Kiwi the kicker

If you ever tuned in to the Public Broadcasting Service during the spring to relive childhood memories of watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street, then you might have seen a show called AMERICAN HIGH.

A documentary on the life of American teenagers at school and home filmed in Highland Park, Ill., it was just one of many reality TV shows and the only to film in a high school. With cameramen following 14 students around for one year, viewers could get a glimpse at life of the American high school student.

Fans of the show might remember Kiwi, the New Zealand-born kicker for Highland park High's football team. A senior at the time of the show, Kiwi, whose real name is Michael Langford, is now a place-kicker for Ball State.

"It was an experience I'll never forget," Langford, now a sophomore, said of the show. AMERICAN HIGH originally appeared on Fox in August, 2000. However, the show was canceled after only two weeks and four episodes due to poor ratings, despite excellent reviews from critics. PBS announced that it had picked up the show in October, 2000.

Because of his participation in the nationally televised show, Langford stands out among many students at Ball State. However, there are a few other things about Kiwi that give him a special uniqueness.

Langford is a strong animal lover, his favorite being snakes. One day, he drove past a pet store and decided to take a look. Inside, he noticed a three-month-old boa constrictor.

"I have always enjoyed snakes," he said. "I decided to invest in a new friend."

The snake's name is Poseidon, named after the Greek god of the sea.

Langford has done a lot of traveling during his life. Having been born in Chicago, his family moved to New Zealand before he was even a year old. He moved back and forth between the United States and New Zealand several times before his family finally settled in Highland Park.

Having relocated so often between America and his native country, he has seen what both countries have to offer. Langford points out the difference in size and people of the two countries as the two biggest differences. New Zealand has a population of about three million, about a third the size of Chicago.

"(New Zealand) is a beautiful country," he said. "People are more laid back and slow. There are many respectable people."

Another major difference between America and New Zealand are the sports. While living in New Zealand, Langford played sports such as rugby, cricket and soccer, traditional sports for New Zealand, but not for America.

Upon returning to America, Langford has found a niche in football that coincides with his kicking ability. As a senior in high school, that ability set a school record for most field goals in a season. Last year, he was fourth on Ball State's football team in scoring with 22 points.

This year, he played a role in Ball State's upset of then ranked Toledo in the Homecoming game by kicking three field goals -- including two in the second quarter.

"I had some field goals (early on in the game), but they may or may not have been important. In the end, they put the team in position to win," he said of his contribution to the win. Langford has been nothing less than consistent for the Cardinals, and he says that being reliable and consistent is part of being a kicker.

"(Kickers) score points when asked to. It is my job and role to do that, to get three points or one," he said. "The offense works hard to get downfield, and I want to capitalize off that."

Langford also pegs his success as a kicker to a new-found confidence in his ability.

"I've always believed that success comes with confidence. It's 90 percent of kicking and (this year I have felt) very, very confident. When I kick, there is no thought of missing in my mind. It has taken some time (to get this confidence), but I have found it."

With the resurgence of the football team in recent weeks, Langford said he doesn't seem to be fazed by the team's current winning streak He says that the team knew all along, and there was no doubt they could win.

"It's no surprise, to us at least. A big art of us winning is motivation and having a drive to win. It it the first time all year that everybody has been on the same page and geared to win. Everyone is focused to win and bring intensity to the games (every) Saturday."

So whenever the team needs a field goal or has a extra point opportunity, they call on the guy with reliability and consistency. They call on the guy from New Zealand. They call him Kiwi.


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