the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bowling for Kickers 2010, part 1

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl
Junior kicker Chris Philpott hit a 36 yard FG with 6:30 remaining to give Louisville a 31-28 win over Southern Miss.
"Maybe next year [a BCS game]."
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Sophomore kicker Jack Griffin hit a 34 yard FG as time expired to give Florida International a 34-32 win over Toledo.
"I was really confident. It was another part of the process....
Being able to win and seeing all the support we have now, we just have to be able to build off it and accomplish something higher every year."
Champs Sports Bowl
Senior kicker Josh Czajkowski hit FGs of 45, 38 & 40 yards in North Carolina State's 23-7 win over West Virginia.
"Going out winning is great, because we haven't done this for a long time."
Texas Bowl
Junior kicker Derek Dimke opened the game with FGs of 38, 28 & 43 yards a Illinois won 38-14 over Baylor.
"It gives us momentum and confidence, and we showed we can compete at a high level anywhere with anyone."
Valero Alamo Bowl
Senior kicker Dan Bailey made FGs of 40, 50 & 44 yards in Oklahoma State's 36-10 win over Arizona. He also handled kickoff and punting since Quinn Sharp was ineligible for the game.
"It was a fun way to go out. I got a chance to do a little bit of everything.... It happened so quick. I just said, ‘I’m going to have fun with it.' "

Monday, December 27, 2010

NFL Week 16: Double Long

Is practice over-rated? Texans kicker Neil Rackers didn't practice all last week while nursing a hamstring injury. Sunday against Denver he made field goals of 34, 54 & 57 yards.
"I didn't kick in practice all week, so my leg felt fresh, and I had good ball contact. You always like when your coach asks if you can make it, and you go out and make it."
Hitting twice from long range didn't secure a win for Houston, nor did it for Oakland. Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit field goals of 59, 38, 51 & 45 yards in the loss to Indianapolis.
"We fought hard. It seems like we are a playoff team, it's just not working out for us."
You can't control Mother Nature, but you can check with your friends on the opposing team regarding her tendencies in their home stadium. That's what Redskins kicker Graham Gano did prior to the game at Jacksonville, in which he ultimately hit a game winning 31 yard field goal in overtime.
"Sometimes I would be taking my steps on kickoffs and the wind would be at my back and right before I kicked the ball, it would switch to the opposite direction. I talked to Adam [Podlesh] and Josh [Scobee] before the game and that's what they told me, that the wind would be unpredictable. Have to take it kick by kick. Josh is one of my buddies. He could have told me the opposite."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Santa's Final Stop: Arizona

Next holiday season when we update the history of Christmas Kicks, the 2010 game will certainly be added to the list. In last night's game at Arizona, the Cardinals built an early 21-3 lead. The Cowboys rallied, taking their first lead of the game on a touchdown with 1:41 left in the game. They would have taken a three point lead, but Dallas kicker David Buehler's extra point attempt hit the left upright and the lead remained at two points.
"I think I just rushed it a little bit, hooked it a little to the left. I feel bad for Stephen [McGee]. He drove the team down there and we scored the touchdown. PAT's are something that's almost got to be automatic. You've got to put it through the uprights."
Pundits often like to note that missed extra points will come back to haunt you. That thought was reinforced last night when Arizona kicker Jay Feely hit a 48 yard field goal with five seconds remaining - winning the game rather then just tying it. Afterward, he discussed the kick in the context of an earlier attempt:
"When I missed the kick early in the first quarter, I hit it too well. I made up my mind, 'OK, I'm just going to stay at 80 percent as long as I'm inside 55 yards.' So both the 49-yarder and the 48-yarder, I didn't try to crush them. I just wanted to groove them and I knew if I hit them well and hit them smooth and started them on line that they would make it."
Moments after the game concluded, Feely sought out Buehler on the field. Buehler later summarized their brief discussion:
"He said he had a season when he missed three game winners and it was the best thing that happened to him. He said it made him stronger and you've just got to come back from it. It was good to hear that."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

NFL Week 15: Fours All Around

Week 15 of the NFL concluded last night with Bears kicker Robbie Gould hitting four field goals (29, 23, 34 & 20 yards) and four extra points in Chicago's 40-14 win over Minnesota. It capped a week in which the kicks came in fours in quite a few games. In Carolina's 19-12 win over Arizona, John Kasay provided the majority of the Panthers scoring, including four field goals (28, 29, 24 & 43 yards).

