Andrew Mooney was a second team all-conference tight end at Ohio University. Back home in West Texas, his dad, Ed, is a Texas Tech football legend and hall of fame linebacker.
Mooney knows what elite talent looks like.
That's why Gabe Brkic surprised him. When Mooney was at his first full-time paid coaching position in Chardon, Ohio, for the Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School freshman team, Brkic was kicking 35-yard field goals at 14 years old.
“We were in situations where we needed it, and he could do it,” Mooney said. “We had touchbacks. I was fresh out of Ohio and had coached there for four years as a graduate assistant. I was thinking, wow, I’ve played with guys who weren’t as good as him and he’s 14.”
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was equally impressed after Brkic nearly willed the Sooners to a win at Kansas State last week. The redshirt freshman made 4 of 4 field goal attempts, connected on his first 50-yard attempt in college and executed a perfect onside attempt in the closing minutes.
K-State stunned OU, 48-41, but Brkic emerged from the ashes looking like the Sooners’ next star kicker. He still hasn't missed this season, converting all 10 field goals he’s attempted. Against the Wildcats he became OU's first player to convert four field goals in a game since Michael Hunnicutt in 2011.
Despite not being tested from long range, Brkic made kicks of 39, 44 and 50 yards. The 50-yarder was OU’s longest field goal since 2017 when Austin Seibert converted from 51.
Seibert, also an Ohio native, is now with the Cleveland Browns after handling the all the kicking duties at OU for three years. Riley had been interested in tapping into the benefits of dividing those duties between multiple players.
Brkic showed why it's beneficial. He had enough stamina in the closing minutes to execute a near-perfect onside kick, which the Sooners came just shy of recovering legally.
“He gave us a chance the other day. He may have been our best player on the whole field. He did a tremendous job. Those were big kicks. They weren't easy kicks. Either some distance or in pressure moments and did a tremendous job,” Riley said. “Had a lot of confidence there in the end to be able to kick that and try to make it a one-score game. He was fantastic.”
There has been head-scratching since about why Brkic wasn’t named OU’s field-goal kicker initially. He assumed the role in Game 4 this season, after Calum Sutherland was arrested and later suspended pending a Title IX investigation. That process is still ongoing, Riley said.
Sutherland got off to a shaky start with two misses in two tries, eventually making two in a row before his suspension.
Brkic’s now handling field goals and kickoffs, with 39 touchbacks in 69 kicks. It’s difficult to imagine him losing either job.
“Gabe has just come on,” Riley said. “He's been a little bit of a gamer. He does well in practice, but then he gets in a game and has a good way about himself, good confidence.”
When Brkic became a high school sophomore, he and Mooney moved up together as Mooney took over as Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School head varsity coach. That was around the time Brkic gave up soccer to focus solely on football. His kicking talents skyrocketed.
Ohio high school football rules dictate that if a missed field goal lands in the end zone — regardless of whether it passes through the uprights — opponents must take possession at their own 20-yard line, not at the spot. Mooney had Brkic attempt field goals from midfield or beyond, and as long as they made it past the goal line they were essentially long punts.
His longest field goal make in high school was a 53-yarder. Kohl’s Kicking Camps ranked him the No. 7 kicker in the 2018 class, and he wound up in Norman by choosing OU two weeks before the late signing period.
At 6 feet 2, 196 pounds, he has improved upon the athletic frame Mooney remembers .
“He’s more muscular now after two years in a college strength program, but he’s always been naturally explosive and strong and fast,” Mooney said. “My wide receiver coach would always want me to put him at wideout because he could go up and jump and get the ball. I said, ‘No, we’re not throwing alway all those points. He’s a guaranteed 65 points a year.
“He’s been one of the most athletic kids in my program. How often do you say that with your kicker?”
Iowa State at Oklahoma
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Place: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
Records/rankings: AP No. 10/Coaches No. 9 OU (7-1, 4-1 Big 12); Iowa State (5-3, 3-2)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7