Two very different worlds consume all of Keith Kostol’s attention each fall: football and engineering. As a junior in electrical engineering and the starting punter on the Beaver football team, he doesn’t let the intensity of either world get the best of him.

“You go to practice, you go to class, you do homework, then you might have an hour to hang out before going to bed,” Kostol said. “You have to stay focused.”

Oregon State was an obvious choice for Kostol because of its outstanding engineering programs. Ever since he can remember, he has been obsessed with taking things apart — remote control cars, disk drives, lawn mowers — to discover their inner workings. “I always just knew I would be an engineer,” he said.

He warmed up to football a little more slowly, actually quitting his peewee football team after a single year. “I was on the smaller side, and it just wasn’t for me,” he said. He played soccer instead, and then returned to football as the kicker and punter for Tigard High School.

Meanwhile, he grew a little. He’s 6 feet 4 inches now.

During the application process for Oregon State, he sent game film to the Beavers’ coaching staff on a whim. He made the team as a walk-on and earned the backup spot to star punter Johnny Hekker, who now plays for the NFL.

By 2012–13, everything came together for Kostol. He was accepted into the College of Engineering Professional School and also won a head-to-head competition in training camp to become the team’s starting punter. He enjoyed an excellent season for the Beavers, averaging 41.9 yards per punt (although he notes that hang time is just as important as distance for punters). He was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week for his standout play in a key game against UCLA.

Football Head Coach Mike Riley said it’s Kostol’s determination and dedication to hard work that have made him a success on the football field as well as in the classroom. “Many times during the quiet times of the offseason, I’ll be in my office looking down into the stadium and Keith will be out there by himself with a bag of balls practicing his punting,” Riley said. “He has a tremendous work ethic. We always encourage that balance — doing a good job in school, in football and making good choices off the field.”

Perhaps part of Kostol’s success could be attributed to the fact that he sees his successes in sports and academics as separate issues. “When I’m in class, we don’t talk football, and when I’m at practice, we don’t talk engineering,” he said.

After playing for two more years for the Beavers, Kostol plans to study digital signal processing in graduate school. But first, he is going to try his luck playing professionally in the NFL. “I’m going to give that a shot,” he said. “Why not?”

--Romel Hernandez

Published Date: 
Thursday, October 24, 2013