the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

NFL Week Sixteen K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week sixteen of the 2009 season:
 
Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski has attempted quite a few long range field goals during his career. In less than ideal weather conditions in Cleveland this past weekend, he made a 61 yarder - the longest of his career and the fourth longest in NFL history.
 “That’s one of the best kicks I’ve ever had. In these conditions with the snow and wind, I’m proud of it. In warm-ups, we kicked it 60 yards going in that direction. I hit it hard. I thought it was short at first and it barely got in there.”
Quite a few teams changed kickers part way through the 2009 season. The head coaches of two of those teams commented on the current kickers solid progress, but were non-committal as to whether the kicker had job security for 2010. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh discussed Billy Cundiff:
"Billy's obviously solidified us. Billy’s kicking off very well and he’s kicking field goals really well. Billy’s been around, Billy’s been on the street. Billy’s had great success early in his career.... He was one of these guys that was going to be a star when he was in Dallas early on. Had some injures, got bumped around, got beat up a little bit, and now he’s back.... We’ll see long-term wise, but I’ve got high hopes for Billy.”
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris similarly discussed Connor Barth, whose 47 yarder in overtime gave the Buccaneers and upset win over the Saints:
"All he's done is come in here and make field goals for us and, really, be consistent. I know he missed a couple. But for the most part, he's been banging them. He had the big three 50-yard field-goal day (against Miami last month), he had the game-winner against the New Orleans Saints. He's pretty much been consistent all year.... It's nice to see him grow up and mature and do things well," Morris said. "You definitely have to take him into consideration for the future. He's a young kicker with a strong leg."
New Orleans was in a position to have won the game, however Garrett Hartley missed a 37 yard field goal attempt with five seconds remaining in regulation. Afterward, head coach Sean Payton did not present Hartley as the scapegoat, but instead continued to express confidence in his kicker:
"It came down to a late field goal, so that kick is more magnified, but I've seen him operate in big situations. The key is the player knowing that you have confidence in him. And that's something that he has established. That's not always the case. We've been here, and you guys have seen it. I might not openly say it, but I might hold my breath with a kick (in the past), and it's not the case with him. I have a lot of confidence in his leg.... When you see what I see during the workweek and you see the talent that he is, he's going to do a good job for us and make a lot of those kicks. He already has made some of them. ... Sometimes you're in a situation where you might not have the player that you think is going to be your kicker for the next five, six, seven years, but I do think we have that player. And that's something that he's had to earn, now. It isn't just because we want him to be.... I liked the look in his eye after the miss. I got after him a little bit, but it was important (to keep him ready), because here we are going into overtime, and he might be back out there again. And I think he had the right look."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NFL Week Fifteen K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week fourteen of the 2009 season:
Most of the attention on struggling kickers in recent days has focused on Nick Folk - who the Cowboys released yesterday and replaced with Shaun Suisham, who the Redskins had previously released and replaced with Graham Gano, who had kicked in the UFL after losing out in preseason to Steve Hauschka, who the Ravens later released and replaced with Billy Cundiff, who is now in the role filled for many many years by Matt Stover, who is presently filling in for injured Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who previously made some big kicks in the playoffs while with the Patriots. Meanwhile in Green Bay, another kicker is also struggling. But his head coach, Mike McCarthy, is still opting not to ride the carousel:
"Mason Crosby’s our kicker. He will be our kicker moving forward. I have zero interest in bringing in a kicker. I have all the confidence that Mason will fix the issue that he’s having with missing the one kick a game. I know it doesn’t do any good talking about it in here or publicly, but he’s kicked the ball very well. The two opportunities to make key field goals, he did not. I think they’re technical things that he’s fully capable of correcting, and that will be our focus.... He’s a very talented kicker, he’s our kicker, he will be our kicker and he will kick it through the uprights."
Meanwhile in San Diego, kicker Nate Kaeding hit a 52 yard game winning FG with 3 seconds remaining giving the Chargers a big 27-24 win over the Bengals. He commented afterward:
"When I hit it, I knew it was good. There was a lot of adrenaline in that situation, with it coming down to the wire and having to hit it for the win. I struck it clean, it went through and mayhem ensued from there."
Also hitting a big game winner this week was the Titans' Rob Bironas. His 46 yarder in overtime gave them a 27-24 win over the Dolphins.
"Time to go to work, that's what I said to (holder) Brett Kern. It was a good snap by Ken Amato, a good hold by Brett, the guys on the line did an unbelievable job blocking, not letting anybody come through, and my job is easy. When they do their job right, I hit like I do every day."
In the game at Philadelphia, 49ers kicker Joe Nedney pulled his hamstring on a kickoff. Afterward he provided some brotherly love:
"It felt like a sniper shot, and I wouldn't put that past Philly fans....  If I was a running back or a linebacker I could probably play. But with the way I swing my leg, I need my left hamstring."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NFL Week Fourteen K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week fourteen of the 2009 season:

After being limited to one PAT last week, Matt Bryant was busier in his second game upon returning to the NFL - making three FGs and two PATs in Atlanta's close loss to New Orleans. He recently completed a successful stint in the inaugural season of the UFL. He had previously spent several years kicking for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however coaching changes, a surprise kicker competition, and an injury led to his release at the end of preseason this year. Bryant discussed his return:
“The reason why I’m here at the end of the year is because things weren’t going so well. I was brought in to fix whatever was wrong. You just want to get in there and get your first kick out of the way. Once that’s in, you come back down from [the emotional high] and go at your kicks.”
On the other side of the Falcons loss was another win for the undefeated Saints. While the foot of kicker Garrett Hartley has garnered the recent attention, rookie punter Thomas Morstead had quietly continued to excel on kickoffs. Head coach Sean Payton discussed the drafting of Morstead:
“We knew he had leg talent. To answer your question, it has been somewhat of a surprise in regards to his kickoff ability. I don’t think any of us envisioned that. We did see a player that we thought had a lot of ability as a punter and we felt good about his athleticism, we felt good about a lot of things when we selected him and fortunately we were right.”
While New Orleans has been winning with regularity this year, Cleveland has not. Their win this week not only ended a seven game losing streak, it also provided a rare win against division rival Pittsburgh. Kicker Phil Dawson has ten years of kicking history against the Steelers. After the game, he did not focus on kicking or special teams, but instead discussed winning and losing:
“With all due respect to the other guys in here, I don’t know how many of them understand how special it is to beat these guys. I enjoyed the few other times that we’ve beaten them, but I enjoyed this one the most. So many times after playing the Steelers, I’ve left the locker room frustrated, disappointed and distraught, and now that we beat them, especially with so many of their fans in our stadium, I can walk out here happy and with a great deal of satisfaction.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Kicking in the Cold

As we head deeper into December, winter weather arrives at more and more football games (except of course for those inside a dome). Weather conditions impact all facets of the game, however we'll focus on the kicking games as usual. What is the impact of kicking in the bitter cold? We asked a few people who kick for a living:

Ryan Longwell
“Bitter cold is more mental than anything else. You just have to understand that the ball is not gonna fly. That same field goal that’ll fly 55 or 60 yards in August is probably going about 40 yards in December. You have to realize that the ball is going to be hard and it’s not going to fly very far.”

