from a post earlier this year.
http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2008 ... orts04.txt
JOHN SMITHERS: Something to smile about in Superior
They are all smiles in Superior these days. For one thing, the third-ranked Bobcats are 8-0 and poised for a run in the Class C football playoffs, which start Saturday at home against Charlo. But there is another reason. His name is Aukkarapong SrinbenjaKul
. If you're a little nervous about nailing the pronunciation, don't worry. You're not the only one. “It's taken me four years to get that out right,” said Dan Lucier, the Superior head coach. To make things easier, everyone calls him Yim
. For the sake of getting this column done by deadline, we will too. Yim, a native of Thailand, is the kicker for the Bobcats. And what a kicker. The 17-year-old senior holds the state record for extra points in a single game - nine - in a 69-16 victory Oct. 11 over Sheridan. And he has 43 extra points in seven games this season, which ties him for fifth in state history. Mike Kowalski of Cut Bank had 60 in 1990 in 12 games. Yim has also been incredibly accurate, putting together streaks of 23 and 18 consecutive extra points. SrinbenjaKul's nickname was given to him by his birth father, Muk, who still lives in Thailand.
Yim means “smile” in Thai.
“I was always smiling when I was little,” Yim said. “I still smile a lot.” “He is such a great kid,” said Lucier, who has known Yim since he arrived in Superior five years ago as an eighth-grader. “He always has a great big smile on his face.” Yim moved to Superior after his mother, Monchaya, married Bill Lacombe, a longtime western Montana teacher who is now retired. Monchaya and Lacombe met in Thailand 10 years ago through a mutual interest in jewelry. Yim admits the move from Bangkok - where he grew up - to Montana was very difficult at first. “I knew I was coming here for about a year before we moved, but it was a big shock,” he said. “I came from a city of 13 million people. There were no mountains. I came here and I was like, ‘Oh my god, how can I survive in this country?' Every single thing was different - the weather, changing families - everything.” Other than Lacombe, Yim said his new hometown was initially somewhat hesitant to embrace his mother and himself. “Bill has really been a great help,” he said. “When I was upset, he knew how to deal with people, how to calm people down. He never yelled or used his anger. “But it was tough. I think (the community) looked at me, as a new kid, as someone who would be a troublemaker,” he said. “But I didn't want them to think that I was one of those kids. I wanted them to be nice to me, to get to know me. I wanted them to understand how hard it was at first for me to be here, how big of a change it was. “Americans tease each other a lot, and I wasn't used to that,” he added. “I would always take people seriously.” To bridge the divide, Yim employed a weapon he had used for years.
That, and he watched cartoons. “I watched cartoons all the time because they spoke slowly, which helped me learn English. I wanted to watch sports, but they talked so fast ...” One day, after spending months being as friendly as he could to everyone around him, a big kid came up to Yim and invited him to play football at recess. The big kid's name was Brian Labbe. “I was very excited,” Yim said. “I thought he was talking about ‘football' (soccer). I went out there, and then I realized it wasn't the kind of football I was expecting. You stand there, and then you run around, and they're throwing the ball. I was lost.” But it was the first step in what has become a strong friendship. “Labbe is one of my best friends now,” Yim said of the 300-pound all-conference lineman. “We hang out all the time.” And many more friends would follow.
“His personality is such that you can't help but accept the kid,” Lucier said. “This group of seniors is so close, this team is so close, and Yim is right in the middle of it. Everybody loves him.”
Yim had always been athletic, enjoying popular sports like soccer, swimming, badminton and ping pong in his native Thailand. But the rough-and-tumble American football was something different. Lucier said Yim stands 5-foot-8 and weighs around 150 pounds. When asked, Yim added an inch and a few dozen hamburgers. Just as he had done all of his life, however, Yim didn't let a little obstacle like size deter him. He has proven to be a solid backup on the defensive side of the ball, even returning a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown in the win over Sheridan. It's with his right leg, though, that Yim has left his mark.
“I played soccer in my bare feet (in Thailand), so my foot was tough; I was used to (kicking),” Yim said. “They asked me if I wanted to try kicking. I thought, ‘I can try that.' I kicked the ball ... hmmm, that's not bad. Shoot, I'm a kicker.” Thanks to a strong Superior offense, Yim has needed to boot just two field goals his senior season. He's been successful from 30 and 39 yards. But three times this year Lucier has chosen to employ the seldom-used free kick rule, which allows a team to fair catch a punt and then place the football on a tee. The kicker can then try to knock the ball through the uprights from where the ball is spotted. A successful free kick, like a field goal, is worth three points.
All three times Yim has been on the money, hitting free kicks of 18, 32 and 53 yards.
“We've practiced this since the '90s,” said Lucier, who is in his 22nd season at Superior. “But this is the first time we've ever used it in a game. I wanted to work on it because we figure in the playoffs there's going to be a time we need it. If the offense isn't moving the ball, or it's 10 seconds before half, we want to be prepared. “It's quite a weapon to have and Yim is great at it.” Yim is also a powerful weapon on kickoffs. Class C's eight-man football is played on an 80-yard field. The ball is placed at the 30 for a kickoff, meaning it has to travel 50 yards to reach the goal line. Yim's kickoffs regularly fly through the back of the end zone, sometimes sailing through the uprights. (That's not worth three points in case you're wondering.) Yim attended a kicking camp in Washington last summer. Out of 59 participants, he was one of only four to make a field goal of more than 50 yards. Kickers don't generally garner hordes of scouts, and Yim is no different. But Lucier said Western Montana has expressed an interest, and Yim said he definitely plans on pursuing a college kicking career.
“Oh heck yes,” he said. “(Bill) says I need to go to a smaller school first, but I've thought about walking on for the Griz.
I'm not really sure right now where I'll end up. Education is a big thing for me, but I definitely want to play football.
“I work out really hard, and I'm learning new things about kicking a football all the time. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get better.” For his part, Lucier thinks his kicker will be excellent at the next level.
“Oh, absolutely,” the Superior coach said. “He's smart, he's got a good grade point average, he works hard, and he's got a tremendous leg. He's going to get a scholarship somewhere. He brings a lot to the table.” Including a great smile.
Columnist John Smithers can be reached at 523-5257 or at [email protected]