UND’s C.J. Elrichs takes unique path to starting kicker

Nov. 3—GRAND FORKS — UND kicker C.J. Elrichs‘ first career college field goal make — a game-tying field goal in the final seconds last Saturday in an overtime win over Indiana State — didn’t come until the Fighting Hawks‘ eighth game of the season.

Even more than the wait in 2023, though, Elrichs‘ path to Division I starting kicker was unique.

Elrichs, a 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman, didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school.

He was born in Ukraine and was adopted to a family in Olathe, Kan., where he played soccer.

Elrichs has two sisters in which he hasn’t been in contact.

“I eventually want to (go to Ukraine),” Elrichs said. “That’s something I want to do when I’m older.”

In Olathe, Elrichs’ soccer teammate kicked for the football team, so Elrichs gave football a try, too.

“I didn’t know I was going to play college football until my senior year of high school,” Elrichs said. “When I first started, I wasn’t very good. My (kicking) coach back home was really good. I feel like I’ve grown a lot from last year to this year, too.”

UND wasn’t on Elrichs’ radar early during the recruiting process. He had Division II scholarship offers for soccer and football and a football scholarship offer from Drake. He was also talking with South Dakota State.

The Fighting Hawks had a verbal commitment from Leyton Simmering out of Rosemount, Minn. However, Simmering flipped his commitment for Kansas State right before signing day.

“(UND) was scrambling,” Elrichs said.

Former UND punter Cade Peterson reached out to Elrichs’ kicking coach to see if he had a kicker to suggest for the Hawks.

That connected UND with Elrichs, who’s a walk-on with the Hawks.

Elrichs didn’t kick much in high school. He attempted three field goals as a junior and three field goals as a senior. His high school long was 42 yards.

UND, though, liked Elrichs’ potential.

“I think I have good leg power and frame,” Elrichs said. “I don’t think I’ve reached my max yet. My accuracy gets better every year.”

Elrichs said his range can extend beyond 50 yards.

“Fifty to 55 is my range where I feel comfortable with,” said Elrichs, who hit from 32 yards against Indiana State. “If deeper, I think I would’ve been okay.”

Elrichs redshirted last season at UND as Brady Stevens handled the kicking duties. Stevens returned in 2023 but a combination of a Stevens injury and a few misses led to Elrichs’ shot at the starting job.

Although UND hasn’t had many field-goal opportunities in recent weeks, Elrichs hasn’t missed an extra point.

After missing his first college attempt the previous week at Northern Iowa, Elrichs is hoping to build off his game-tying boot against the Sycamores.

“That helped my confidence a lot especially after the UNI kick,” Elrichs said. “Hopefully that rolls into future weeks.”

Who: UND at Murray State.

When: 1 p.m., Saturday.

Where: Murray, Ky.

Records: UND 5-3, Murray State 2-6.

Radio: 96.1 FM.

TV: Midco Sports 2.

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