Robbie Gould
"In bitter cold, you just have to hit a low-ball when you are further out.”

Mason Crosby
"Bitter cold is mainly controlling and containing body warmth and staying loose on the sidelines. It is all about focus in the cold and making sure you do not over swing trying to get more power.”

Connor Barth
“Regarding bitter cold temperatures: Well, the last two games [last year] at Kansas City were eight degrees and minus twenty with the wind chill. I’ve definitely kicked in a few of them. The main thing there is again really making sure you’re on the same page with your special teams coach and your head coach about where you feel comfortable kicking from. If it’s 60 or 70 degrees out, then 60 yards and in you’re usually pretty good. But when you get into the colder situations, the ball’s harder. Especially when it gets below freezing, the ball is just completely different. It impacts your foot; it [the ball] doesn’t come off quite as well. What I did against San Diego and Miami, I went out in pre-game and got back as far as I could and saw where I felt comfortable. Usually it was around 50 or 53 yards in that cold weather. In regular sunny conditions where it’s 70 degrees I can probably hit 60 yarders. You really gotta make sure you test out the ball, because a ball in practice is not the same as the game ball. The game ball is going to be a little bit harder because they’re newer. So you have to take that into to account too. When you get that ball you really have to test it out and see how you like it and see how it feels off your foot. In the end for the most part it’s probably going to take maybe ten yards off your kick in freezing weather like that.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fred Mitchell 3 - The Award

In the first two segments of our interview with Fred Mitchell, we discussed his early kicking career through high school and his college days at Wittenberg University. In today's segment we jump to the recent past and present. Tomorrow, a blue-ribbon selection committee will vote on the first annual Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award. We asked Mr. Mitchell about the origins and development of the award:



"The person who engineered this whole project was Chris Kearney. He happens to be the president of the Chicago chapter of the National Football Foundation. He was aware of the fact that I was a kicker at Wittenberg University in Ohio. He and another member of the organization who also was a small college kicker had been talking. Then they got me involved in talking about the fact that there was no national award for small college kickers. Of course the Lou Groza Award honors the outstanding kicker among the Division I football programs, but there are almost 400 colleges in Division II and Division III which are not part of that recognition process. So I certainly, heartily agreed that there should be such an award. Then Chris Kearney suggested that the award be named after me, which obviously thrilled me to no end to be associated with that.

From there we further decided that another criteria for the award, besides the obvious kicking performance, would be a community service aspect. So in addition to having the kicking performances sent in from the various sports information directors, we also asked that they list community and/or school activities that the kickers involved in as well.

This thing came about very quickly over last summer. We quickly formed a blue ribbon selection committee that includes the likes of George Blanda, Kevin Butler, Lou Holtz, Paul Hornung, Marv Levy, Steve McMichael, Mark Murphy (the president of the Green Bay Packers), Gale Sayers, Bob Thomas (former Bears kicker before Kevin Butler)… so a real select group of people. There are others as well who are either former kickers or people who are involved in the community. First there was a preseason watch list that came out. I think there were 18 young men on that list.

In December the selection committee will determine a winner. On February 22, 2010 the Nation Football Foundation (Chicago chapter) award ceremony will be held at Halas Hall at the Chicago Bears training complex. Part of that award ceremony will be the first presentation of the Fred Mitchell Award. The winner will be flown in to Chicago. We will also present a scholarship to the school that he represents, and obviously he’ll be presented with the Fred Mitchell Trophy at that time.

I’m very excited. I’m honored to have my name associated with the award and also to give added recognition to my university, Wittenberg University. I’ve maintained ties to Wittenberg over the years. I’m a member of the Wittenberg Athletic Hall of Fame – I was inducted in 1995. I’m currently one of the members of the Board of Directors at Wittenberg. Any opportunity to spread the word about my university, from a personal standpoint is very rewarding to me. Obviously the school is thrilled about that as well."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NFL Week Thirteen K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week thirteen of the 2009 season:

All jobs are tenuous in the big business that is the NFL. That is especially true for kickers. Numerous examples can be found in events before, during, and after the week 13 game between Washington and New Orleans.
Following the 2006 season , the Saints decided to release John Carney and go the proverbial "different direction" with their kicking. Over the next year and a half, they signed and drafted several kickers that didn't pan out. Meanwhile Carney surfaced in New York last year and had a big year for the Giants. The Saints eventually admitted that they regretted having released Carney. They did however eventually find their kicker, Garrett Hartley, during the second half of last year. Unfortunately heading into 2009, he ended up being suspended for the first four games. That led to re-signing Carney. New Orleans was set to let Carney handle the placekicking for all of this year, and save Hartley for 2010. But Carney struggled, and the team decided to make the switch back to Hartley for the Redskins game. Hartley first learned of the news from Carney:
"John told me before the coaches told me. He just said, ‘you’re in.’ And, I said, ‘don’t mess with me.’ And he said, ‘I wouldn’t mess with you on something this important.’ To hear about the change from him meant a whole lot to me. He is such a mentor for me, a real professional, a guy I’ve learned so much from and will continue to learn from as we go forward."
Hartley would contribute significantly in New Orleans dramatic win over Washington. He made four of five field goals, with the only miss coming from very long range (58 yards at the end of regulation). His final kick was the game winner in overtime. He commented afterwards:
“To have the opportunity that I had tonight was truly amazing. I wanted to make my mark and let people know that I can still kick. I couldn’t have written a better script. This is a storybook ending and we still have four games to go in the regular season."
Hartley might not have gotten that overtime opportunity had Washington not missed a short field goal late in the fourth quarter. Although Shaun Suisham made three field goals in the game, he was wide right on a 23 yard attempt at the two minute warning. The Redskins lead would have increased to ten points had he made it. He lamented afterwards:
"I feel terrible. It's about as difficult as it gets. We have the New Orleans Saints coming in here. The guys play an unbelievable game. And I miss that kick."
Long snapper Ethan Albright stepped up to shoulder the blame for the miss:
"It starts with me. I threw the rhythm off. It's my job is to do it right. There's never a good time for a bad snap."
Although the coaching staff initially also referenced a high snap, they indicate after further review they felt the snap was acceptable. Head coach Jim Zorn commented today:
"We played for that field goal. And we were all assured, and I believe Shaun was assured, that, you know, that ball was gonna go through with that 23-yard field goal. And yet it didn't. It does affect all of us."
Consequently, the Redskins worked out four kickers today, including Graham Gano whom they signed. Suisham was released. Zorn elaborated:
"It looks like he's [Gano] got some potential. All these kickers kind of make their circuit on tryouts and he's been doing that, trying to stay in shape, so we're going to give him an opportunity this year and move Shaun.... The kickers that we brought in were good and this guy has some real talent. Now, we'll see. The exciting part for him is now he gets a real opportunity here to kick in live situations. He's got a strong leg, Graham does, and yet now there's some things that we've got to teach.... Shaun has performed very well. I'm sure when I talk to him ... I know he'll just be, you know, upset, and he should be. But then yet there's an accountability there. We'll all end up being accountable for our season. No question about it."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 14