Although Clint Stitser may not have as many years of NFL experience as Kasay (but then again who does), he also accounted for the bulk of his team's scoring. His four field goals (25, 39, 34 & 20 yards) led Cincinnati to a 19-17 win over Cleveland. Afterward, Stitser was pleased with his placekicking, but less so with his kickoffs:
"To execute those field goals, I'm pleased with that performance and I'm thankful and happy that everything went the way it did, especially with how efficient they are on field goal block....
Obviously, huge kudos to guys on kickoff coverage. I'm just undercutting the ball, and that's something I have to get in here and fix on my own because that is a role I have to perform well in."
At the other end of the spectrum was Miami kicker Dan Carpenter. Although he also got four field goal attempts, he missed all four of them. The Dolphins ended up losing 17-14 to the Bills. In Carpenter's defense, his "shortest" attempt was longer than the "longest" attempt by every other kicker mentioned in this article. His misses came from 48, 48, 53 & 61 yards.
"Man, I don't ever expect to have a day like this. A down day for me is missing one field goal, not four. I let our team down today. It's as simple as that.... I just didn't hit the ball well all day, obviously. It hurts knowing you cost your team a chance to win, a chance to move on into the playoffs."
Although Dallas kicker David Buehler missed a 35 yarder, he was good on four other field goals (42, 20, 20 & 39 yards) in the Cowboys' 33-30 win over the Redskins.
"It's been a roller coaster. I'm finishing pretty strong, but there's still a few games left in the season, so I've got to go out and make every kick from here on out. I've just been through most of the scenarios a kicker can go through - game-winners, game-tying, long field goals at the end of the half. So I've learned how to handle myself, not get too pumped up, and stay poised. It's definitely helped me going through all these scenarios. You keep that mental intensity. That's what you've got to do, and keep the focus high."

Monday, December 20, 2010

NFL Week 15: Onside Kicks

Two of yesterday's games with playoff ramifications each saw an onside kick attempt. In common, both were successfully recovered by the kicking team. In contrast, each occurred at a very different stage of the game.

The Eagles on side kick came midway through the fourth quarter, after the first of their four touchdown comeback spectacle that gave them a 38-31 win over the Giants.  

David Akers described his kick:
"It was a great call by Andy Reid and [special-teams coordinator] Bobby April. We work on that all the time. When they give you a five-man front, it's basically five men on our left vs. their two . . .
We executed well. The ball got a good bounce. It went right around 10 [yards] and Riley was able to come right behind and catch it at the high point, right at the 10-yard mark."
Afterward, New York head coach Tom Coughlin discussed their thinking prior to the play:
"We talked about the onside kick as a possibility. We didn’t put our hands team in there, no. There were still seven and a half minutes to go and they were down two scores, so we didn’t think it was necessary to do that at that time. There was no reason for us not to make a better play on the ball. We didn’t have anybody even around the ball....
The upside [of not using the hands team] is to try to get field position for your offensive team. Seven and a half minutes to go, let’s have a return and position – we had been doing a good job returning. Danny was knocking the ball out. However, all people up front, again, were told to watch out for the onside kick."
Green Bay's onside kick came at a very different point in their game at New England... on the opening kickoff. Packers' kicker Mason Crosby the teams planning:
"It had kind of been in the plan the whole week. We get the opening kickoff and try to steal a possession. You always come into a game looking for ways to steal possessions, especially against an offense like the Patriots. It’s just like any other scheme you have running, it’s nice when you execute it. Especially the first play of the game, that can go one way or the other. That’s a big energy booster."
Although the Patriots ultimately won the game 31-27, head coach Bill Belichick was of course not pleased with the outcome of that first play:
“It was good execution by them [on the onside kick] but it was terrible by us. We can’t give that up, I don’t care if it’s well executed or not. We’ve got to do a better job in all three phases of the game, there’s no doubt about that.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus: D-II Does it Right

Many football games go astray - with people running, throwing, blocking, hitting, tackling, and other non-kicking activities. But this year's NCAA Division II Championship game got it right in the end - with the kickers taking center stage.

