The New York Times
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Norwegian Earns Internet Stardom and an N.F.L. Tryout to Boot
By DAVID PICKER
Havard Rugland does not have the pedigree one might expect for someone who has become an Internet sensation for kicking a football. He knows next to nothing about the sport. Just ask him to name the quarterback of the New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos.
“I have no idea,” said Rugland, a 28-year-old from Norway.
When asked how many yards an offense is penalized for a false start, Rugland paused. “I’d just be guessing,” he finally admitted.
“Look, I don’t know much about football,” Rugland said by telephone from his home in Algard, a small town near the southwestern coast of Norway. “But I’m fascinated by it. There’s great athletes and speed and big hits. I thought it was interesting. So I wondered, What can I do?”
Using tools not typically associated with athletic prowess — YouTube, Facebook, Skype and Gmail — Rugland parlayed a homemade video that went viral into a tryout as a kicker with the Jets last week. He might be the first professional prospect to replace college football experience with social media savvy. In the four-minute video, posted on YouTube in mid-September under the title “Kickalicious,” the left-footed Rugland pulls off some of the most amusing tricks with a football since Lucy began duping Charlie Brown. It has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
In one clip Rugland kicks the ball from a dock to someone in a canoe floating about 25 yards away. Twice. In another, he kicks the ball into the arms of someone standing through a car’s sunroof. That might not seem so spectacular, except the car is cruising along a country road. The most eye-popping trick is saved for last. Rugland punts one ball high into the air and then quickly kicks a second ball off a tee. The balls collide in midair.
“That last kick, it took about eight tries,” Rugland said. “The basketball kick, I wanted it to go straight in, but it kept hitting the rim. That actually took a while. That could have been like 40 tries.”
Rugland is so accurate on so many difficult kicks that his video almost seems too good to be true. It brings to mind doctored videos featuring other athletes, like one of the Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant leaping over a speeding Aston Martin (Bryant never would have risked his knees). But Rugland insisted his video was real. He said that NRK, Norway’s public broadcasting network, reviewed the raw videos and concluded they were legitimate.
Regardless of the video’s legitimacy, Rugland ended up at the Jets’ doorstep, quite an accomplishment for anyone, let alone a Norwegian who had never played football at any level. His journey to New York provides a blueprint of sorts for anyone looking to turn a homemade video into a global hit.