JUST FOR KICKS

Kevin Harvick makes a bet with a former Catamount kicker

By DANIEL HOOKER ’01

Derived from a previous friendly wager, a bet that came to be known throughout the Twitter-verse as “#TheKick” took on a life of its own – and ultimately produced a financial windfall for the Catamount football program on a rainy April afternoon at E.J. Whitmire Stadium / Bob Waters Field.

Josh Jones ’01 – also known by his Twitter handle, @Mother_Function – is director of business development for KHI Management, owned by defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick. Jones is a former All-America selection as a placekicker at WCU, also having spent time in the arenafootball2 league.

Through working together and their friendship, Harvick knew that Jones had been a kicker in college. But the driver of the No. 4 machine doubted Jones’ actual ability, all those years removed from his playing days.

kickerFormer All-American kicker Josh Jones ’01 attempts a 45-yard field goal to win $10,000 for his alma mater’s football program.

Early in Jones’ employment and friendship with Harvick, the driver had challenged Jones to a three-out-of-five, 50-yard field goal competition at his old high school in Bakersfield, California, with $1,000 on the line. Jones split the uprights four times, the final kick from 60 yards away, to win the bet. Harvick, true to his word, paid up – in $1,000 worth of quarters.

Fast-forward to National Signing Day 2015. While WCU head football coach Mark Speir MAEd ’95 was busy compiling his signing class, Jones took to Twitter to wish the Catamounts good luck. Harvick got involved and, after much good-natured back-and-forth smack talk online, the bet was born: Jones was to kick a 45-yard field goal in full pads against a defensive rush for $10,000 to go toward Speir’s “Feed the Cats,” a program to provide meals for players during summer workouts.

On the next-to-last day of WCU’s spring practice, Jones returned to his alma mater and was fitted in full uniform, right down to his familiar No. 22 jersey. Under drizzling rain, Jones warmed up until late in the practice when his number was called for the money kick.

Although Jones’ practice kicks were strong and accurate, his “kick for cash” barely missed wide left. The looks of disappointment on the faces of the Catamount players quickly dissipated, however, when Jones presented Speir with a $10,000 check from Harvick in spite of the miss.

And now the Catamounts have a new favorite NASCAR driver.

MARATHON MAN

Coach runs marathon to ‘Feed the Cats’

Former placekicker and current sports management guru Josh Jones ’01 was not the only person putting his best foot forward for the WCU football team this spring. Just days after his team finished spring drills and collected $10,000 from Jones’ boss, NASCAR star Kevin Harvick, head football coach Mark Speir MAEd ’95 had one last item to check off before entering the summer months.

Speir and his older brother, Ken, tackled the grueling 2015 Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, which ranks as one of the world’s most prestigious running events. A day after relaxing and catching a Boston Red Sox game, the Speir duo made its way to the starting line for the 26.2-mile course – or as Boston.com fittingly called it, 431.12 football fields.

Speir used one word to describe his experience in Boston: pain. But, beneath a grin, he quickly used another word to relive that windy, rainy race day: rewarding. “It’s like I tell our players all of the time – it’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it. And that is what I thought about the entire time I was running,” said Speir.  “It was tough, but really worth it and I’m glad I did it.”

Thanks to pledges from fans of the football program, Speir also raised more than $4,000 for his “Feed the Cats” program to help fund players’ meals during summer workouts.