A quick summary of notable kicking during the fourteenth week of the 2009 college football season:
Senior kicker Hunter Lawrence hit a 46 yard field goal on the final play of the game giving Texas a 13-12 victory over Nebraska and a shot at the national championship. Lawrence noted: 
"I was just trying to stay focused and not get too nervous. It was a great feeling when it finally went through."
Sophomore kicker Dave Teggart made a 42 yard FG as time expired to give Connecticut a 29-27 win over South Florida. Teggart commented afterwards: 
"It's so emotional to see these guys out there playing their hearts out, especially in a game like this where it comes down to the end. All those guys, all those seniors depending on you, and I was glad I could come through for those guys. It means a lot to me to send them out with a win."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Dreaded K-ball

We previously discussed the ways in which some kickers previously used to "enhance" footballs for improved kickability, and then discussed the NFL's response of introducing the K-ball. Today we'll discuss the bottom line... what impact does the K-ball actually have? We asked a few guys with first hand knowledge, and here are their responses:

Ryan Longwell
“Yea, it’s a huge difference. I always use the example: it’s the equivalent of going out to short stop and having someone hit you ground balls while wearing a broken in baseball glove, and then giving you a brand new glove right of the rack and taking the same ground balls. The leather’s just harder; it’s not as flexible. When you’re kicking something like that, it doesn’t fly as far. A broken in football gets some moisture in the leather, so there’s a little more weight to it, so it can cut through wind and fly a little farther. The K-ball was a big difference. I think that’s why you see, over the seven or eight years it’s been in the league, that a lot more of the teams are going with veteran kickers and proven guys that can hit the ball solid, than a lot more of the young guys with big legs. Because the big leg doesn’t necessarily translate into accuracy with the new K-ball like it did with the old broken in balls.”

“We get brand new balls basically every week [in practice]. I don’t think we kick enough to break them in totally over the course of a week. We’ll always use brand new balls. It’s changed probably more for the equipment guys around the league than it has for anybody else, because they’re probably going through a lot more rotatings. It’s just a factor that when I first got in the league it wasn’t there and then they changed it. It’s something you’ve got to deal with.”

Joe Nedney
“The K-ball has improved over the years, but it varies from ball to ball.  Not all leather panels are the same.  Some balls are knobbier, more rigid, and just plain hard while others can be smoother, softer and more pliable.  The referees give equipment guys about 15 to 20 minutes of supervised time to rub down the 12 K-balls.  That translates to a little over a minute per ball.  That's nowhere near enough time.  A bad K-ball can cost a kicker five yards on field goal distance. The sweet spot on a bad K-ball is much smaller which increases the chance of a miss-hit.”

Robbie Gould
“The K-balls are brand new balls so they don’t travel as far. If you have a ball that is more worked in, it is going to travel a lot further. The good thing about a new ball is that it doesn’t move quite as much. An older ball that is a little more deflated will move right or left a bit more.”

Mason Crosby
“K-Balls are brand new footballs for each game and are only worked in for 45 minutes before a game. This makes them less forgiving, but you will get a few really nice ones. It all depends on the quality of the ball and how well it is worked in. You don’t get much consistency from ball to ball and I think that is a big reason we use a K-ball.”

Jeff Reed
“There is definitely a difference. I can’t speak for the NFL, but I have heard stories. I never paid attention to or heard of a K-ball until I got to the NFL. You were able to practice with the balls all week in practice and then use them in games – that is what I did in college. Luckily, our quarterbacks chose the balls in college and they liked the older ones to throw. That benefited me with hang time and distance. It definitely affects it because you never know what you are going to get. For home games, your equipments guys rub the balls down. Our guy knows what we like and what other teams like because I talk to other kickers. When it comes to away games, it is either hit or miss because you get fantastic balls because the kicker and punter know what they are doing and they tell the guys (rubbing the balls) or you get the guys who don’t know what they are doing or they don’t care about the football, and it could be terrible. It can be hit or miss. I think that K-balls definitely affect kickers no matter what anybody says.”

Jay Feely
“The interesting thing is that you can get a good K-ball or a bad K-ball. A k-ball is not a different ball in anyway than the regular game ball; it’s just a ball that has not been broken in. The balls the quarterbacks use, they’ll take them down, they’ll rub them, they’ll break them in, and use them throughout the week to have them not be so new. The K-balls are brand new right out of the box. You’re not allowed to do anything to them. You’re not allowed to kick them at all before the game. You can get a good new ball, or a bad new ball. The difference between a good new ball and a bad new ball is probably about ten yards on a kickoff or a field goal. If you get a bad ball when you go to kickoff, I’ll even tell our guys on our kickoff team, “Hey it’s a bad ball, be ready for a short kick.” Because I know regardless of how well I kick it, it’s not gonna come down probably any deeper than the ten yard line."

"You can tell when you hold it. You can tell by feeling it, because the seams ridge up. The ends, which are supposed to be round, are kind of square. The difference between a nubby ball and a smooth ball, the nubby balls are bad balls that are not going to go as far. The smooth balls, the way they’re supposed to be, they going to go a lot farther.”

