Kickin' it from the Lowcountry to Hollywood

On the set of Young Sheldon (Source: Justin Skinner)
On the set of Young Sheldon (Source: Justin Skinner)
On the set of Young Sheldon (Source: Justin Skinner)
On the set of Young Sheldon (Source: Justin Skinner)
Justin Skinner, The Citadel, 1997 (Source: WCSC)
Justin Skinner, The Citadel, 1997 (Source: WCSC)

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Homecoming marks the chance to rekindle old friendships and relive past glories.

For Justin Skinner, it was a 2,000-mile, 20-year journey home.

Skinner returned for The Citadel homecoming this year and got to walk back on the field where he set records 20 years ago.

The Wando grad decided to stay close to his Mount Pleasant home when it came time for college.

He was a kicker for the Bulldogs from 1994 to 1997 and one of his records still stands today.

"My junior year I kind of realized I might have a shot of making it to the next level in the NFL," Skinner said. "Coming from a small school, I knew it wasn't a great opportunity. I was a business major so my thought was, I'm going to be in business and do that route. I was fortunate enough to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars out of The Citadel."

His success at Johnson Hagood Stadium pulled him out the Lowcountry and dropped him into the nomadic life of a professional kicker. Skinner spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Europe, and the Arena league. An injury finally left him facing a harsh reality that his kicking career was over.

Then a call from home put him on a new path.

"My mom called Mark Ellis who is a great sports coordinator in the business and his brother is Todd Ellis who was the South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback," Skinner said.

The phone call to Ellis ended up landing Skinner a job on the film The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and gave Skinner the chance to keep living his football dream.

"I was playing football, I was doing stunts, and I thought,'This is it. This is what I want to do,'" Skinner said.

He joined the union and the Screen Actors Guild has been doing stunt work in sports films for the last thirteen years. But age catches up with all of us, and Skinner is already looking at his next career evolution. He's now also working behind the camera as a sports coordinator with Game Changing Films.

This summer Skinner found himself on the set of the new CBS hit show Young Sheldon.

Skinner is part of the sports coordinator team that casts the athletes, designs the plays, and coached the players to prepare for football scenes on the show.

He was supposed to be behind the scenes for the show's pilot, but the producers had other ideas.

"They put me in a very 80's outfit with glasses," Skinner said. "It was pretty gross, but it was fun and it looked perfect. I was out there really in character not doing any acting-wise, but it felt like a coach."

Working on the pilot of Young Sheldon also took Skinner back almost 20 years when he ran into the show's director, Jon Favreau. The two worked together on the movie The Replacements in 1999 and Skinner was surprised the actor-turned-director remembered him.

Skinner got married this summer, and the couple has two young children. Now, when he thinks about the journey that started by leaving The Citadel 20 years ago, he feels right at home. 
 
"I'm very thankful it's ended up where it's gone," Skinner said. "I still get to put on an NFL uniform every now and then for commercials or whatever so I still get to live the dream."

Skinner and the team from Game Changing Films have already been called back to the set of Young Sheldon for another shoot on Nov. 14.

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