Fever's Cismesia happy to get kicking job

By Jeff Morrow, Herald sports editorMay 20, 2011 

KENNEWICK -- The story goes that Gary Cismesia was awestruck earlier this season while standing outside his hotel in Omaha, Neb., on March 24.

The Tri-Cities Fever kicker is a happy-go-lucky guy who grew up in Florida and had never seen snow.

"He was out front of the hotel like a 6-year-old boy doing snow angels," said Fever coach Adam Shackleford.

"Never in my life had I seen snow," said Cismesia. "We got about 30 seconds of it in the Tri-Cities, but in Omaha I was going nuts. I was just loving it making snowballs. I finally talked my roommate into coming outside so I could throw snowballs at him."

Cismesia was ecstatic to be outside, to be in the snow, and still playing football.

Back when he was a kid in Florida, he was the top soccer player for his age for seven straight years since he was 13.

"When I was 13 I received special offers from teams in Brazil and England," he admits.

But when he got to high school, he decided to turn out for the high school freshman football team just to make some friends.

In his first game, he went out and connected on a 52-yard field goal.

"My coaches wouldn't let me practice after that because they didn't want me to move up to the varsity," Cismesia said. "I still played soccer pretty heavilt until my junior year. Then it's hard to say no to Bobby Bowden."

That would be the head coach at Florida State University.

"He gave me a full ride, it was close to home," he said. "I wanted to go."

He had a great career at FSU, but there wasn't much out there after college ball.

He signed with the New york Jets as a free agent in 2009, but was cut loose in camp.

He spent last year completing his degree in Sociology.

But he never gave up hope of kicking.

"I didnt think I was done yet," he said. "I went out to a kickers camp in Las Vegas, and I finished ranked No. 1 out of 100 campers. I figured I still had a chance."

Then came the moment when he looked on his Facebook account just two weeks before Fever camp was to begin.

Shackleford had lost last year's kicker, Brett Jaekle, who decided to get a 9-to-5 job.

"It's kind of funny how it happened because I rarely get on Facebook," Cismesia said.

But he's been money this season for the Fever.

"I think he's better than we thought he'd be," said Shackleford. "He's over 90 percent successful on his PATs (Point-after-touchdown kicks). His kickoffs have been great and his onside kicks have height. How this kid slipped through the cracks I have no idea."

By Cismesia's estimate, he's had just one mis-kick this season so far.

"(Fever special teams) Coach (Cleveland) Pratt tells me where to kick it for kickoffs," said Cismesia. "On field goal attempts, he tells me when to kick it out of bounds. I had that the last game. Then I heard the radio guy said I really missed it, and I get frustrated because I was told to do that, like a punt."

Shackleford said Cismesia is well-liked by the entire team.

"He goes out there and spots the ball during practice," said Shackleford. "He runs the stadiums stairs. He wants to be involved. He's got the respect of everybody on the team. I think he's changed the perspective of kickers. He's a normal guy, and you don't always find that in a kicker."

Cismesia wants to be more than just a kicker.

"I want to be a part of the team and I won't lay down for anybody," he said. "I was throwing (quarterback) Houston (Lillard) his snaps the other day in practice. I don't want everyone thinking they're out busting their butts and I'm off slacking off."

Cismesia is hoping this season will open the door for him somewhere else.

"You have to take advantage of what you can get," he said. "I definitely want to move up the ladder. I feel like I've got the leg kick for the NFL. I just don't have the experience.

"My long snapper from college is with the Buffalo Bills," he continued. "He told me I was just as good as their kicker. I'm just hoping for an opportunity."

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