Connor Barth
“It was definitely an adjustment at first. Kicking in college we used Nike balls and for the most part it was pretty broken in compared to what we kick in the NFL now. When I first started kicking the NFL ball I was struggling getting the ball to the five yard line on kickoffs. Barely kicking 50 yards. But it’s all about finding the sweet spot on that new ball. It takes a couple months. But once I got into a rhythm towards the latter part of my workouts for the draft and then when I got to minicamp, I found out how to kick the NFL ball and where that new sweet spot was. For the most part it’s kind of like kicking in college again, because once you find out where to hit the NFL ball, on what sweet spot, it goes pretty far, especially if you have the wind behind you. In the beginning it was kind of frustrating because I wasn’t hitting the ball very far, but once I got used to it, it was an easy adjustment.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CFL Grey Cup K Quotes

The 2009 CFL season concluded with a missed 43 yard FG attempt, a 13 men on the field penalty, and finally a successful 33 yard game-winning FG on the re-kick - as the Montreal Alouettes came from behind for a 28-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Kicker Damon Duval discussed the ending sequence:
"The first one, I hate to say it, but I immediately knew I missed it. I was like a bat out of hell and jammed myself.... When I saw the flag I said thank you to the guy upstairs for the second opportunity. As a kicker, you don't get many second chances.... On the next one I just told myself to relax and do my job, like I have my entire career. When we got that flag I had no doubt we were going to walk out with the win."
Riders kicker Luca Congi made four FGs in the game. That of course was far from his mind in light of how the game turned out:
"That's as tough as it comes. I don't think there's a tougher way to lose a game other than what we just saw tonight.... Being a kicker doesn't mean shit. It's about losing the game or winning the game. Yeah, he hit it. It doesn't really matter. We still lose, right? I don't really care how they won. They still won and that's what hurts the most.... It's tough to miss. You get a second chance, you get another kick right off the bat and you're 10 yards closer. It goes from a somewhat medium- to long-range to a shorter-range field goal.... Hats off to them. They battled, they played well -- that's all you can do."

NFL Week Twelve K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week twelve of the 2009 season:
A Long Make: with under four minutes remaining in the game and the score tied, the Bills opted to attempt a 56 yard field goal on 4th-and-9 against the Dolphins. Rian Lindell was good on the tie-breaking kick, which was also a career long. He commented afterward:
“I knew 56 was in my range (heading in that direction), the other way would have been a bit more iffy. It’s funny, I didn’t think of the implications if I missed ... I just felt confident.”
A Short Miss: half way through the fourth quarter, Jaguars' kicker Josh Scobee attempted a proverbial "chip shot" against the 49ers. His 21 yard attempt hit the upright and was no good - his second miss of the game. He discussed the kicks:
“I take full responsibility for it. I won’t make any excuses. In NFL games, things like that happen. I have to go back out there and have confidence in myself that I’m going to get the job done and make my kicks.... The real short one was unacceptable. Plain and simple.... When you hit the ball in the middle of the ball, you don’t give yourself a good chance of going in. I have to look at the tape and see what I did wrong. I have to correct it and move on."
A Good Streak: when Eagles' kicker David Akers hit the 32 yard game winning field goal gainst the Redskins, it was his 16th consecutive field goal made. He put the good time in context:
"I just give thanks for the Eagles letting me stay around. All of a sudden, you miss a couple of kicks next week, you're a bum. I just try to keep an even keel and not get too high....When you're called upon, you don't want to be the person that doesn't help the team out."
A Bad Streak: In Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, Falcons' kicker Jason Elam missed another field goal. Today, Atlanta is trying out some free agent kickers for the second week in a row. However, this week they are also trying out some free agent long snappers, meaning that incumbent Bryan Pittman's job could be in jeopardy. As head coach Mike Smith noted:
"It is an operation. It is a snap, it is a hold and it is a kick. Jason kicked the ball right down the middle on two of his opportunities when the operation was clean."
Elam discussed the most recent miss in the ongoing slump:
"I didn't notice the snap. My timing was fine. It's my responsibility to get the ball between the uprights.... I felt really good on the first two kicks, but I knew I'd missed that one. I have to be more consistent.... I'll definitely look at the film and try to figure out what I'm doing wrong. Every other kick, I felt good about it when I kicked it. I felt that I had good technique and I hit a very clean ball. ... If your technique is good, you shouldn't have to worry about the results. The last ball I kicked, I just didn't feel that I hit it pure and I'll continue to work on that."
Postscript: shortly after making this post, it was announced that Atlanta had released Jason Elam and Bryan Pittman, and replaced them with Matt Bryant and Joe Zelenka.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 13

A quick summary of notable kicking during the thirteenth week of the 2009 college football season:

Freshman kicker Tyler Bitancurt made four FGs, including the game winning 43 yarder on the final play, as West Virginia won 19-16 over Pittsburgh.

Freshman kicker Ian Watts made a 33 yard FG with 1:27 giving Wyoming a 17-16 victory over Colorado State.

Junior kicker A.J. Principe hit a 22-yarder with five seconds remaining to give Buffalo a 9-6 win over Kent State in a battle of field goals.

Sophomore kicker Kevin Fitzpatrick hit a 37 yard FG in overtime to give Tulsa a win 33-30 over Memphis.

Senior kicker Brandon Hellevang made a 34 yard FG with 9:33 remaining in the 4th quarter to give North Dakota a 17-16 victory over Central Arkansas. The Fighting Sioux preserved the win by blocking a FG attempt with 17 seconds remaining.

Junior kicker Alex Lachman hit a 43 yard FG on the final play to lift Johns Hopkins to a 31-29 win over Thomas More.

Sophomore kicker Alex Zendejas hit a 32 yard FG as time expired to give Arizona a 20-17 victory over  Arizona State.

Sophomore kicker Grant Ressel made four FGs, including a 27 yard game winner as time expired, in Missouri's 41-39 win over Kansas.

Junior kicker Josh Jasper hit a 41 yard FG with four seconds remaining in the 4th quarter to tie the game, and then hit a 36 yarder in over time to win it, as LSU won 33-30 over Arkansas.

