Bond between UND kicker, long snapper a key to special teams success

GRAND FORKS — At University of North Dakota football practice, kicker Reid Taubenheim and long snapper Jacob Holmen are inseparable.

The two work through special teams drills and help out elsewhere, too, with anything from holding up down markers to tracking down tackling dummies.

On road trips, Taubenheim and Holmen sit together on plane rides. Away from football, they’re leaders at UND’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

That bond, one that has spanned the entire Bubba Schweigert Era at Memorial Stadium, has paid off for UND’s special teams and was the brightest spot in a Week 1 37-16 loss at Utah.

The left-footed Taubenheim, a Farmington, Minn., native, connected on field goals of 32, 26 and 43 yards. He also had four of his five kickoffs go for touchbacks.

“I’ve been with Reid for four years and the comfort level is high, both on and off the field,” Holmen said. “The chemistry is really good.”

The two’s faith is a big part of their friendship, they said.

“We both play for a greater purpose than the game of football,” Holmen said. “We always say we’re Christians who happen to play football, not football players who happen to be Christians.”

Holmen credits the two’s faith for an even-keel mood at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City last Thursday in front of more than 45,000 opposing fans.

“We play for an audience of one,” Holmen said. “No matter how many people are there, our only worry is about playing for God. I think we were really relaxed (at Utah). Things will happen the way they will happen. We’ve been around long enough and have good focus. We’re just enjoying it while we can.”

Taubenheim, who is fifth on UND’s all-time career field goals made list, knows every kick is a three-part system.

“It’s a huge deal to have that relationship,” Taubenheim said. “(Long snapper) is a fameless position, but I owe him a lot of credit. I’m so appreciative of all the work he’s done after practice. If I had a bad snap or a bad hold, there’s no way I get my job done.”

Taubenheim has battled hip injuries throughout his career. He has had three hip surgeries and the latest came as a freshman at UND, which he said impacted his sophomore year and even lingered into his junior season.

Taubenheim, who feeling better physically than he has in years, said senior year has produced a different mentality.

“When I was a freshman, I felt like I was playing on someone else’s team,” he said. “Now, I feel like it’s my team. You take more responsibility.”

Taubenheim has 48 career makes, the most among active FCS players.

His long snapper Holmen, a Minot native and the son of Minot head football coach Barry Holmen, started long-snapping in fourth grade when his dad became the head coach of the Magicians.

Holmen is less than a year from a degree in mathematics. He’d like to teach match and coach football, like his dad in Minot.

UND special teams coach Shawn Kostich said Holmen’s leadership has been a valuable addition.

“Jacob was shy and quiet his first year and has morphed into one of the better leaders in our group,” Kostich said. “I’ve been so impressed with how he’s grown up and become more vocal.”