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28-year-old ex-Army kicker takes shot at playing for Wake Forest

Kicker Eric Osteen during his career with the Army Black Knights. He has joined the Wake Forest football team as a graduate student after five years of active duty.

U.S. ARMY

By SAL INTERDONATO | The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. | Published: June 25, 2018

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Eric Osteen started growing out his hair as fast as possible following his release from the Army in late May after five years of active duty.

Osteen is trying to fit in with his younger football teammates, he jokes. The 2013 West Point graduate and kicker recently received a phone call from a reporter looking to verify his age. Osteen confirmed he is indeed 28 years old.

"The reporter told me I might be the oldest football player in college right now, so that made me feel real good," Osteen said.

Osteen, who last kicked in the 2012 Army-Navy game, is making a comeback as a graduate student at Wake Forest. While Osteen in working toward his Masters in Business Administration at the Winston-Salem, N.C. school, he's trying to pick up where he left off six years ago.

"I want to be the starting kicker," Osteen said. "That's point blank."

Osteen has one more year of eligibility remaining because he did not play his sophomore season with Army. He was a member of Ross' Rangers, a group of football players that just lifted weights.

Osteen is working out with Wake Forest's team, lifting weights and taking reps with the long snappers and holders. He's yet to kick in front of Wake Forest coach David Clawson and his staff.

During his service time, Osteen's kicking was limited to pick-up ultimate football games. Osteen mandated kickoffs in between touchdowns.

"It's exciting just kicking the ball around," said Osteen, who was a platoon leader, executive officer and logistics officer in the 63rd Signal Battalion. "I'm kicking it well. I was fortunate to stay healthy with the Army. I'm in pretty good shape.''

A casual conversation with family and friends during Easter weekend spurred Osteen's college football hopes.
Osteen needed to petition the NCAA to play for Wake Forest due to his age. The NCAA requires athletes to complete their four years of eligibility in five years or, in some cases, six years due to a medical hardship.

"I'm on year number nine," Osteen said.

The waiver was approved three weeks ago. Wake Forest is the perfect fit. Osteen's wife, Erin, is an anesthesiology resident at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Another driving force behind Osteen's second chance may be how his Army career ended. The Black Knights lost 17-13 to Navy, extending Army's losing streak against its rival to 11 years. Osteen, a kickoff specialist with 29 touchbacks as a senior, was promoted to starting kicker with two games left in the season. Osteen made two-of-three field goals against Navy.

"I missed one," Osteen said. "I prefer not to remember that one, but that was my last kick. It's tough because we didn't win that game."

Osteen has another connection to Wake Forest: five of his six kickoffs went for touchbacks against the Demon Deacons in his senior year. Osteen attended Army's 21-13 win at Wake's BB&T Field in 2016.

"I wasn't thinking I could be on BB&T Field at Wake Forest and kicking again," Osteen said. "I didn't know that I was going to be going to school there. It's really cool looking back and saying, 'Wow, it's kind of lining up and it's coming full circle.'"

©2018 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.
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