Sophomore kicker Tyler Cope made a 19 yard FG with 34 seconds remaining to give San Jose State a 13-10 victory over New Mexico State.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

1999: The Party's Over

“I was the special teams coach of the Minnesota Vikings, and [in 1998] Gary Anderson had a perfect season and Mitch Berger broke a record, although they don’t consider a record, but he had 40 touchbacks in a season. So everybody looked at our team and said ‘Gosh, why is that happening?’ They looked into it and found out that some of the guys were taking balls and breaking them in, like everybody. It’s not like we were the only guys doing it. The history of kickers is that they would doctor the balls and they would give them to the guys on the sideline to bring them in to kick. So the NFL didn’t want touchbacks to be occurring. They wanted excitement. They wanted the ball kept in play. So that’s why they created this K-ball, so that nobody would get to touch them."
- Coach Gary Zauner
In a previous post, we discussed the making of a football and the various doctoring of balls that occurred. After fines did not solve the alleged problem, the NFL instituted the K-ball rule in 1999. It ensured that all kicking plays in games will use a brand new ball, rather than one that has been “broken in” or possibly tampered with. The K-balls are the same regulation size, shape, and weight as all other balls. From the NFL Rules:
The home club shall have 36 balls for outdoor games and 24 for indoor games available for testing with a pressure gauge by the referee two hours prior to the starting time of the game to meet with League requirements. Twelve (12) new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked with the letter "K" and used exclusively for the kicking game.
The night before a game, 12 balls marked with a "K" are delivered straight from Wilson Sporting Goods to the officials. Two hours before the game, the officials were to prepare the balls by rubbing them down and brushing them off. They would then check the air pressure and put the balls in a bag until needed for kicking plays in the game. The minimal pre-game preparation often didn’t occur at all, and in 2002 the rule was modified to allow the home teams' equipment personnel 20 minutes to wipe down the balls.

The K-ball rules were modified prior to the 2007 season, primarily as a result of QB/holder Tony Romo’s mishandled snap on a field goal attempt in the 2006 playoffs. The NFL now hired 16 people with officiating backgrounds (all are on the league's candidates list), to serve as K-ball Coordinators. They travel to and from games with that day's crew and that day's footballs. There are 12 K-balls, however the ball coordinator takes only two with him to the sidelines. The rest remain in another area, available if and when they're needed. The balls are marked K‑1, K‑2, K‑3 and so forth, with the K-ball coordinator introducing them in sequence. K‑ball No. 1 will be used on the opening kickoff and on every kicking play it's no longer available. Then the No. 2 K‑ball will be put into play, and subsequently used on every kicking play until it is no longer available. And so forth. Also changed for 2007 was the pre-game preparation of the balls. The time allotment was increased to 45 minutes and both teams, rather than just the home team, were allowed to do the rub down.

Postscripts:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NFL Week Eleven K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week eleven of the 2009 season:
Week 11 featured the usual makes, misses, fakes, and punting. Our weekly quotes however all focus on the most widely noticed aspect - game winning field goals (of which there were many this week). 

In Kansas City, a 22 yard field goal in overtime gave the Chiefs a win over Pittsburgh. Afterward, rookie kicker Ryan Succop thanked those who assisted him:
“Thomas [Gafford] did a great job snapping the ball, Dustin [Colquitt] did a great job holding it and, fortunately, the Lord blessed me with the strength and the peace to put it through.
In New York, after missing a short field goal attempt in the first quarter, Lawrence Tynes got a chance at redemption in overtime. His successful 36 yarder won the game against Atlanta. He discussed both kicks afterward:
"Man, it's a week-to-week life, let's be real. This is the best job in the world when you're kicking well, and it's the worst when you're not.... I just know, for whatever reason, when you miss in the first half, it's going to end up costing you. I knew that was going to haunt us. Even though we were up 14, I knew I had to make amends. Fortunately I got an opportunity to do that.... It is really a good feeling to kind of be a hero for 30 seconds.... I'm just happy for the guys; it's been a long time since we won a game," he said. "I'm fine. It's just the competitor in me that is ticked off. I'm a pretty resilient guy. I let the misses go, like a cup of Gatorade. You have to. I'm just happy we won. Still, you want to kick yourself for missing in the first quarter."
In Oakland, Sebastian Janikowski missed a 57 yard field goal attempt at the end of the first half, however he was good on a 33 yarder near the end of the second half to give the Raiders a win over Cincinnati. He said of the missed long attempt:
“Going southside, it's hard to kick the long ones because you're going into the wind so every time you try to kill it.”
The most talked about kicking match-up prior to the games occurred in Baltimore. The Colts' Matt Stover spent most of the game watching the Ravens' Billy Cundiff make five of six field goal attempts. Cundiff had just been signed to replace Steve Hauschka who had replaced Stover. In the end however, the winning score in the game was a Stover field goal in the fourth quarter. Afterward, he discussed kicking against his long-time former team:
"I am emotionally exhausted. I'm toast. I may not show it, but I'm toast. That's hard, especially against friends and a team you love so much. I don't mind saying it: I love the Ravens. Hey, what was I doing when the Colts hadn't signed me yet? I was coming to Ravens games."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 12

A quick summary of notable kicking during the twelfth week of the 2009 college football season:

Senior kicker Andrew Howard hit a 48 yard FG as time expired to give Richmond a 13-10 victory over William and Mary.

Sophomore kicker David Lang made a 27 yard FG goal with one second remaining to give Butler a 20-17 win over Drake.

Sophomore kicker Kevin Goessling hit a 35 yard FG on the final play to give Fresno State a 30-28 win over Louisiana Tech.

Sophomore kicker James Aho made a 27 yard FG with 12 seconds remaining to give previously winless New Mexico a 29-27 victory over Colorado State.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NFL Week Ten K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week ten of the 2009 season:

Two of the Florida teams - Miami and Jacksonville - won their games on late field goals. The other Florida team - Tampa Bay - was on the losing end to the Dolphins, however it was certainly not due to their kicker. Connor Barth joined some elite company by making three field goals of 50+ yards in the game. He commented afterward:
"I had a tough week in practice. It means a lot when he has the confidence in me to [let me] go out there and bang it through. As a kicker, you see those wide receivers and linemen and quarterbacks getting down there, and you want to put it through for those guys.... You have to give credit to the offense. They put me in position. As a kicker, that's your job. You're kind of the finisher. That's how I see it. They dig, they bleed. They bust their [butt]. It feels good when you put it through for them. It's a team game."
While a certain fourth down decision from late in the Sunday night game has generated a staggeringly nauseating amount of post-game discussion, debate, and analysis, here at Kickology we will focus on a fourth down decision from one of the early afternoon games. The Redskins lined up for a 52 yard field goal attempt in the second quarter, but holder Hunter Smith and kicker Shaun Suisham both broke formation for a designed fake play. Before the snap however, the coaches realized they had only ten men on the field and subsequently called a timeout. Nonetheless, they stuck with fake play rather than kicking the ball, as Smith explained:
"It's not the element of surprise we were going for. We had a strategy. We were trying to scheme against them, and it worked.... There was a moment when you stand up and you're in shotgun and you kind of look at the defense, and you go, 'Wow, I haven't seen this in about 12 to 14 years.'"
The opposing Broncos knew something was afoot, but didn't know exactly what, as defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday commented:
"They were setting up something — we knew it. They came back, and I think they may have even yelled out on their sideline, 'Let's just punt it. Let's just punt it.' And I guess we just bought into it, because we didn't lock in on the play and what was going on. It seems like it took forever to unfold."
Denver's coaches were also on the wrong page, as head coach Josh McDaniels elaborated:
"They came up with something they obviously feel really good about, something we had never seen...We were trying to play safe, we thought it might be a pooch [punt], something other than a kick.... We defended some of it well, but obviously it was Mike Sellers who got out the back door and we didn’t have anyone on him."
The play resulted in a 35 yard TD pass from Smith to Sellers. Suisham provided his take on why it worked:
"Hunter throws the ball very well. He's got a better arm than what you saw. He can throw darts. He went to Notre Dame."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 11

