Richmond-Burton football coach Mike Noll had often borrowed kickers from the soccer teams at McHenry and Glenbrook South throughout his 33-year coaching career.
The past two seasons offered a different twist, when Noll and Rockets boys golf coach Brad Tichenor agreed to share Jeff Lehn, who adeptly handled R-B’s kicking and punting duties, then often went out and shot low score for the golf team.
Lehn was determined to make his senior year as memorable as possible, so he is one-upping himself this fall, playing middle linebacker, kicker and punter, and still contributing one of the low scores for the Rockets in golf.
Lehn, who kicks leftfooted and swings righthanded, is an athletic rarity in that he is as skillful at hitting a running back in the hole as he is hitting his tee shot 300 yards.
“It’s working out pretty well now,” Lehn said. “I can’t make a lot of golf practices because of how much I’m at football. I go to the most important stuff for golf, like the matches.”
Lehn approached his coaches about his idea in May. As Noll was holding exit interviews with the Rockets, Lehn, who played in the Richmond Comets’ program since first grade, asked him about playing linebacker in addition to his special teams duties.
“We’ve never done this before,” Noll said. “We’ve had soccer kids who kicked for us, golf kids, but I said, ‘I think we can make this work if we want to.’
“So far, so good. He’s done a really good job. He’s our Mac linebacker and essentially he hasn’t played that kind of football since freshman year in the spring. He was a linebacker back then. We’re very pleased with his progress so far. It’s been good for both [teams]. Jeff has made it work.”
Lehn has 11 tackles, six assists, one sack and four hurries and has made 9 of 12 extra points for R-B, which is 3-0 and ranked No. 4 in The Associated Press Class 4A poll. Meanwhile, he is averaging 41.2 strokes per nine holes for the golf team, where either he or Colten Miller usually take low honors.
Tichenor agrees with Noll.
“It’s a tough thing to do two sports at the same time, and he’s doing really well at both right now,” he said. “He’s been to every match so far. He’s going to skip two nonconference matches this week. With it being homecoming week, I was like, ‘Go do the football stuff.’ Our conference meet is next week, and we’re focused on that.”
Lehn has been consistent with his golf scores, which is all that Tichenor wants.
Before school started last month, Lehn often went to football practice, then headed to an area golf course for as many holes as he could play before darkness fell.
Now, without the benefit of extra golf time, he squeezes in what he can on weekends. After team meetings Saturdays, he goes out to play 18 holes. On Sundays, he also tries to get in 18.
“My golf game’s all right,” Lehn said. “I golf as much as I can. I like to go to Geneva National.”
Lehn first got accustomed to doing two sports at once in middle school. He played travel soccer and with the Comets, splitting his time. Lehn had played quarterback, running back, linebacker and kicker throughout his football career.
Playing soccer made Lehn a better football kicker.
“Soccer, learning to strike the ball, helped a lot,” he said. “I kicked all the way through in football, but the soccer helped me get better.”
A a freshman, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the football season to be moved to the spring, so Lehn could do both.
As a sophomore and junior, he pulled it off in the same season with the cooperation of his coaches. Now he’s taken it a step further.
“I kind of thought I wanted to do my best for the football team,” Lehn said. “We needed the most help. I played football my whole life, linebacker and quarterback. I liked golf and wanted to keep playing. Me and coach Noll worked out how I could do both and kick.”
Linebacker Luke Rendtorff has played football with Lehn since third grade and was happy to see his friend take on an expanded role.
“It was kind of awesome,” Rendorff said. “When we got into high school he went towards kicker. Finally, he wanted to come back and do what he did. It’s helped out our team a lot.
“In our Mac position, he’s right on the line, and he’s a big dude. He gets himself and he moves, he plugs himself in the holes, and it really helps us with stopping the run.”
Lehn, who at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds looks more like a linebacker than a kicker or golfer, doesn’t mind things being a little hectic for a couple months.
“I’m pretty busy. I try to do as much as I can during school. If I can, then after dinner at night,” he said. “It’s my last year, do as much as I can and have fun with it.”