From clueless about football to kicking at Notre Dame: a journey from  South Korea

SOUTH BEND, Ind. –  The soon-to-be top scorer in Notre Dame football history did not know the Gipper from the Heisman. Did not know Rockne from Parseghian.

Did not know a touchdown from a first down, for that matter. Until he was a teenager, Justin Yoon had never seen a football game.

“I didn’t know Tom Brady or anything. Like nothing,” he said. “I was clueless.”

So how does the grandson of a Korean naval officer go from knowing nothing to being all-everything? From Seoul to the soul of the Notre Dame offense? From learning skating from his father (who once helped an Olympic gold medalist) to teaching Korean kickers?

It is as simple as snap, hold, kick. Do that over and over and over.

“I’ve kicked, I don’t know, 10,000 balls,” Yoon said.

The senior heads into Saturday’s game at Wake Forest with more points, 297, than any other Notre Dame kicker ever. The only Fighting Irish player ahead of him, with 320 points, is running back Allen Pinkett (1982-85).

Yoon has honed his skill under the eight-year direction of Jamie Kohl, a former Iowa State kicker who once signed an NFL contract and coaches kickers from high school to the NFL. Yoon has reached milestones despite two injuries — broken vertebrae in high school and a knee injury in college.

“He’s been silent about it,” Kohl said of the injuries. “He has risen to the bell when he’s been called upon. That’s why I liked him so much coming out of high school. I trusted his dad’s upbringing of him. The discipline and attention to detail and focus that family has is unique.”

That has been manifested in the fact that Yoon’s father, Jiseop, is sharing an apartment with him this semester on Irish Row, across the street from Notre Dame’s practice fields. Yoon’s mother, Mihwa, is a pharmacist who helps run the family business in Seoul.

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