A quick summary of notable kicking during the eleventh week of the 2009 college football season:

Sophomore kicker Garrett Lindholm's Division II playoff record 64 yard FG on the final play of regulation sent the game into overtime, where Tarleton State eventually won 57-56 over Texas A&M Kingsville in the second overtime period.

Freshman kicker Matt Weller made a 47 yard FG with 1:25 remaining to give Ohio a 27-24 victory over Buffalo.

During Michigan State's 40-37 win over Purdue, senior kicker Brett Swenson made four FGs, including two 52 yarders in the third quarter and the 21 yard game-winner with 1:51 remaining in the game.

Junior backup-kicker and former-soccer-player Devin Barclay made a 39 yard FG in overtime to give Ohio State a 27-24 win over Iowa.

Freshman punter and backup-kicker Charlie Leventry made a 31 yard FG as time expired to give Duquesne a 45-42 win over Sacred Heart.

Senior kicker Brian Pate hit a 37 yard FG with 2:54 left to give William & Mary a 20-17 win over New Hampshire.

Junior kicker Eric Ellestad made a 25 yard FG with 2:22 remaining to give Minnesota a 16-13 win over South Dakota State.

Freshman kicker Josh Lewis hit a 28 yard FG with 1:30 left in the game as McNeese State won 30-27 over Texas State.

Freshman kicker Seth Streeter made a 22 yard FG with five seconds remaining to give Luther College a 20-17 win over Loras College.

Freshman kicker Ian Watts made a 43 yard FG with 23 seconds left as Wyoming rallied for 30-27 win over San Diego State.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making and Fixing a Football

The following excerpt from a Popular Mechanics article [by Scott Oldham, 2001] looks at the history and production of official NFL game balls:
“In 1941, with "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins fast becoming the NFL's first great passing quarterback, Wilson purchased "The Duke" name from rival Spalding. Ever since, Wilson has been the official manufacturer of all NFL footballs. The Duke, also used by the American Football League from 1960 to 1969, received a name change in 1969 when the two leagues merged. It is now simply called the NFL ball.
Wilson continued to improve the ball with such innovations as hand‑sewn ends, triple lining and lock‑stitch seams. In 1951, rubber footballs were tried briefly, and in 1956, the NFL approved the use of easier‑to‑see white footballs for night games. This evolved into special night footballs with white stripes around each end—banned in 1976 because the paint made the balls slick. In 1955, Wilson developed the TD football, which featured a new Tanned‑in‑Tack material, also known as Grip‑Tite. This material has a tacky feel that makes the ball easier to grip, especially when wet. The exclusive Tanned‑in‑Tack cowhide leather is supplied by the Horween Leather Co., and has been since 1941. That's right. No pigskin. In 1981, a new Ultra Pebble design for the leather, which further enhanced the grip, was introduced.
Inside the ball is a high‑tech three‑ply polyurethane bladder. Two of the layers are standard polyurethane but the third is a unique material, which is secret. In fact, Wilson's bladder recipe is such a well‑kept secret that factory tours in that area of the facility are forbidden. The lacing, once fragile cotton, like shoelaces, is now made of an extruded polyvinyl chloride, which is more durable. The process of fabricating a ball, whether it's for the shelf at Wal‑Mart or the next Super Bowl, is surprisingly simple and has remained basically unchanged since 1941. The four panels of the ball are cut cookie‑cutter style from a large sheet of leather. The panels are then checked for blemishes and weighed to make sure they meet specifications. Linings for each panel and reinforcements for the bladder opening and valve ring are then added. After the panels are hand‑sewn together inside out, the ball is turned through the lace opening using an iron post and a bit of muscle. The bladder is inserted and the ball is double laced by hand. It's then over‑inflated to 80 psi so its appearance, stitching and shape can be examined. If it passes inspection, it's stamped "NFL," deflated and delivered.”
Prior to 1999, all game balls were sent to a team during the week prior to a game. Equipment managers would then prep the balls, typically by rubbing them down with a brush or towel, and possibly using a little rubbing alcohol to get rid of the slickness. Anything more than that might create issues for the quarterbacks. But some kickers had other ideas in a quest to create the ideal kicking ball. There are numerous stories regarding their methods to try to make the ball softer, a little rounder, with looser seams and an inflated bladder.

What did they allegedly do? Soak them in water, lemonade, or evaporated milk. Bake them in an oven, either as is or wrapped in aluminum foil. Nuke them in a microwave. Steam them in a sauna. Run them through clothes dryer cycles. Bath them for several hours in a hot tub. Bash them against hard surfaces. Repeatedly drop heavy weights on them. Over-inflate them for several days, and then deflate them back to regulation pressure prior to the game. Deluxe treatments combined several of the methods, such as over-inflating, followed by rubbing alcohol, then baking them, and finally deflating.

In 1994 the league made an attempt to curb the illegal doctoring of balls. They implemented levying a $15,000 fine against the equipment manager of any team caught with a doctored ball. While this may have reduced occurrences of tampering, it did not eliminate the problem. Five years later the league would take a more drastic approach - with the introduction of the dreaded K-ball...