Trailing by three in the fourth quarter, Delta State kicker Matt Snyder hit a 27 yard field goal with 2:22 remaining to tie the game.

Minnesota-Duluth kicker David Nadeau got his opportunity on the final play of the game... 
He hit a 32 yarder to give the Bulldogs a 20-17 win and the championship.
"When it came off my foot I knew it was going to be close. It wasn’t my best kick that I’ve ever hit in my life by any means. But I saw it going up, and I knew it was going in from the time I saw it going in the air. So I just turned around and ran pretty much."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NFL Week 14: Head Up

Jay Feely wasn't the only specialist to dominate a game this past weekend. Miami punter Brandon Fields was very busy and very successful in less than favorable weather conditions. On ten punts he averaged 56.4 yards gross and 49.6 yards net. His efforts played a significant role in the Dolphins 10-6 win over the Jets.
"The elements were a factor in the rain, and so it came down to me blocking it out and doing my job. It gave us a chance to turn the field on the Jets."
The Tampa Bay at Washington game was also played in cold, wet conditions. The Redskins kicking game struggled. Graham Gano missed field goals of 34 and 24 yards. Then with nine seconds remaining in the game he didn't get a chance to kick a potential game tying extra point when the snap and hold went awry. Fellow kicker Connor Barth was watching from the Buccaneers sideline:
"You know we are kind of a little fraternity. There’s 32 of us so in the back of your mind you are thinking it is tough. Everyone has been there once in their career. I did it against New Orleans and hit two off the upright… during the game you are kind of like, ‘Well it’s helping our team,’ but at the end of game he was down so I just told him to keep his head up and keep working because we are good friends."
Graham's mindset during and after matched Connor's advice:
"Throughout everything, as crazy as it sounds, I was just as confident as I've ever been. Those are moments I dream of, just being able tie the game. I was just foreseeing going into overtime and hitting the game-winner. And that's not how it worked out, but I'm going to stay confident with my head up."

Mitchell Talk: The Big Kick

While kicking a football at anytime is a rewarding experience, some kicks obviously acquire much greater significance based on the circumstances. We asked this year's finalists for the Fred Mitchell Award the following question:
What was the biggest kick or game of your career so far?
Following are their responses.

Gregg Berkshire, Ashland University
"My biggest kick in my career, although it wasn’t in a real game, would have to be during our Spring Game after my freshman year. My two roommates, who I have known since I was like five and have played every sport together and now college football at Ashland University, were on the other team. During the whole week leading up to the game there was a lot of trash talking going on in our room. In the end I ended up hitting a field goal as time expired to win the game and I still let them know to this day that I was on the winning team."

C.J. Gradoville, Morningside College
"The biggest kick of my career would have been the 47 yard field goal I hit at halftime against Northwestern College. We were down 17-9 and the offense was struggling. It gave us a little momentum going into the half. We ended up winning the game by 3 and had we lost the game we wouldn't have made the playoffs."

"The biggest kick of my career was when I was a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School playing our rival Lincoln-Way Central. At that time, Lincoln-Way Central had never beaten us and with about a minute left in the game, I made the go ahead field goal. The feelings were completely overwhelming and I felt like I was on top of the world."

"I believe that the biggest game the field goal kicking unit has had is our first playoff game against South Carolina State on November 27th, 2010. I say as a unit because our holder, snapper, and I (kicker) have been together from the start. We were able to get on the field three times to contribute with points and came out successful all three times. It was special for us because in our time here at Georgia Southern we had not been fortunate enough to make the playoffs. So, being our first ever playoff game, and being able to help our team with thirteen points, three field goals and four extra points, was very important for us."

"The biggest game of my career was against the University of Montana during the 2009 season where I went 3 for 3 including a 47 yard field goal with seven seconds left to send the game into overtime."

