Unsung Heroes: Middletown’s Danny Cardenas

Middletown senior kicker Danny Cardenas (courtesy photo)

Danny Cardenas
Senior place kicker

Notable: After suffering a back injury in a preseason drill, Cardenas’ doctor sent him for an x-ray. The prognosis left him ready to cry. The doctor diagnosed a slipped disc in the lower back and told Cardenas if he played contact sports in the future, paralysis was a possibility. Cardenas turned in his gear, but has come back in a different role and is now referred to as “Mr. Automatic” by his coach Bill Foltmer.


PD: So, you’ve found your niche as the best kicker in Middletown history. In the regular season, you converted more than 60 extra points for the Mustangs and remarkably missed only once. How did you wind up as the team kicker?
Cardenas: After the doctor told me I could be paralyzed if I took another hit, I knew I couldn’t take that chance. I was bummed out and didn’t even go to my team’s first game (the Mustangs lost for the only time in the regular season, 57-52, to visiting Salesian on Sept. 10). In fact, I didn’t even stay in Middletown that day. When I heard the coach wasn’t happy with the kicking game, I asked if he was looking for another kicker and that I wanted to give a try.

PD: Tell us exactly how it happened.
Cardenas: Monday morning when I got to school, I found coach Foltmer and said I’d like to give kicking a try. He said to ask my doctor and if it was OK with him, show up for practice. The doctor said I could kick as long as I avoided contact.

PD: Obviously coach Foltmer was impressed how you kicked in practice because eight days later, you made eight straight PATs in the 56-0 win over Upper Lake. Did you have an previous kicking experience?
Cardenas: I played soccer and the kicking motion is the same. On extra points, I take one step forward before kicking the ball. When I kick field goals, it’s a three-step approach.

PD: Does kicking irritate the slipped disc?
Cardenas: I can feel it, but it’s not unbearable pain. I ice my back after games and by the next day, the pain is a lot less.

PD: You own the school record for most extra points in a season. A writer couldn’t make up a story that has turned out like this.
Cardenas: I never even thought about being the team kicker. But, I wanted to be part of the team my senior year and when the kicking position opened up, I saw the opportunity. That’s pretty much the story, I have trouble believing it turned out this way.

PD: The team went undefeated in North Central-I North and outscored opponents by an average of nearly 40 points per game. What made this team dominant?
Cardenas: I think the offensive line was key. They consistently made holes for our leading running back David Pike and gave our quarterback, Kyle Brown, enough time to find open receivers. I’m just glad I’m part of it

— Howard Senzell, for The Press Democrat