The above first appeared in The Complete Guide to Kickology III.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NFL Week Nine K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week nine of the 2009 season:
One of the more talked about kicks from Sunday's games has been Lawrence Tynes' non-kick. The Giants were attempting a 38 yard field goal on their opening possession, however Tynes aborted the kick in progress when he saw that Jeff Feagles was having trouble with the hold.
Tynes commented afterwards:
"As he [Feagles] was bringing the ball around I saw it drop out of his hands. He had two hands on it, so it was either kick both hands, or stop. It’s even more frustrating when you lose by one point.... He kind of double-caught it and I didn't feel like I could make the kick, so I pulled out. It wasn't terrible, but it was enough to pull me off. I may have been a little quick to it, but I just didn't feel like I could make the kick."
The obvious hindsight question is whether Tynes should have carried through with the kick. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin doesn't think so:
"No. The way that came about - if you remember it was out a ways - it wasn't like an extra point where you could hold and then just swing without any momentum. It wasn't going to be one of those deals because of the distance and because you have to strike the ball properly to get it up over the rush in the first place. So that was not the case last night, no."
Jeff Feagles offered his summary several days later:
"I caught it, and when I went to put it down, it slipped out of my hands. And by the time I got it down on the ground, Lawrence saw the angle of the ball … It’s such a split second. You figure a kick gets off in 1.3 seconds, he saw the ball at an angle and didn’t think I was going to get it back up. By the time I got it back up, could he have kicked it? Maybe. But at that instance, it’s … And then, being 4th and 1, it was the situation, I’ve got to run, and Mr. Merriman introduced himself to me."
In Indianapolis, the Texans' Kris Brown got his potential game tying 42 yard field goal attempt off on the final play of the game, however he came up wide. He responded to the media's obvious questions afterwards:
"I missed the kick. I went out there, went through my routine.  I felt the ball come off my foot really well. The ball just moved a little left.... It's my job. I take a lot of pride in coming through for this team, especially in those situations. To have that happen with the way our guys played, for me is very disappointing."
Perhaps of more interest was head coach Gary Kubiak's comments, which were very different than the approach Seattle's Jim Mora Jr. took when Olindo Mare missed two kicks earlier in the year:
“Kris has made a lot of big kicks for us, and he's going to make a lot more. I told him we believe in him, and we're going to count on him again. He's been kicking very well.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 10

A quick summary of notable kicking during the tenth week of the 2009 college football season:

Freshman kicker Matt Hogan hit a 51 yard FG as time expired to give Houston a 46-45 come from behind win over Tulsa.

Freshman kicker Brandon McManus made an 18 yard FG with 3 seconds remaining to give Temple a 34-32 win over Miami of Ohio.

Freshman kicker Jason Myers hit a 37 yard FG with five seconds left to give Marist a 23-21 victory over Georgetown.

Freshman kicker Nick DeLuca made a 20 yard FG on the final play giving McDaniel College a 22-20 victory over Gettysburg.

Sophomore kicker Foley Schmidt made a 40 yard FG in the second overtime to give Dartmouth a 20-17 win over Cornell.

Junior kicker Craig Burgess made a 41 yard FG  with five seconds remaining to give Indiana University of PA a 34-32 win over Kutztown.

Junior kicker Garrett Clawson made a 20 yard FG as time expired giving Robert Morris a 13-10 win over Albany.

Sophomore kicker Brody McKnight hit a 33 yard FG as time expired to give Montana a 12-10 win over Idaho State.


Friday, November 6, 2009

12 Kickoff Artists, 4 Dimensions

Placekicking typically garners most of the attention (and this blog is equally guilty), however kickoffs are just as important within the game of football. From a numbers standpoint, net distance and opponents' average starting position are the key team statistics. But since we're here to focus on the kickers rather than the coverage team, we'll take a look at the more individualized statistic of touchbacks.

After the first eight weeks of the 2009 NFL season, following are the top dozen touchback totals:

17 David Buehler, Dallas
13 Stephen Gostkowski, New England
12 Michael Koenen, Atlanta
12 Olindo Mare, Seattle
12 Thomas Morstead, New Orleans
11 Rhys Lloyd, Carolina
11 Neil Rackers, Arizona
9 Matt Prater, Denver
9 Josh Scobee, Jacksonville
8 Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland
7 David Akers, Philadelphia
7 Pat McAfee, Indianapolis

Two of those are designated kickoff specialists (Buehler & Lloyd), the only such two in the league. Three are punters (Koenen, Morstead, & McAfee). Three are rookies (Buehler, Morstead, & McAfee). Mare has been around the longest, having entered the NFL in 1997.

After the Panthers demonstrated last year that finding and rostering a kickoff specialist can pay dividends, the Cowboys decided to give it a try this year. Some questioned their drafting of David Buehler in the fifth round, however he now sits atop the list. Dallas head coach Wade Phillips noted:
"That's what we envisioned, and that's the only reason we drafted him and the only reason he's playing. He's proven he could do that. Field position, we know, is a big key. And he's provided a lot of that just on touchbacks."
Buehler's big leg had been evident in college, but as he notes, that is only part of the equation in the pros:
"Direction is a lot bigger in the NFL than it was at USC. I pretty much had free reign to kick the hell out of it. The coaches might say aim more right, but if it goes down the middle and it's a touchback, who cares? But [special teams coordinator] Joe DeCamillis is really strict about direction. I've been working on that. When I'm told to hit it right, hit it right. If I'm told to hit it left, I want a touchback but in the left corner."
Distance and direction account for two of the dimensions. Stephen Gostkowski, currently second on the touchbacks list, discussed the third and fourth dimensions - height and time:
“I focus more on hang time than anything. And a lot of times, when I focus on hang time and hitting a good ball, it goes farther anyway. I don’t try to just drive it through the end zone. I just try to make good contact, and aim where I’m trying to aim and give the 10 guys running down there running their butts off the best chance to make a play inside the 25-[yard line]. I pride myself on getting good hang time and giving guys a lot of time to get down there and make a play. You can get in trouble if you try to just drive it down there. If you drive it, you better kick it out of the end zone. You can get in trouble with the low line driver.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NFL Week Eight K Quotes

