The road to glory and success often includes a few potholes and detours.
Landon Reeves of Ottawa University in Arizona has experienced that journey on the way to winning the 2023 Fred Mitchell Award as the best kicker among more than 750 non-FBS colleges in America.
Landon Reeves is the 2023 Fred Mitchell Award winner.
“Personally, for me, I think everyone has ups and downs, especially in any position you play in any sport,” Reeves said as he received the news that he is this year’s winner. “I’ve just been very grateful for the people that have been around me, especially for the community that I grew up in, out in Idalou, Texas, just very grateful that they’ve always had my back no matter what.”
Reeves credits his mother for supporting him and lifting his spirits while he trained at Kicking World Camps.
“Something that’s just always stuck out to me was, it was my senior year (of high school). I had one last (kicking) showcase I had to do,” Reeves said. “And I remember my performance wasn’t my best I’ve done. And I remember sitting there with my mom, and I told her… I was like, ‘Mom, I never want to feel like this again. I’m going to make sure whenever I’m in college that it’s going to be my shot, and I’m going to run with it. I’m going to make sure that I’m going to grab it and go.’
“And she looked at me, she goes, ‘You do that, Landon.’
“Then last year, I sat down with my mom the summer before the season started, and I just had a lot of confidence going into the season.”
Reeves, who previously was on the roster at Texas Tech, wound up converting 14 of his 15 field goal attempts and 64 of 65 extra point tries to score 106 points on the 2023 season. He boomed 45 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
“I felt very confident, more humble than anything, that I was going to have a really good season,” Reeves said of his senior year. “And God blessed me with a really good season, and that’s what really mattered to me.”
Head coach Mike Nesbitt is no stranger to developing nationally recognized kickers. Before taking over the NAIA program at Ottawa University, Nesbitt was the head coach at West Texas A&M, where he nurtured 2013 Fred Mitchell Award winner Sergio Castillo.
Following his record-setting collegiate career, Castillo has kicked in the NFL and CFL, where he won a Grey Cup title and continues to set records in the CFL. Reeves and Castillo have become friends, and now they have a trophy in common.
“I think Landon and Sergio would tell you, you know, the big thing is we don’t treat them any differently,” said Nesbitt, who led the nation in net punting at New Mexico as a senior and was invited to the camps of the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings before launching his coaching career.
“I always laugh when I listen to guys on TV who say that you can’t talk to (kickers) that way or you can’t tell them something. I think we coach our kickers and punters here just as hard as any position group, the D-line, the O-line, the quarterback. And I think what that does is… it lets the team know, too, that they’re a player. They’re a football player. They’re not just a kicker.”
In addition to kicking performance, another important criteria for winning the Fred Mitchell Award is community service. And the 35-person Selection Committee, chaired by Rob Perry, took notice of Reeves’ unselfish involvement.
“One of my most favorites…and I still am doing it right now… is every summer for about a week I go out into York, Nebraska. I am a church counselor for kids that are in high school and some kids that are in middle school,” Reeves said.
“And I take care of roughly about 15 to 20 kids. What we do out in Nebraska, other than worship God, is we do these volunteer and community services on Wednesday out in the little town out there in York. And I really like it out there, for one, because it reminds me of my own hometown.
“So it just brings out a little bit more memories, and it’s great seeing a lot of the people that we help. One of the times we helped paint someone’s house for an older lady. It was just great seeing that because she can’t do it or she can’t pay for it. So we volunteered our time that day for three hours to paint her house. She was just very grateful, and it was just amazing seeing a smile on her face,” said Reeves.
Reeves emerged as the 2023 winner of the Fred Mitchell Award amidst some exceptionally strong competition. The Top 10 finalists (in no particular order) in addition to Reeves were Kyle Ramsey Abilene Christian, Michael Stack (Wisconsin-LaCrosse), Lake Barrett (Wooster of Ohio), Caden Bonoffski (William & Mary), Christian Casillas (College of DuPage), Matthew Cook (Northern Iowa), Jacob Laurent (Carroll University-Wisconsin), Will Leyland (South Dakota) and Richard McCollum (Western Carolina).
Reeves will be honored in suburban Chicago on Feb. 19, 2024, during the National Football Foundation-Chicago Chapter awards ceremony at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, training site for the Chicago Bears. His school will receive scholarship funds and Reeves will be presented the Fred Mitchell Award trophy.
- 2023 — Landon Reeves
- 2022 — Ethan Gettman
- 2021 — Ethan Ratke
- 2019 — Luis Aguilar
- 2018 — Roldan Alcobendas
- 2017 — Cole Tracy
- 2016 — Matt Davis
- 2015 — Matt Cotiguala
2014 — Tom Obarski
- 2013 — Sergio Castillo
- 2012 — Patrick Murray
- 2011 — Tom Lynch
- 2010 — Tom Lynch
- 2009 — Jeff Schebler