ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Whether he’s just a training-camp gimmick or has a legitimate shot for a NFL career remains to be seen.
Either way, Havard Rugland — aka “Kickalicious” of YouTube fame — is having the time of his life these days.
Rugland, signed by the Detroit Lions, put a football helmet on Friday for the very first time during his rookie minicamp debut.
It’s been quite a ride for the 28-year-old Norwegian since he became an overnight sensation by posting a trick-kick video on the Internet that features him kicking a football into a trash can, boat, basketball hoop and even a moving car.
“I wanted an opportunity to show my skills,” Rugland, a left-footed kicker, said after Saturday’s practice. “I had no idea it would end up like this.
“I was lucky. I got the opportunity, performed well and here I am.”
Rugland started receiving calls from college football teams, rugby clubs and eventually got a tryout with the Lions, New York Jets and Cleveland Browns.
The Lions, who have an opening for a kicker after Jason Hanson’s retirement, also signed veteran David Akers, who was with the San Francisco 49ers last season.
Nevertheless, Rugland has high hopes of fulfilling this football fantasy.
“I’m really serious about it,” he said. “I’m doing my best to get better every day. There’s a lot of people wanting a spot on NFL teams. You have to perform good. They wouldn’t sign me if they didn’t see something in talent or potential.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz joked that Rugland won’t even know how to put on his uniform properly when the team begins to practice in full pads.
“He’s good at kicking the ball into cars that are driving down the road, helicopters and boats and stuff like that,” Schwartz said, slightly exaggerating Rugland’s tricks. “I don’t think you get any more points for doing that. You’ve got to kick it between the goal posts.
“It’s all new to him, technique and timing, all those other things. He has a ways to go.”
Like everyone else, the Lions first found out about Rugland from the YouTube video.
They were, naturally, a little skeptical.
“You just wonder how many times he had to kick it through the trash can before he made it,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz compared it to basketball trick-shot videos.
“They might sit there for three days trying to make one,” he said. “There’s a reason they look so happy they make it, probably because they’re tired. They tried it 1,000 times.
“You cut them up, put them all back-to-back and it looks pretty impressive (in a video).”
Still, it was clearly that video that helped Rugland get his, well, foot in the door.
“The video just sort of qualified him to be able to come work out,” Schwartz said. “We signed him based on the workout he had for us, taking traditional kicks and stuff like that.
“You could tell on that video he had leg strength and he could control the football. Those were important things. Then after he worked out here, we had a feel for his leg strength on kickoffs and his accuracy. We liked what we saw. We thought we could work with him.”
Rugland, who is from Stavanger, Norway, and started playing soccer about age 5, said his cousin, Anders Stenberg, is the one who gave him the “Kickalicious” nickname.
Stenberg also appears in the video, wearing a Mexican soccer jersey, along with Rugland’s two brothers and a friend.
“We didn’t think too much of it,” Rugland said of the nickname. “But, yeah — it stands out.”
Rugland said some of the trick kicks only took a few takes, while the one where he swishes the football through a basketball hoop “could easily have been 40.”
“I kept hitting the rim, and I wanted it to go straight in,” Rugland said. “That’s a lot of work. Looks a lot better when it goes straight in.”
Rugland has been training recently with former NFL kicker Michael Husted, but he never even tried to kick with a helmet on before this weekend.
“I’ve got a pretty big head,” Rugland said. “It’s not something you can just throw me a helmet and I can use it. You need at least XL helmet.”
He said he’s making the transition.
“In soccer, your head pretty often follows the football,” Rugland explained. “I’m trying to keep my head down. (The helmet) almost helped me out a little bit.”
Rugland hasn’t done much kicking during the Lions’ regular practices open to the media, but he said he made one from 58 or 59 yards Friday in the indoor facility.
As for his football knowledge, Rugland said, “I can’t tell you every rule, but I know the basics. I watched the playoffs (last season), watched a few games.”
How many points for a field goal?
“Three,” he said. “Come on.” EXTRA POINT
Offensive guard Larry Warford, a third-round pick, left Saturday’s practice with an apparent stinger in the area of his left shoulder.
Schwartz didn’t provide any details on the exact nature of the injury nor the severity.