"The biggest game of my career was at Yale in 2008. We were down 7-0 at halftime and I kicked three second half field goals, the final one from 34 yards with less than 5 minutes remaining to put us up 9-7. The defense did the rest and it was without question the biggest win of our season and really was the start of the re-emergence of Penn football in the Ivy League."

"I think the game winner in overtime against North Carolina Central at home in the Georgia Dome was my biggest kick. The feeling of doing that and then getting rushed by my team after the kick was incredible."

Monday, December 13, 2010

NFL Week 14: Cardinals Unleash Jay Feely

Prior to the Denver at Arizona game, the kicking news belonged to the Broncos. With Matt Prater suffering a groin injury, Denver signed Steve Hauschka on Saturday to handle the kicking this week. Prater noted beforehand:
"It's been bothering me for about two weeks. It stinks because I hear it's going to be nice and warm down there."
After the game, the kicking news definitely belonged to the Cardinals. In their two prior games, Arizona had managed only six points on both occasions, settling for a pair of field goals each time. This week they handed over the reigns to kicker Jay Feely and let him run with it (figuratively and literally). In the 43-13 win, he scored the first 22 of their points. Fifteen of them came on field goals of 36, 48, 55, 23 & 49 yards. The other seven resulted from a fake field goal which Feely ran in for a five yard touchdown, plus the subsequent extra point. Some of his teammates finally joined in during the fourth quarter with a few touchdowns to pad the score, which also gave him another three extra points.
Feely's 25 total points were the second most ever in the NFL by a kicker in one game.

Afterward, Feely discussed the touchdown run:
"As soon as I caught the ball, I kind of knew I was going to make it because they had rushed pretty hard on that corner.... It was a big moment to get that touchdown and sort of jump start our offense."
He also commented on his multi-pronged attack:
"I have decent speed. I’m getting up there in age, but I kind of like to think of myself as an athlete and not just a kicker. Hopefully today I did a little bit of both to prove that."
Lastly, he put to rest the ongoing questions about his gloves:
"Yeah, I can stop getting all those questions from people about why I wear the gloves. If you have the fake and you want gloves on to handle the ball, you don't want to tip them off by putting them on. It's for tackles as well as onside kicks, and it looks kind of cool, too."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Kicking & Punting

Last December we spoke to several kickers regarding kicking in the cold. It's December once again, and kicking in winter weather is once again in the news. Several articles from this past week all focused on the topic.

Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould
"It's a little harder to kick kickoffs five or six yards deep into the end zone at Soldier Field when it's 10 degrees out. It's an adjustment, it really is," Gould said Wednesday. "You've got to hang the ball up a little bit more and know that it is going to be shorter. And as a team we have to cover the ball and make sure we pressure the middle of the field more than we normally would....
Probably the best conditions would be if you could have a Miami (weather) in Chicago, or a dome. But that's part of it. Everybody's numbers at the end of the year in cold-weather places are going to be a lot less. That's just a part of it."
Green Bay Packers punter Tim Masthay
“It’s hard to hard to maintain a good, explosive leg swing when you see that the ball is not where you want it to be....
This going to be a pretty typical day from here on out. That’s kind of my takeaway, I have to make sure I’m swinging hard for the ball even if the drop’s off, and mentally you have to persevere if you hit one or two bad ones.”
New England Patriots kicker Shayne Graham
"I think we expected this coming in here [Chicago]. We've had practices when I've been here where we've had just as much wind, if not more. Obviously, you can't replicate the snow, but I've been kicking in snow since I was a little kid, growing up in Virginia in the mountains. So you draw on your experience."
Miami Dolphins punter Brandon Fields
"It's more of a mental thing. I try to get a feel for the wind and the conditions during warmups. That's when I start playing around with stuff to see what works and what doesn't."
Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman 
"I pretty much check [the weather forecast] from Monday morning on and then keep looking to see if there are any changes. But you know how it is around here. You can't really forecast that far out. So I never really believe what I see until Sunday morning....
"You can't change it -- that's kind of the attitude you need to have. You can't be scared of it. You have to go out and do what you need to do, keep your technique and not let it intimidate you. A big part of that is you can't let a bad kick get you down. You just try not to have two in a row....
In pregame one thing will happen, then during the game a different thing will happen. It can change dramatically during the game. So you almost just have to feel it out when you get out there for each kick. You hope a gust doesn't come when you let go of the ball. That's the biggest thing. The hardest thing is not the consistency of the wind, but the gusts. You hope you kick in between gusts."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mitchell Talk: Serving the Community

