Hell in the Hall – Louisville Sports Blog

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Interview: Ryan Payne, Louisville’s Barefoot Kicker

Posted by frankpos on August 29, 2009


“The two questions I hear the most are :  Does it hurt? and,  How does it feel when it’s cold?”

Ryan Payne, U of L’s barefoot kicker


In the late stages of Louisville’s thrashing of Tn Tech, as the crowd thinned predictably early into their tailgating and high-tailing home, and as my own thoughts began to drift from the game,

my attention was jolted awake by the sight of a new kicker for the Cards who was…barefoot.


It’s not everyday that you see a barefoot kicker.  It kinda grabs your eye, and makes you watch.


That kicker was Ryan Payne.  His kick was good for the point after–and he looked pretty damn good doing it.  I was awake and impressed–and curious.

You see, I had seen such a thing before–here–at U of L, in the 70’s.  But I couldn’t remember the player’s  name–only that he was a hippie, with very long hair, and that he punted barefoot (See  my post below on All-American Scott Marcus and the link  to  a hilarious Sports Illustrated article on him.)

Luckily, the same thought hit Matt, my photographer on the field , and he took several good shots of Ryan (See my post below on the Tn Tech game and the pics, as well as the post on Scott Marcus.)

Very pleasantly, I also got an email visit from Ryan’s mom, Debbie, who shared some background on Ryan (see post below.)


I grabbed Ryan after practice today for an interview.  I found an engaging, well-spoken young man, with a ready smile and laugh.  A great representative of the University.

This was an interview I looked forward to.  I have always wanted to ask barefoot kickers a couple of good questions….

Frank: Why in the world would you want to kick a football with your bare foot?

Ryan: (laughing)  Well, you’d be surprised.  I was able to kick it much straighter–and farther.  I was surprised myself.

I had always worn a shoe to kick until I started working out with Mike Lansford (former NFL Ram’s kicker for many years–who kicked barefoot).  After Mike trained me for awhile, he kept saying, “C’mon, try kicking barefoot just once.”  So, I finally said OK and kicked one barefoot.

Wow! The first one went real straight.  I felt I could guide it better.  After a few, I found I could kick it a lot farther too.

I went back to using a shoe. But then I went back and  forth for awhile with being barefoot, until Mike finally said I had to  make a choice, or it would mess up my form.  So I decided to kick barefoot.  I had kicked soccer balls barefoot, so it was somewhat the same.

Frank:  Does it hurt?

Ryan: (Grinning)  The two questions I hear the most are: Does it hurt? and, How does it feel when it’s cold?

It doesn’t hurt – unless I catch my foot in the turf.  Then yeah, it really can jam my toes.  I had a big toe that looked like this (makes bent shape with his finger.)  But it went away after awhile…

When it’s cold outside, the football gets  harder.  I’ll admit:  It stings.  But, you go into the game  with a lot of adrenaline , and you don’t really feel it.  Until later on the bench.

Frank:What part of your foot do you hit it with?

Ryan :  It’s just like a soccer style kick and you hit it the same way–on the side of foot, where the hardest part is, right here (points to just below his big toe).

Frank: What’s the longest field goal you can make?

Ryan: Chris (Philpott) and I can make some from 55 to 60 yard–with a little wind.  Without wind: I’m good to 50- 52.

Frank:  I understand you and Colt Brennan, former QB for Hawaii, are friends.  How did that come about?

Ryan: Colt’s dad is my godfather.  He and my dad are close friends and the families grew up with each other.  It was Colt’s dad that knew Mike Lansford.

I used to see Colt 20 or so times a year.  Now, of course, I don’t see him so often, but I still call him and pick his brain — how he prepares for the games, any tips he can give me.

Frank:  Did you know that we had another barefoot kicker here at U of L in the 70’s?

Ryan: Yeah, in the Unitas museum, I read something about him.

Frank:  His name was Scott Marcus.  He was a real flower child of the 60’s.   And he was an All-American kicker for us!

Ryan: Wow!  Sometimes I wish I had started playing football sooner.  I feel like I’m still in the early stages.

Frank: From your mom, I know that you excelled at soccer, and played that sport  rather than football, until your dad urged you to try to make a few field goals.  How long have you actually been kicking a football?

Ryan:  One year, and eight months.  I played soccer my first two years at a small college only about 20 minutes from my home (in southern California)

Frank: Less than two years kicking a football?!!  That’s amazing!  Where’d you get those genes from?

Ryan:  (Laughing)  It’s funny you asked.  Cory (Goettsche) and I were just talking about that.  I told him neither my mom or dad are athletic.  Yet I’m good at most sports I try.  I really don’t know where it comes from! (Ryan’s mom owns two Montessori centers, and his dad is in sales in the hardwood industry; they are divorced).

Frank:You’re from southern California coming to Louisville, KY.   What’s the biggest differences you notice?

Ryan: Well, things move a little slower around here.  But the parties are better than at the small college I was at.  I’m away from home. I have to take care of myself and be independent.  (Grinning) The other college was so close to home,  I could have my mom do my laundry.

Also: Snow!  For the first few hours I was , like, “Wow, look at all this white stuff.  How cool!”

But then, you have to scrap it off your car windshield..and the cold burns your face.

Frank:  Your ultimate goal I’m sure is to be the # 1 kicker.  What’s your situation now?

Ryan: (Frowning slightly for the first time) I’m fighting through a small groin injury now. I injured it 4 days before the Kentucky game.  I was rated the # 1 kicker up to that point.  I haven’t really practiced much the last few days–mainly just getting treatments and stretching.

It’s frustrating.  I felt I had it right there…

Chris is a good kicker and settled down fine after a few bad kicks.  People think it’s easy–all you have to do is go and kick the ball.  But if you are off only an inch or so in how you plant your foot, or how close your foot is to the ground, you can hook it,  or worse.

Frank: Did you ever have anyone cleat you on your foot?

Ryan: Not yet.  After I kick off,  I try to let everyone go past me.  And when we’re celebrating, I stay away until I have my shoe on.

Frank: Last question: Kickers are not known as tacklers.  Do you think you could make an open-field tackle if you had to–with one shoe on?

Ryan: (Grinning) I think I could.  I am pretty fast–I can run as fast as most of the guys.  I wouldn’t try to tackle the upper body; I’d go for the legs.


2 Responses to “Interview: Ryan Payne, Louisville’s Barefoot Kicker”

  1. frankpos said

    Roz, I mentioned Garo “I keek a touchdown” Yepremian, to Ryan–but no, he doesn’t remember any of those guys. But Ryan is a sharp, great young man.

    And Deanna and Anonymous on Sedat– I hope Sedat “flies” again in the Hall these last 2 yrs.

    KM, thanks for your comment too!

  2. Roz said


    Good one, Frank. He seems like a nice kid and definitely belongs in the Kwirky Kickers Klub.

    Now what would really be quirky would be if he kept his KICKING foot adorned with sock and shoe, but left his NON KICKING foot naked.

    It would be, well, existential.

    Go go Gogolak.
    That’s Pete and Charlie, the first ones I saw who did the soccer style kick.


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