to work with him three days a week. He loved football the most, however, even though his cardiologist was against it. So his father, John "Grif" Amies, suggested he try being a kicker due to the talent he had developed in soccer.
At age 12, Amies already was kicking 35-yard field goals.
Enter Brad Bohn, who has run the West Coast Kicking Academy for the last 10 years. Amies' parents wanted to enroll him in Bohn's academy when he was in sixth grade, but Bohn didn't accept kickers until they were at least in ninth grade.
So Amies' father held the ball on the ground (the college way without a tee) and his son promptly kicked nine of 10 from 25 yards. Bohn needed no more convincing.
Bohn noted that at the time, "He was small, but eager to learn and he always has been a hard worker. He's always been a real competitor. He won the USC Camp as a ninth-grader."
Amies called the USC Camp victory "a great experience. I not only won, but it was the first time at USC and I got to have my picture taken with Pete Carroll (then the USC head coach). I still have that picture on my wall."
The youngster also benefited from Bohn's periodic one-on-one pressure-filled competitions, staged at different schools in the Southern California area. Amies made 93 percent of his kicks in those matchups over the last five years, according to Bohn.
Amies attended Newport Harbor High School until his junior year, at which time he transferred to smaller Corona del Mar (1,600 in grades 9-12), also in Newport Beach. He insisted the transfer was not for athletic reasons, but even an appeal was rejected and he had to sit out his junior year. All he could do was practice and play JV football.
He admitted, "I was pretty sad about it, because I thought I'd win the starting job."
Sea Kings coach Scott Meyer had a couple returning kickers, but he conceded, "Griff stood out. It was pretty clear he was going to be the guy because of his leg and his accuracy. He's a very hard-working, dedicated kid who has a tremendous passion for kicking."
He even had to sit out the first game of his senior year to meet transfer requirements. But when he finally did see his first varsity action, he drilled a 22-yard field goal and a 52-yarder - still his career best - against Laguna Hills.
He noted, "I was pretty nervous ... It was a wonderful feeling inside, something I'll never forget. I wish I could go back and do it all over again."
After battling health and size disadvantages all his life, Amies had arrived. He had reached the mountain top and now could stand confidently and enjoy his surroundings.
He finished his senior year drilling 22 of 28 field goal attempts, with nine at 40 or more yards. (He has made a 60-yarder in practice). Most of his misses were from longer than 40 yards, but he had two at 35 on a wet, muddy night. He made 44 of 48 extra point kicks and also was outstanding on kickoffs. Though he can make all types of kicks, his laser shots into the end zone made him an equally major weapon on defense. His hang time averaged around 4 seconds - a good effort even for a collegian.
Explaining his technique, he said, "I try to lock out my leg, my knee not bent. I finish with my leg straight at the target. My eyes are down on the ground. I don't look up."
He admitted that he never sees his short field goals go through the uprights, but he does have time to look up at the longer ones.
Amies can credit hard work and physical maturity for much of his success. Since last year he grew 3 inches and put on 20 pounds of muscle. He observed, "I was always a small guy. I'm a senior now and I feel like one of the leaders of the team. It's great to be one of the big guys (in stature) on the team."
Amies is fearless and loves pressure.
He related, "I love to kick anytime, but best under pressure. If you make it, everybody comes running to you and you're the hero."
The Sea Kings' field goal unit had a favorite drill that enhanced Amies' toughness. At the end of practice, Bohn, who also is the special teams coach, would gather a crowd of players around Amies and have them scream their lungs out as he prepared to kick.
Bohn pointed out, "If you say 'It's a game-winner' he makes it every time. It doesn't matter if it's 35 or 53 yards. He's a real focused kid. He's the kid who's going to come through for you in the clutch. He thrives under pressure and loves to prove people wrong. He's really developed. He just wanted the opportunity to prove he is one of the best kids in the state and I think he did that. Of all the kids we've trained the last 10 years, he's as good as anybody as far as putting the whole package together."
Amies still lives each day with his pacemaker.
"It does come to mind, but I'm fine with it," he explained. "I know the pacemaker is well protected. Every six months I have a checkup and it's fine. I'm not too concerned playing football."
Kickers sometimes have to make a tackle and he finished his senior year with three solos and one assist. Two of his tackles saved touchdowns. His defensive efforts earned him the affectionate nickname of "Spider Monkey."
Describing the style that gave him his nickname, Amies said, "I just get on the guy, wrap my arms around him and throw him to the ground."
Bohn pointed out, "He never missed a tackle that was there for him."
Amies, who closely follows San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers, carries a 3.0 GPA and hopes to major in journalism or sports marketing in college. Since he was 8, he has wanted to play college football. He's just starting to reach the radar of college recruiters.
Bohn, who played one year with the Detroit Lions, predicts, "He's going to be able to go to the next level and play. If someone gives him an opportunity, they are going to be pleased."
Recruiters should not be concerned with Amies' pacemaker.
He revealed, "My doctor said that I'm in such good shape and do so much exercise that I don't need it anymore. The battery lasts seven or eight years and probably at 20 or 21 they will take it out."
His father got the last word when he said, "He's a really driven kid. I think he can do anything."