Gavin Mottl was no stranger to pressure situations.
A four-year starting kicker for the St. Rita football team, Mottl knew his number would be called at the end of each Thursday practice.
Running the two-minute drill to simulate the end of a half or game, Mottl would come out to connect on a game-winning, practice-ending field goal.
If he connected, the team didn’t have to run. If he missed, the Mustangs ran double.
Pressure? OK, maybe a little.
But that will help Mottl as he continues his academic-athletic career as a walk-on for the football team at Miami University (Ohio).
“Walk-throughs every Thursday, end of summer camp, yeah, there’s a little pressure,” Mottl said with a laugh. “I was a little rattled freshman and sophomore year. It was always pretty quiet, but most of the time I was pretty consistent. If I missed, the guys would mess with me a little, nothing crazy.”
While many high school football programs scramble from year to year finding a consistent kicker, St. Rita had little to worry about the last four seasons.
Mottl (Merrionette Park, St. Christina) connected for 20 field goals in his career, including a walk-off game-winner over Mt. Carmel as a sophomore, and he also converted 152 of 158 career point-after attempts.
He also punted the last two seasons for the Mustangs, averaging over 42 yards a punt, with 10 punts of 50 yards or more.
Mottl was named to the Chicago Catholic League-Blue All-Star team as a senior and was twice named to the Academic All-State team.
St. Rita Coach Todd Kuska said having a dependable kicker is always a nice security blanket.
“Having Gavin the last four years was a blessing,” Kuska said. “Having someone with experience in the kicking game is a great confidence boost for the entire team. There wasn’t a scenario that would shock or get to Gavin. He had seen it all.”
However, Mottl first got his kicks as a soccer player.
He also played football at St. Christina, typically at tight end or linebacker. It was only in seventh grade at the insistence of his friend, Steve Insley, that he gave kicking a try on the football field for the Cardinals.
“I’d always had a big leg [in soccer], so I thought I might be pretty good playing football,” Mottl said. “It took some time adjusting, but I liked it more and more.”
Upon arriving at St. Rita, Mottl established himself as the team’s starting kicker. According to Kuska, Mottl is the first four-year varsity starter in program history.
The game-winner against Mt. Carmel stood out for Mottl as a favorite individual achievement.
However, looking back on a standout preps career, Mottl said his favorite team moment is the Mustangs’ victory over Taft, 56-6, last fall at Gately Stadium to win the Prep Bowl.
“Winning the Prep Bowl with my best friends to end the year, that was my best moment,” Mottl said. “Not making the state playoffs, that’s not the way we wanted to go out, but winning that last game was pretty special.”
Mottl was also the starting right fielder and a consistent presence in the middle of the lineup for the St. Rita baseball team that finished third in Class 4A last spring.
Mottl missed almost his entire junior baseball season with a back injury, making the senior run to state even sweeter.
“It felt amazing to win as much as we did,” Mottl said. “I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I’ve always loved the game. We didn’t want to press. We wanted to have fun and shock the world. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that I’ll never forget.”
As a senior, Mottl hit .340 with 4 home runs, 34 RBI and 27 runs.
As for the next step, playing NCAA Division-I FBS football with the Miami of Ohio RedHawks, Mottl can’t wait.
He also considered walking on at Iowa and Illinois.
“Miami felt like home when I visited,” Mottl said. “It’s close enough where my family can come see me. I’m excited.”
As a walk-on, Mottl isn’t guaranteed any playing time, and only a limited number of players are allowed to travel to road games. Regardless, he’s ready to give it a go.
“It’s going to be tough, a lot tougher than people might think,” Mottl said. “It’s unreal how good people are. It’ll be tough, but you have to go out and prove yourself.”