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Getting to know Georgia football kicker Jack Podlesny as he attempts to replace Rodrigo Blankenship
Kirby Smart first referred to him as Pod. Georgia fans on Twitter have taken to calling him Hot Pod, as an ode to the man he is replacing in in Rodrigo Blankenship. The former Georgia kicker suggested the nickname Podawan, as a nod to Star Wars term for a Jedi apprentice. His high school coach Rocky Hidalgo jokingly mispronounced his name for the two years when he served as a kicker for the Glynn Academy Red Terrors in Brunswick, Ga.
But whatever you decide to call Jack Podlesny — pronounced POD-lez-knee —you’ll also want to include that he’s Georgia’s starting kicker for the 2020 season.
“I thought he did a tremendous job. He had a lot of composure. Trust me, it was not easy for him to win that job,” Smart said. “The best thing about him is he’s improved.”
So who is Podlesny, a player even the most die-hard of Georgia fans probably didn’t know about prior to August? And how did he end up as Georgia’s starting kicker, replacing last year’s Lou Groza Award winner in Blankenship?
It starts during his junior year at Glynn Academy. Podlesny was a gifted soccer player and stepped away from football as a sophomore so that he could focus on playing soccer.
But Hidalgo knew Podlesny had a big-time leg from the first time he saw him kick a football. So he convinced Podlesny to come rejoin the football team.
Podlesny though wouldn’t be thrust right into a starting role.
“He had to learn how to kick a football,” Hidalgo said. “We had a really good and established kicker when he came out as a junior. We told him to basically spend a year learning how to kick this oblong football and you might get a chance to do it in front of college in front of a lot of people.”
So that’s what Podlesny did, much like he would go on to do during his first two years on Georgia’s campus. By the time Podlesny was needed as a high school senior, he had no trouble putting the oblong ball through the uprights. As a senior, he converted on 9 of his 10 field goals, 49 of his 51 extra-point attempts. He also had 55 of his 61 kickoffs result in touchbacks.
His senior season ended in the state semifinals, but that wasn’t going to be the end of his football journey. Hidalgo had been in touch with Georgia inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann about Podlesny’s talent. From there, Glynn Academy’s special teams coordinator Kip Hall made sure that Georgia saw what Podlesny could do.
Georgia wasn’t the only school to pursue Podlesny as he also took a visit to Michigan. But the Bulldogs ultimately won out for his services and he accepted a preferred walk-on spot as a member of the 2018 class.
“It’s not like he showed up on their door-step,” Hidalgo said of the Georgia staff. “They knew what kind of kicker they were getting, that he was a potential scholarship kid. Because of his academics, his academic profile that they were able to get him on campus.”
That academic profile includes a 4.26 high school GPA while also serving as the captain of his high school soccer team. In his time at Georgia, Podlesny has been named J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Honor Roll. He’s also a devout Christian and Blankenship credits Podlesny for helping him on his own religious journey.
Once Podlesny arrived on Georgia’s campus, he was going to have to sit again. He redshirted his first year and then sat out the 2019 season as Blankenship became the best kicker in college football.
“Rod he is a different breed,” Georgia linebacker Nate Mcbride said. “Anything you would ask of him, he’d do it. I think Jack is the same way though. He was up under Rod and got to learn all of his tricks. Jack has come a long way and I think he’s a pretty good kicker.”
Podlesny seemed to learn quite a bit from Blankenship, as he attempts to follow in Blankenship’s footsteps in going from walk-on to starting kicker for Georgia.
“Rod [Rodrigo Blankenship] was here and he was kicking with Coach [Scott] Fountain and those guys and working each day and didn’t really stand out, and he stood out this year,” Smart said. “He’s done a great job.”
And Blankenship, now the starting kicker for the Indianapolis Colts, said Podlesny’s debut against Arkansas was better than his own.
“I think he did phenomenal,” Blankenship said. “In my first game doing kickoffs in 2016 against UNC in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic I had a kickoff run back for a touchdown on me.
“I also missed my first career field goal attempt vs. Ole Miss a couple games later so he’s definitely off to a great start.”