While on-the-field kicking is certainly a primary consideration for the Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award, it is not the only consideration. The candidates' community service and similar work also factors into the final decision. Related thereto, we asked some of this year's award finalists the following question:
Of the community service work, is there one that impacted or influenced you personally?

Gregg Berkshire, Ashland University
"The one community service project that impacted me the most would be speaking to the students at Ashland Middle school about setting and reaching goals in your life. Since I’m from Ashland and could impact the kids of the future from the city it meant a lot. It seemed like just yesterday I was sitting there doing the same things they were doing and now I was someone who had accomplished my goals and now I was able to stand in front of them. Seeing as how I knew some of them and was recognized by most, it helped them understand how setting goals and striving for them could put them in my situation in the future. So I think that helps them by keeping them on the right track in life and making the best decisions for themselves in the future."

C.J. Gradoville, Morningside College
"I would say it is a tie between the mission trip to the Dominican Republic and also Camp Quality Heartland. The mission trip was an experience of a life time. To travel to the poorest parts of the Dominican Republic and build latrines, essentially toilets, for strangers was humbling. The people were extremely grateful for our effort and they showed it. When we arrived, the families we stayed with would give every one of us their best bed for us to stay in. I could not believe the hospitality we received by a family of strangers. It was a trip that keeps me realizing how truly blessed I am every day. Camp Quality Heartland allows me to appreciate being a role model. To be able to bring joy to kids for one week out of a year brings joy to me. I love the ability to influence a young child's life by being a kid with him. You are able to see kid's who have been born with a tough card persevere and live life with no worries."

"Being involved as a Wharton School Peer Mentor has really impacted my career at Penn as it has allowed me the opportunity to interact with underclassmen and help guide and advise them about classes, professors, and the university as a whole. Looking back, I often wish I had a mentor to ask these same questions to when I was a freshman, but to be able to reflect on my overall experience at Penn and in the Wharton Business School and share that with fellow undergrads has been very meaningful."

"Cleaning up historic Oakland Cemetery was pretty cool. Seeing all the memorials to the civil war soldiers and others was awesome."

"Volunteering at the PADS homeless shelter definitely influenced my personality. The first time I went, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was able to have really nice conversations with many different homeless people. Being there and talking to these people was a real eye-opening experience and it made me realize how fortunate I really am. Some of the stories these people had were extremely sad; telling them to keep their heads up and talking about having faith in God was the only thing I could do to try to make them feel better. Every day, I try not to take life for granted and I thank the Lord for every day I wake up."

"I am very fortunate to play in a team that not only cares a lot about each other, but finds it necessary to give back to the community in every which way we can. Attending the "Real Men Read" event in Langston Chapel had a big impact on me because I had the opportunity to read to a group of ESOL students who had not yet learned the English language very well. I came from a similar situation coming from Mexico at a very young age. I know what it feels like to not understand, to not be able to communicate effectively, and to feel appreciative when someone that speaks my own language lends me a hand. I read the traditional "Clifford" books that were translated in Spanish to the group and they loved it."

"It’s hard to pick just one. Whether it was helping families protect their homes from a major fire we had in flagstaff during the past summer, or later helping the same residents protect their homes against flooding. These real life experiences showed me how quickly things that matter to you can be taken away or destroyed in a matter of seconds. Additionally, while visiting home I helped young kickers improve and develop their skills through a non-profit organization, “Snap hold kick.” This helped to improve their confidence in their abilities and increased their overall team work and leadership skills. I am able to give back to my community through the skills I’ve developed throughout my years of practice and affiliation as a player through the same organization."

