College Sports

Tigers' Buchholz to play two types of football this season

CLEMSON -- In most countries outside the United States, soccer is labeled "football."

Mark Buchholz, raised in Georgia, never saw any real difference between the two, which has helped prepare him for his current double life -- starting midfielder, Clemson soccer; starting place-kicker, Clemson football.

"It's definitely going to be interesting," the senior said at the Tigers' Fan Appreciation Day. "I've already had a few welcome-to-the-big-time moments."

Buchholz could have been referring to the times he's run from soccer to football back to soccer practice. Or the times he was changing from his soccer gear into his football pads in the hedges between the two fields.

Or the time when he was attempting to kick a lengthy field goal and coach Tommy Bowden had the rest of the team surround and heckle him (he made it).

Bowden said he's been more than pleased with what he's seen so far from the senior, who joined the team after three years of playing soccer. A heavy-legged player who's scored 10 goals in 61 games, Buchholz was recruited to help out when Clemson's 2006 kicker, Jad Dean, departed.

"I've had plenty of double-duty guys ... baseball or track ... but he's the first I've had play soccer at the same time," Bowden said. "But we worked it out with (Clemson soccer coach Trevor Adair), and we think we got a good plan."

The only problem, logistics-wise, was what to do about the schedule. Since each sport is in season at the same time, there were a few soccer matches before football Saturdays.

Bowden said he'd solved the problem by seeing the only real difficulty was a soccer tournament at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7. The Tigers play a game Sept. 7 and Sept. 9 -- Sept. 8 is a home football game against Louisiana-Monroe.

"I think we've got it settled where we're going to fly him in and then get him back up there," Bowden said. "It's only going to happen a couple of times, if that."

During the other times, Buchholz will play soccer on Friday (and sometimes Sunday), then walk over to Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

The second problem was Buchholz -- specifically, his stamina. Running around on the soccer pitch all day and then going to football practice could wear out anybody, even a three-year starter.

"It can get kind of tiring," admitted Buchholz, who at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, is sturdy enough to run all day in soccer but had to be coaxed into playing high school football. "Especially during two-a-days. But I said I'd do it, and I do it."

Buchholz is on scholarship for football, so soccer has fallen to second on the depth chart. But Buchholz says there's no real pecking order, since he has no plans to focus more on one sport than the other.

"Oh, no," he answered. "I'm football when I'm on the football field, and soccer when I'm over at (Riggs Field, the Tigers' soccer stadium)."

Buchholz has already made a few long-distance kicks, dropping a 56-yarder at a recent practice and consistently booming from 40-50 yards. It's sweet relief to a team that lost two games last year because of blocked or missed kicks and was counting on an unproven Richard Jackson to shoulder the load this year.

Buchholz beat out Jackson in camp and hasn't looked back, doing nothing in practice to earn a demotion. The only hurdle left to clear is the actual game -- when Sept. 3 hits and No. 19 Florida State's in town, around 85,000 people screaming in the stands and Buchholz is called on to clear the crossbar.

"It's definitely something to think about," he said. "I mean, we get big crowds over at Riggs, but nothing like this. I just hope I don't do something like whiff the ball or something."

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