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For two guys who have been sharing their whole lives, splitting the kicking duties for the Fike High varsity football team just comes naturally to twin brothers John and Walker Gliarmis.
The duo has given the Golden Demons not just one, but two weapons about which many high school teams can only dream. The seniors have combined to make 21 of 22 extra-point attempts and have made 10 of their 12 field-goal attempts in helping Fike to a 5-3 record heading into Friday’s critical 3-A Big East Conference showdown with Rocky Mount at Fike’s Buddy Bedgood Stadium.
“They’re a big reason that we’re 5-3,” Fike head coach Tom Nelson said. “We’re not a team that’s going to blow a lot of teams out, so we’re going to have to play a lot of close games and special teams is going to play a big part of that.”
The twins certainly can take credit for helping Fike claim a thrilling 34-31 victory Sept. 22 at Triton High in Erwin. John drilled a 24-yard field goal to tie the score with 5 minutes, 10 seconds left in the game. With just 11 seconds to go, Walker’s 42-yard attempt split the uprights to give the Demons the win in their final nonconference game.
The Gliarmis brothers are delighted to get their chance after sharing the duties not only with each other last season but also then senior Noel Ruiz, now a freshman kicker for the North Carolina A&T State University football team.
“It’s cool, though, that he and I get to show what skills we have this year,” Walker said. “We’ve always said we’re going to wait our turn. We’ll still compete but we’re going to wait our turn to show what we have. It feels good we’re finally getting to show it.”
It seems rather inevitable that the Gliarmis brothers would be kickers on the Fike football team. While their family is known for hot dogs and hospitality at Dick’s Hot Dogs, the Wilson institution started by their great-grandfather Socrates Gliarmis in 1921, a secondary family business is kicking footballs. Their grandfather, Lee S. Gliarmis, played soccer, basketball and baseball at the University of North Carolina in the 1940s but he never kicked a football. That was left to his two sons — Soc and Lee.
Soc first started kicking for the Fike High Titans of head coach Bob Paroli as a sophomore in 1975 before going on to kick at East Carolina University.
“I wanted to do what my big brother did,” said the twins’ father, Lee. “He was my hero. So I started doing it and fell in love with it.”
Lee Gliarmis, was a Parade All-American during his senior season at Fike in 1981 when he kicked a school-record 49-yard field goal. Ironically, that mark was tied by Ruiz in Fike’s 2016 season opener.
The elder Gliarmis went on to kick for the North Carolina Tar Heels as their last straight straight-on kicker.
“I would always hear about my dad and my uncle kicking in college and thought it was a pretty cool thing they did,” John Gliarmis said. “Ever since I was in third grade, I just wanted to try to be like them.”
Lee Gliarmis, careful to not push kicking too hard on his young sons, happily recounts them kicking footballs through a big V-shaped oak tree in the family’s backyard.
“He was actually a square-toe kicker like my dad was,” Walker said of John. “He would be in the backyard with my dad’s shoe on it and be trying to toe it. Eventually we just turned to soccer style.”
Lee Gliarmis said, “I wanted them to play sports, different sports, and not to burn out and have fun and not take it too seriously.”
The twins are both standout tennis players, first at Greenfield School, which they attended through eighth-grade, and now at Fike. But kicking was, if not in their genes, at the forefront of their love for sports. So, starting in seventh grade, their dad took them to kicking camps, such as the one run by former UNC and NFL kicker Dan Orner.
“I thought it would be good to see them how hard you have to work and be around other kickers,” Lee Gliarmis said.
Before that the twins made history as the first kickers in the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department’s Midget League. The first year they played, however, there were no goalposts.
“We started playing real tackle football in fourth grade and I just kicked off,” John said. “I also had to play another position because they didn’t have goal posts then.”
But then the Midget League supervisor Richard Frazier obtained a goalpost and the twins went to work. Walker even kicked a 31-yard field goal as a fifth-grader.
However, they would have to wait to kick in games again since Greenfield’s only version of football is played on a soccer field.