And the Winners Are... Dan Bailey & Chas Henry

And the winners of the two big awards at the Home Depot College Football Awards are [drum roll]...

Bailey, a senior from Mustang, ranks second nationally in scoring after hitting 24 of 28 field goals and made 65 of 66 extra-point attempts. After accepting the award, Bailey was asked whether he fought with the teammate who caused his only career PAT miss, which occurred in the Kansas game. "No, I'll take the blame. I don’t want to be that guy," he said. "It’s just one of those things. You’ve got to forget about it."
- Tulsa World
One day after Florida head coach Urban Meyer resigned, Henry won the Ray Guy Award. "There's been a lot of highs and lows," Henry said in a phone interview. "Tonight is a high. To see (Meyer) walk away is hard. ... But I can understand why he's doing it." Henry became the third Georgia native in four years to win the prize, following Georgia Tech's Durant Brooks (2007) and Georgia's Drew Butler (2009). Henry, of Dallas, Ga., capped his stellar senior campaign with a well-earned trophy. "Hopefully, we can keep it going in Georgia," said Henry, who became the first Gator to win the Ray Guy Award.
- Augusta Chronicle

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mitchell Talk: Kicking 101

What is the most important thing about kicking that you learned in college? We recently posed that question to some of this year's finalists for the Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award. Following are their responses.

Gregg Berkshire, Ashland University
"The one item that I would say is the most important thing I've learned about kicking since being in college would probably be the amount of repetition of the fundamentals it takes to become a consistent kicker. Since I only started kick my senior year in high school I was unaware of all the fundamentals it takes to be a good and consistent kicker. Although the drills seem boring the more you do them, it is critical in teaching your muscles the memory of the movement you desire."

C.J. Gradoville, Morningside College
"I believe the most important thing I learned in college was every kick is the same kick. Whether it is an extra point or a 50 yard field goal. You still need to execute the same routine and swing you would every time. If it's a game winner or a kick in a blow out, it is still the same kick."

"The single most important thing about kicking that I have learned in college is to kick with a purpose. Every time I kick a field goal in practice, I put myself in some sort of game situation. This helps me have 100% focus on every single kick."

"If I had to narrow it down to one item, I would say that confidence is the most important thing about kicking. Being able to get on the field and know that you are going to make the kick every single time without a doubt is what puts a kicker in great position to be successful. In my case, I have been blessed to have a great special teams unit in which, Charlie Edwards and Carter Jones, our holder/punter and snapper respectively, have been very consistent in carrying out their functions."

"The one most important thing I've learned in college about kicking is how important it is to be mentally tough. You can't let your last kick impact your next one and have to treat each kick individually. Routine, rhythm, consistency, and repetition have been key for me."

"I would say the most important thing I have learned would have to be, stay calm, don't think too much, and keep your focus on your technique."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

NFL Week Thirteen: 38 + 23 > 60

A week after having missed a very long range (59 yards) opportunity to tie the game, this week Dallas presented kicker David Buehler with a more reasonable opportunity. In overtime, he was called on for a 38 yard field goal attempt. He made it, giving the Cowboys a 38-35 win over the Colts.
"For me it was good to have redemption, from the 48-yarder and from what happened last week. It's a night-and-day difference from what I was feeling last week. You want to make every kick. I'm glad I had two shots to come back and redeem myself and glad I put them through the pipes....
It's a little bit better, especially playing the Colts, playing Peyton Manning, one of the best players in NFL history and beating a team led by him. It's surreal. It's an awesome feeling....
[Last week's miss] was on my mind for a while. You have to let it go when you practice during the week, but that gave me motivation."
Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter continued his big year - this time with a career long, franchise record, eighth-longest-in-NFL-history 60 yarder.
"Everyone always asks me how far I can kick it and what's your range. I've always told them it's a situational thing. A lot of times, you don't get the opportunity....

