Game-winning field goals of 50 yards or longer are rare even in the NFL.
In NCAA Division II, they are almost unheard of.
Garrett Lindholm is not your typical D2 kicker.
That’s why Tarleton State head coach Sam McElroy never hesitated to send his senior kicker into a game the No. 15 Texans needed badly to win with the score deadlocked at 28 and three seconds on the clock.
“We knew we were going to kick the field goal. There was no question,” McElroy said. “He kicks those all the time in practice. What makes it so much different is handling the pressure of trying to win a big game, but that’s what makes Garrett so special. As soon as I saw the trajectory of it and knew it was headed between the pipes there wasn’t any doubt he made it.”
Lindholm nailed the kick right through the very top of the Tarleton Memorial Stadium uprights, shocking the almost 5,000 fans in attendance and lifting Tarleton to a 31-28 win against No. 18 Midwestern State.
But, like his coach, Lindholm wasn’t shocked at all.
“I was already warm because I had just kicked off after the 36-yard field goal (which tied the game). Right when (the 55-yarder) cleared the line and I knew it wasn’t going to get blocked I knew I made it,” Lindholm said. “It felt like a kickoff. I just hit it as hard as I could.”
Lindholm has made long kicks before. In fact, he is 8-8 from 40 yards or longer this season, including the 44-yarder he made to get Tarleton on the board in the second quarter of Saturday’s game. The senior also made a 40 yarder against a stiff wind the previous week to tie the score at 20-20 in the fourth quarter at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
“Any time I kick I just focus on doing the same thing I always do,” Lindholm said. “Every kick is the same routine.”
Lindholm’s routine may have been the same, but there’s nothing routine about 55-yard field goals. The kick broke a 26-year old Tarleton school record, eclipsing the 54-yard field goal made by Vince Oldag in 1983. It is the longest kick made in a Lone Star Conference game since 1982, and as far as conference officials could confirm, the third longest in conference history.
On a nationwide scale, the 55-yarder is the longest made by any kicker this year in NCAA Division I-FCS, Division II or Division III. Only Wisconsin and Purdue in the Division I-FBS ranks have had longer field goals.
It also completed the second-biggest comeback in school history and largest since Tarleton joined D2 after the Texans trailed by 18 (21-3) in the second quarter. Only the 1985 Texans erased a bigger deficit when they trailed Austin College 21-0 before winning 24-21.
Lindholm leads the LSC in touchbacks this season with 12 after topping the league in that category last year with 25. He has 77 touchbacks in his career. He is currently tied with Eastern New Mexico’s Taylor Cannon for the most field goals made this season with 10 and is one of three kickers in the league to be perfect on PATs at 26-26.
Lindholm has drawn the attention of pro scouts, leading many D2 followers to believe he has a shot at a free agent contract after the NFL Draft next spring.
“I’ve been in contact with a few scouts,” Lindholm said. “Every football player dreams of playing professionally. It’s fun just to think about even getting the chance.”
Strangely enough, Lindholm, a senior from Pflugerville, almost never played football.
“When I was a freshman (in high school) I went to see about getting my schedule changed so I could play soccer and one of the coaches talked me into trying to play football,” he said. “I ended up getting to kick and play corner back for a 10-0 freshman team.”
Lindholm stuck to football and ended up being an all-district kicker and punter while also playing safety at the varsity level. He was drawing recruiting attention from a school in Charlotte for soccer, but by his senior year, football was his only sport.
“I had (football recruiting) visits to TCU, Air Force, Texas State and Sam Houston,” Lindholm said. “I got letters from a lot of schools.”
But none of the Division I schools made him feel at home like Tarleton.
“When I visited Tarleton the coaches told me I would get to play as a freshman, and it was close to home. I didn’t want to leave the state to play football, and my dad and I really liked the school,” Lindholm said. “Stephenville is a nice community. It just felt right.”
Four years later, Lindholm, 21, is two months away from graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
“That just goes back to the way Garrett is,” McElroy said. “He takes care of business on the football field and in the classroom and he helps us in giving back to the community. He’s going to be successful no matter what he pursues in life.”
For now, Lindholm will settle for pursuing his degree - and a spot in the national football playoffs.
“We’ve had spurts of five or six minutes at a time where we’ve looked unbeatable,” Lindholm said. “We just have to stop having the occasional breakdowns. We have good enough athletes to go deep into the playoffs.”
With Lindholm around, if getting to the playoffs comes down to a kick, the odds are certainly in Tarleton’s favor