“We always knew we were eventually going to go to Fike and play football but we had to have something to do during that season,” Walker said. “We wanted to just have fun at that point but it wasn’t anything serious.”
A KICKING FUTURE
Now it’s gotten a little more serious as the twins are hoping that kicking will help them get through college. Both are outstanding students (John is a member of the National Honor Society and Walker will be inducted in the coming weeks) but they’ve worked just as hard at it as they have kicking footballs.
They’ve fared well at such well-known camps as Chris Sailer Kicking and IMG Academy Football but still, so far, no full scholarship offers for either has been forthcoming. They aren’t sweating it though.
“The recruiting process for kickers these days is a late process,” Walker explained. “We kind of have an idea of what road we’re going to take.”
Naturally, they would love to go to the same school but that’s not a deal-breaker. So far, they have received recruiting interest from Appalachian State, Duke, Furman, William & Mary, UAB and Western Kentucky.
For now, they are excited to be a part of a winning season at Fike after the Demons went 6-6 last year.
“We’re working really well as a team and not trying to...” John said, before Walker finished his sentence: “.... think of ourselves. Everyone gets along.”
“We’re trying to play for a W,” Walker continued, “as a team to win the game and not just to get that Hudl(.com) highlight.”
While their contributions are limited to kicking and punting, the Gliarmis brothers are full-fledged members of the football team.
“They do bring a special energy to the team,” Nelson said. “They are there all the time, they’re kicking all the time and they’re just like all the other players on the team.”
Walker handles most of the punting chores, but is quick to point that his brother could do it.
“He’s had good reps punting on varsity, it’s just that he feels as ...” Walker said, before John finished his sentence: “... as though I don’t have as much experience in games.”
Both brothers are exceptional at kicking off, sending the ball into the end zone for a touchback more often than not.
“That kicking into the end zone in high school is a huge, big deal,” Nelson said, explaining that field position is half the battle most Friday nights.
But the glamorous — and nerve-wracking — part of their duties is kicking field goals, especially the mental part.
“Thinking is the worst enemy of a kicker,” warned Lee Gliarmis. “That’s a maturation process and it takes experience to get good at it. You’ve got to miss to learn how to handle a miss and I think they’ve handled it very well.”
Fortunately, the twins haven’t missed very often, in part, due to the efforts of snappers Hunter Creech and Garrett Browder and holder Josh Avery.
What the twins don’t talk about much is chasing records their dad set, although Lee Gliarmis would be very proud to have his name erased from the Fike record book. He pointed out that the four field goals (two by John and two by Walker) kicked in the second game this season — a 26-25 win at East Wake — tied the four he made as a Fike junior at Elizabeth City Northeastern in 1980.
However, John wasn’t ready to have his and Walker’s name alongside his dad’s.
“I wouldn’t make it individual because it seems like sharing,” he said suspiciously. “It’s from both.”
Lee Gliarmis laughed when told of his sons’ reactions.
“They’ve had to share everything,” he said. “They had to share a birthday, they’ve had to share a car and now they share that record.”
There’s that other record that the elder Gliarmis now shares with Ruiz that is in danger. Just last week, John missed just wide left on a 53-yard attempt.
“I took a video of that kick and I’m convinced that’s why he missed it — because I never video their kicks!” Lee Gliarmis said.
There is still time, however, especially with a coach as willing as Nelson to give his kickers a chance to help the team.
“When we get to the 35-yard line, we feel confident about either one out of them out there,” he said.
Nelson said he never decides which twin will enter the game in a kicking situation and leaves it all up to them. While the twins appreciate the natural competition that one provides the other, each is his brother’s biggest fan.
“Obviously we have the same skill level, in our opinion; it’s just a matter of opportunity,” Walker said.
The ideal scenario would be each of them kicking a field goal of 50 yards or longer before their senior season, rapidly going by, is over.
“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen,” said Walker before John finished the thought: “But it would be icing on the cake if it did.”