Notable kicking quotes from around the NFL following week eight of the 2009 season:
Extra points are almost automatic, although defenders do on rare occasions manage to block one. In all of 2008 there were three blocked PATs in the NFL. That makes this past Sunday all the more unusual as there were three blocked PATs in one week. Philadelphia's David Akers streak of 171 consecutive successful PATs in the regular season dating back to 2004 was broken when the Giants' Fred Robbins blocked one. Cleveland's Phil Dawson finally returned to action after having missed five games with calf injury. His only placekick in the game was an extra point attempt that was blocked. Browns' head coach Eric Mangini reaffirmed that coaches expect extra points to be automatic:
“We can’t go down the field and score and not execute the extra point."
Jacksonville's Josh Scobee also had a PAT blocked. Titans' safety Michael Griffin, who made the block, discussed his game in general:
"I just feel like I was all over the field. It was an attitude. I just felt like (Sunday) I was playing with a lot more confidence, a lot more attitude. Like I said, I was able to clear my mind this past week and was just able to play."
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers once again changed kickers - releasing Shane Andrus and signing Connor Barth. Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik discussed the decision:
"He came in today and had a very good workout for us, so we decided to make the change.... I feel good about this kicker. He got experience in games last year, came in here, had a very good workout and it was a lot windier ... it wasn't an ideal kicking situation. But at least it was difficult, a crosswind for him to see how he can move that ball. He kicked off extremely well. Good hang times.... Consistency from Shane in practice was a concern, because obviously Shane only kicked one ball in a game. It was more the consistency we were getting day-in and day-out that made us want to make a change."
Head coach Raheem Morris seemed almost nonchalant about the lack of continuity at the kicker position:
"It's about constant evaluation of the bottom of our roster.... We weren't getting that in practice, we weren't getting the kickoffs that we wanted in the games.... We have to keep flipping that thing over until you get who you like and who you want. Now it's his [Barth's] turn to see what he can do."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Big Kickers on Campus, week 9

A quick summary of notable kicking during the ninth week of the 2009 college football season:

Sophomore kicker Casey Barth made a 21 yard FG on the final play to give North Carolina a 20-17 upset win over Virginia Tech. 

Sophomore kicker Billy Daniels made a 26 yard FG in the second overtime giving Kean a 23-20 victory over Rowan. 

Senior kicker Dustin Rivest made a 24 yard FG in overtime to give Florida International a 20-17 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis hit a 56 yard FG during Florida's 41-17 win over Georgia.

Junior kicker Will Snyderwine made five FGs (44, 28, 34, 25, and 43 yards) in Duke's 28-17 win over Virginia.

Sophomore kicker Giorgio Tavecchio hit a 17 yard FG with 21 seconds remaining to give California a 23-21 victory over Arizona State.

Junior kicker Gordan Craig made a 41 yard FG with 7 seconds left to give Dickinson a 17-16 come from behind win over Muhlenberg.

Junior kicker Wes Sherrill's 39 yard FG attempt with one second remaining was blocked as Glenville State held on for a 14-12 win over the University of Charleston

Junior kicker Garrett Clawson's three FGs (23, 35 and 35 yards) were all Robert Morris needed for a 9-7 win over Sacred Heart. 

Sophomore kicker Trevor Scott's 35 yard FG in overtime gave Florida A&M a a 31-28 win over Morgan State.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fred Mitchell 2 - The Wittenberg Years

Located in Springfield Ohio, Wittenberg University is a small liberal arts college with a football program with a history of success. Part 1 of our interview with Fred Mitchell concluded at the point where he had selected Wittenberg as his college destination.

As a freshman in 1965, his biggest challenge was not winning the kicking job, rather it was creating the kicking job.
"The interesting thing when I was a freshman was that I was also a sprinter on the track team (both at high school and at Wittenberg). Initially coach Edwards wanted to make me a wide receiver, and I told him ‘No, I just want to concentrate on kicking’. We went back and forth on that a little bit, and his quote was ‘Football players are football players, and doctors are specialists’. So I had to convince him. I kind of got of to a slow start, missing a few field goals the first three or four games – so my confidence was waning a little bit. Then we played a game at Heidelberg College. I kicked two fourth quarter field goals and they were the only points scored in the game. It was a muddy game, and we won six to nothing. That was sort of the turning point where I convinced him that indeed Wittenberg could use a kicking specialist and I was the guy to do it. From there I went on to set some records. The most notable was on the last game of my senior year, when I broke the career record for most points scored by kicking. That last game was at Wagner College in New York."
At that point in time his career record was for College Division, a designation that has since change:
"One thing of note, back in the 60’s that was right before they made the distinction between Division II, Division III, and all the divisions that they have now. Back then you were either considered Major College or College Division. A College Division meant that a school like Wittenberg which only has an enrollment of about 2000 students was thrown into the same category as schools like Akron, Northern Illinois, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, etc. We had many of those on our schedule and we beat most of those. As a matter of fact Akron was in our conference at that time – the Ohio Athletic Conference. We beat Davidson at Davidson; we beat Hofstra. We played a very strong schedule. In terms of records, what would be considered a Division II school like Wittenberg now, the records were compared to the bigger schools. As a matter of fact, Jan Stenerud was kicking at Montana State for two of the years that I was in college. Montana State was considered College Division back then. He only kicked two years at Montana State, and I believe he had the NCAA record at that time for points scored in one season. I was able to get the career record, because I played all four years. By the way, I was a straight on kicker… still have my square toes shoes."
Did he ever think about trying to switch over to soccer style?
“Not really. I fooled around a little bit in practice but not a whole lot. That [straight-ahead] was the way I basically taught myself to kick, and I felt comfortable that way. And the interesting thing too is that a lot of people back in the mid 60’s, when the soccer style kickers were first starting to come in, thought that it was a fad that would die out because of the generally lower trajectory of their kicks. They thought that their kicks would be blocked. Nowadays you see the soccer style kickers get back usually about eight yards from the line of scrimmage, whereas we straight-on kickers would get back seven yards. The ball usually gets up higher with straight-on kickers. Back in the mid-60’s you’re talking about Charlie and Pete Gogolak, Jan Stenerud of course, and Garo Yepremian. But there weren’t a whole lot of soccer style kickers, and especially not in high school or college back then. Now you see the impact of kids playing soccer in America from an early age. That has been such an important factor on why kickers are so good now. Obviously the soccer style manner of kicking is a superior way of doing it. But it was certainly was different back in the 60’s."
Does any particular kick come to mind as the biggest play of his football career?
“I mentioned earlier how we played some bigger schools – we played Davidson at Davidson in 1966, my sophomore year. I kicked a winning field goal late in the fourth quarter to help beat them. I mentioned earlier the two field goals in the fourth quarter against Heidelberg was the difference there. And then from a personal standpoint breaking the NCAA record in the final game of my senior year at Wagner was pretty cool. I went into the game needing five points to tie the record and six to break it. I ended up with nine points – six extra points and a field goal. That was very rewarding."
FOOTNOTE: Fred Mitchell's scoring record stood for 20 years. The present record holders are:
Division I - FBS: Art Carmody, Louisville, 433 points
Division I - FCS: Dan Carpenter, Montana, 407 points
Division II: Jeff Glas, North Dakota, 420 points
Division III: Jeff Schebler, Wisconsin-Whitewater, 398 points and counting