No. 1 Rafael Gaglianone
Weight: 225 pounds
College interest: Offers from North Carolina State. Being recruited by LSU, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Hawaii.
Rafael Gaglianone took one look at the large, padded players crashing into one another on Baylor's football field and made up his mind.
"I saw how big the guys were and how hard they were hitting, and all I could think was that I would get hurt," Gaglianone recalled. "So I said there was no way I would play football."
The Brazilian exchange student had played soccer since he was able to walk and came to Baylor as a sophomore to continue his career in that sport, hoping to earn a college scholarship. Former Baylor all-state kicker Henrique Ribeiro, a fellow Brazilian with a similar background, convinced Gaglianone to look past the violence and give football a chance.
"He knew I had a strong leg and said kickers don't have to get hit like that," Gaglianone said. "So I went out, and the first day in practice I made a 50-yard field goal. From then on, Coach [Phil] Massey told me I was a football player.
"And once I saw the crowds for football games, I knew I wanted to play that instead. You don't get big crowds here for soccer like you do football, and I love that atmosphere."
After learning the basic rules of football and adjusting to the differences from his previous sport of choice, Gaglianone was an immediate success in his first season with Baylor's varsity. He became a state Mr. Football finalist after making 12 of 15 field-goal attempts with one from 51 yards, another from 50 and three others from more than 40. He also put 98 percent of his kickoffs into or through the end zone.
"We've been really blessed by having Henrique and now Rafael from soccer to play football for us," Massey said. "The ball just jumps off Rafael's foot and he doesn't just kick it far -- he gets really good height on it -- so it's tough to block. It's not easy for kickers to get offers from big-time programs, but once coaches see what he's capable of, he's gotten a lot of interest from all over the country.
"We feel like he's one of the best high school kickers in the nation."
Now his biggest challenge is having opposing public-address announcers butcher his name.
"It happens about every day," said Gaglianone, whose father was a professional surfer in Brazil. "Every time I meet someone new, they mess up my name. The announcer at Soddy-Daisy last year just gave up trying. Even my kicking coach can't pronounce it, so he just started calling me 'Bob.' It's funny.
"Coming here was a big cultural shock. I knew English, but I wasn't ready for the Southern accent. That was a big obstacle. But now I say 'Ya'll' and 'What's happening?' just like everybody else."
When Massey old him to expect a phone call from Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Gaglianone began prepping a day prior.
"I did more homework on who he was and how I should act when he called than I would have if the Pope was calling," Gaglianone said.
Former Frankllin County and University of Tennessee kicker Jeff Hall holds the state field-goal record by making a 62-yard attempt twice, and former Brentwood Academy all-state kicker Kody Bliss made a 61-yarder. Those are the only recorded makes from beyond 60 yards, but Gaglianone made a 64-yarder in practice earlier this week, with room to spare.
"You grow up imagining yourself making the big plays, so I really want the opportunity to do this," he said. "And I sure hope I make it, because I know it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance. Kicking is so much mental that you have to pretend like a 50-yard field goal is like an extra point.
"I would like to play in the SEC because that's the best. I would like to play for LSU against Alabama because those games usually come down to a field goal, so I would like the chance to win a game like that."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...