Griffin Oakes and Drew Conrad grew up 4 miles from each other in Greenwood but have been acquaintances only for a year.
A shared love of kicking footballs brought them together.
Oakes, a redshirt junior placekicker for Indiana University’s football team, has taken Conrad, a freshman punter, under his wing as the two prepare for the Hoosiers’ upcoming season.
Conrad is a preferred walk-on at IU.
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It’s the same lowest-on-the-depth-chart status Oakes experienced three summers ago before putting in the time to become an All-Big Ten Conference First Team kicker.
Oakes attended Greenwood Community High School. Conrad graduated from Center Grove in June.
One Johnson County athlete learning from another.
One Johnson County athlete watching over another.
“I told Drew that whatever you get, you earn,” said Oakes, who converted 24 of 29 field-goal attempts in 2015. “It’s kind of a culture shock when you first get here. There’s so much stuff you have to keep track of, the seriousness of it.
“But he’s done a good job of accepting coaching and is always willing to learn. Right now it’s just building that leg strength and trying not to fatigue easily. You see it more in freshmen. It’s a different lifestyle than what you’re used to.”
A two-year starter for the Trojans, Conrad averaged 39.3 yards per punt as a senior to help lead Center Grove to an undefeated season and Class 6A state championship.
He arrived in Bloomington on June 15.
Conrad is beginning his college career with two summer classes, preseason conditioning and workouts with the other kickers and punters on IU’s roster for the 2016 season.
Those besides Conrad contending to be the Hoosiers’ punter this season include redshirt sophomores Joseph Gideon and Jake Shake. Junior college transfer Codey Wuthrich figures to factor in before Indiana opens its season at Florida International on Sept. 1.
The past 18 days have been an education all their own for Conrad.
“There’s not a lot of free time, especially with taking two classes,” Conrad said. “I’m reading about 35 pages a night, and I’m up at 5 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesday I’m up at 7 a.m.
“It’s taught me a lot already.”
Oakes, who punted and kicked in high school, is Conrad’s trusted sounding board, whether the subject is time management or punting mechanics.
Currently, the two are working on lowering the time Conrad takes from the time he catches the football to the time it explodes off his right foot.
Right now Conrad’s time is between 1.3 and 1.4 seconds. Their objective is lowering it to 1.2 by the time the Hoosiers begin team practices in early August.
Sounds easy, but it isn’t.
“Right now I’m trying to get my strength and technique the best I can before the start of team camp,” Conrad said. “I’m trying to be as fundamentally sound as I can be.”
Conrad is one of three former Trojans on Indiana’s roster.
The others are redshirt junior defensive back Mario Swann and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Gavin Everett.
A 2015 Center Grove graduate, Everett transferred from Western Illinois University after redshirting as a freshman.
THE OAKES FILE
Name: Griffin Oakes
Family: Parents, Pete Oakes and Vanessa Mahan; brothers, Cole, 15, and Gavin, 11; sisters, Gabi, 15, and Kinley, 14
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 200 pounds
High school: Greenwood (2013)
Major: Exercise science
THE CONRAD FILE
Name: Drew Conrad
Family: Parents, Kevin and Stacy; brothers, Zack, 15, and Luke, 13
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 189 pounds
High school: Center Grove (2016)