Nolan Kohorst finds way back to football field with Knight Hawks

Vegas Knight Hawks kicker Nolan Kohorst (20) takes a kick during practice at the Dollar Loan Ce ...

Faith Lutheran High football players thought they recognized a familiar face on a TikTok.

In a group chat among players was a screenshot of what appeared to look like their special teams coordinator and Faith Lutheran Middle School teacher Nolan Kohorst. It was, of all places, on a Knight Hawks social media page.

Junior kicker Caden Chittenden went straight to the source for confirmation.

“I screenshotted (Kohorst)’s part and I texted him,” Chittenden recalled. “And I asked him, ‘Coach, is this you?’ And he said ‘Yes, it is.’”

Kohorst, a Green Valley High School and UNLV graduate, has found his way back onto the football field as the Knight Hawks’ kicker.

“For me to think this was possible a year ago, I don’t think I would have believed it,” said Kohorst, whose Indoor Football League plays host to the San Diego Strike Force at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Dollar Loan Center.

Cold call

When the Knight Hawks announced open tryouts near the end of last year, it piqued Kohorst’s interest. But because of a scheduling conflict with his school, he could not make tryouts.

Kohorst reached out to Knight Hawks coach and general manager Mike Davis over social media about the team’s kicking situation. He sent a game tape to Davis, who Davis liked what he saw. However, Davis already had committed to a kicker.

But Davis told Kohorst to stay ready in case something went awry. A few weeks into the season, the Knight Hawks decided to make a change and Kohorst was wearing a different uniform.

“I got a call that said ‘Hey, our kicker’s just not making enough kicks. He’s making a few mistakes. We want you to come play this next week,’” Kohorst said. “I got that call on Tuesday morning and Friday night I had a game.”

Kohorst made his Knight Hawks debut April 8 against the Arizona Rattlers. Since joining the Knight Hawks he has added stability to the position while managing his time to fulfill his responsibilities as a teacher.

Kohorst’s last professional game before joining the Knight Hawks was with UNLV in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bow. He sought out other opportunities to continue his football career but nothing materialized.

He went to teaching as a long-term substitute for the school district and then taught social studies at Basic High School and SLAM Academy.

In early 2021 he moved to Faith Lutheran as a long-term substitute and eventually moved into a full-time role as a sixth grade teacher at the beginning of last school year, specializing in math, science, and history.

Classroom priority

When Kohorst was coming to an agreement with the Knight Hawks, he made it clear that he could not leave the classroom.

“My career is going to come first over practice,” Kohorst said. “I have some leeway and some personal days I could take from work, but (teaching is) going to come first.”

Davis and the Knight Hawks were more than willing to accommodate Kohorst’s schedule.

“I would not take away from his job, but he had to kick on his own time,” Davis said.

The Knight Hawks practiced in the morning and Kohorst had teaching responsibilities from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Kohorst had access to The Dollar Loan Center when the Knight Hawks turf was down. He would kick in the arena when he could, or at Faith Lutheran or a park.

Along with allowing Kohorst to miss practice, Davis and the team waived a trade clause in his contract, ensuring he could continue his teaching.

Kohorst also had to get used to playing football again and learning the rules of the indoor game. Even with the learning curve, Kohorst’s work ethic has shined through to his team as the seasons gone on.

“It’s been a pleasant surprise to get him around and let him work on his craft,” Davis said. “He doesn’t make any excuses. He doesn’t get rattled and that’s what I like about him.”

Faith Lutheran support

Kohorst has received support from everyone at Faith Lutheran as he’s returned to the field. None greater than his fans in the classroom.

“My (students) are more excited than anyone else,” he said. ” ’ll come back and they’ll be like ‘we watched your game or we went to your game this weekend.’

“It’s awesome to have that kind of support from them.”

At the same time Kohorst was signed on as a teacher for Faith Lutheran, he was also promoted to special teams coordinator for the high school football team. He had a preexisting relationship with coach Mike Sanford who recruited Kohorst for college.

Kohorst’s knowledge, and now added professional experience, of special teams has helped his development as a coach.

“It’s a really good thing for our team and players,” Sanford said. “We have some really good specialists here and it’s good for them to have that bond with Nolan who’s playing professional football.”

Chittenden and the other specialist constantly pick Kohorst’s brain on how the indoor game differs from the outdoor, even asking him to bring the footballs he uses to practice. When he’s with the Knight Hawks, Kohorst always is looking to apply what he’s still learning to his players.

“He’s played at a high level of football and he knows what works and what doesn’t,” Chittenden said. “We respect his knowledge on the sport and he’s really helpful to the team.”

With school over for summer break, Kohorst is spending more time around the Knight Hawks and can focus more on his kicking. Even with a lot on his plate, he has enjoyed every minute of his busy schedule.

“It’s amazing at 30 that I can do this,” Kohorst said. “It’s awesome to say that I am a professional athlete for the hometown team. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.