Walnut (Calif.) Mt. San Antonio C.C. kicker Donald Hageman committed to San Diego State special teams coach Kevin McGarry on Monday night following his official visit this weekend.
Hageman, who made 19-of-20 field goal attempts this past season along with converting on 54 out of 56 PATs, fills a major need for SDSU heading into next fall and will have two years of eligibility to play two seasons.
San Diego State officially offered him during his visit and he said that he loved spending time with the coaching staff as well as the team's current players. He was hosted by SDSU cornerback Pierre Romain.
"They were all great," Hageman said. "They were really happy and excited to see me and they were really cool all weekend. I talked with Coach McGarry during my visit and when I came back home I talked it over that night with my parents and decided I was going to call him the next day and commit to them."
The Aztecs kicking game struggled with consistency throughout the regular season - making just 8-of-15 field goal attempts and missing six PATs - and forced head coach Rocky Long to adjust his play calling at times in order to rectify the points being given away.
Hageman's aware of it all, though. He knows about the finger-tipped blocks, the kicked balls ricocheting off of field goal posts and how much having a dependable kicker can change the outcome of a game - the Fresno State loss being the most notable example. He also knows how fan bases, including SDSU's following, can place the blame on kickers for a loss on any given Saturday.
But Hageman's a confident, positive kid who looks at the situation from a different angle.
"The fact that they already have been playing for conference championchips for the past couple of years - even with their kicking struggles - being able to do that, I think with me being a really solid kicker it can really set the team over the edge.
"I'll be able to put points on the board and not have people worried that we might have to take risks instead, like going for it. Kicking is a real part of football; teams need a good kicker and I'm glad that I can really help this team win another conference championship. I'm ready to step up and I know I can make the kicks when it counts."
Hageman said he has been kicking ever since the eighth grade when one of his relatives, who was a kicker for the University of Redlands at the time, got him into the sport. He started up training with west coast kicking guru Chris Sailer and kicked all four years at La Verne (Calif.) Damien high school. He didn't receive much interest during his senior year, however, so he decided to continue his development at Mt. Sac. in hopes of eventually landing at a Div. I school.
During his first year at the powerhouse junior college, former SDSU commit turned Washington-signee Travis Coons was the starting kicker, so Hageman decided to grey shirt. He did a good job following in Coons' footsteps, but he doesn't plan on making a last-minute switch and said his verbal pledge to the Aztecs is solid.
"No, I'm set, I'm all San Diego State," Hageman said. "I'm committed to the school. This is everything i dreamed of, really. I thought I'd just be at Mt Sac. for two years and I'd be playing D-I this past season but I still stayed on route and this is what I pictured. San Diego State has always been a school that me and my dad talked about because it's close to home and he can come watch me play. It's a big D-I school and it's always been in the picture of places where I would want to go."