I actually thought I missed it. I thought I left it short when it left my foot, but it carried pretty good."
Nonetheless, Miami lost the game to Cleveland. The final score was 13-10, with the final points coming from Browns kicker Phil Dawson as time expired. His 23 yard field goal was his second game winner in consecutive weeks. Afterward he discussed the games' kicking conditions.
"It was pretty intense wind. It seemed to pick up as the day went on. A lot of gusts, a lot of swirling. I've got to give the guys who kick here every week a lot of credit. Everybody thinks 'We're going to Florida, it's going to be a nice, easy day.' It definitely wasn't easy today. One of the tougher days we've had all season."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fred Mitchell Award 2010 Finalists

Ten finalists have been named for the 2010 Fred Mitchell Award, which is provided to the Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III or NAIA place-kicker that excels on the football field and in the community. The place-kicker chosen for this Award will be announced by December 15, and he will be honored on February 21, 2011 at the National Football Foundation Chicago Chapter Awards Ceremony at Halas Hall.

The breakdown of the 10 place-kickers is as follows:
  • Collegiate Division – 4 FCS, 4 Division II, 0 Division III, 2 NAIA
  • State – the place-kickers play at schools located in 7 different states, Pennsylvania (3) and Georgia (2) each had multiple place-kickers among the finalists
  • Year – 5 Seniors, 4 Juniors, 0 Sophomores, 1 Freshmen
  • Included on the Preseason Watch List for the 2010 Fred Mitchell Award - 6
In alphabetical order, the finalists for the 2010 Fred Mitchell Award are listed below.

Slippery Rock University (Pennsylvania) – Division II
Senior from Boalsburg, PA….2nd on team in scoring with 55 points from 10 of 13 FG’s and 25 of 27 PAT’s….ranked 3rd by among draft-eligible college-division kickers for the 2011 NFL Draft and 25th overall….2010 First Team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Association Western Division for the second straight season….holds school records for career FG’s (35), PAT’s in a season (50 in 2007) and consecutive PAT’s (65)….ranks 2nd in school history in career PAT’s (135) and 5th in career points (242)….First Team All-PSAC West and Third Team Don Hansen’s Football Gazette….3 of 3 FG’s and 8 of 8 PAT’s in October….scored 7 of the team’s 13 points against Mercyhurst on October 30….kicked game-tying 47-yard FG with 31 seconds left in regulation to force OT on September 18 against West Chester on September 18, followed by a 33-27 win….scored 9 points on 2 of 3 FG’s and 3 of 3 PAT’s against West Chester….averaging 56 yards in 21 kickoffs….son of former Penn State and NFL place-kicker Chris Bahr and nephew of former Penn State and NFL place-kicker Matt Bahr….Event Coordinator for 2010 “Banquet in the Burgh” fundraiser that generated $4,000 for the Best of the Batch Foundation run by Pittsburgh Steelers QB Charlie Batch….tutors underprivileged youth at the I Care House in New Castle….assists with State College YMCA youth soccer and football clinics ... served as volunteer at State Cup youth soccer competition including as Site Coordinator at Slippery Rock ... developing marketing plan for State College Spikes minor-league baseball team ... served as Operations Intern with Spikes in 2010 ... attended Sport Entertainment and Venues Tomorrow conference in South Carolina ... attended Sport Sales Workshop at Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field in Cleveland….Professional Development Chair for SRU Sport Management Alliance….tutors high school place-kickers….created SRU’s Sports Management website….attended 2010 Stadium Managers Association seminar as member of the Association and the North American Society for Sport Management.

Ashland University (Ohio) – Division II
Junior from Ashland, OH….leads team in scoring with 96 points from 16 of 23 FG’s and 48 of 50 PAT’s….First Team All-Conference….led Conference kickers in scoring (20th in Division II) and FG’s per game (6th in Division II)….set school record for scoring by place-kickers in a season, breaking his record that he set in 2009….set school record for most PAT’s and most FG’s in a season in 2010….tied for school record with 118 career PAT’s….ranks 2nd in career kick scoring (238 points) and 3rd in career FG’s (40)….scored 14 points in 44-15 win over Ohio Dominican on November 6….scored 12 points in 30-24 win over Saginaw Valley State on October 23....made a career-long 50-yard FG and scored 13 of Ashland’s 19 points at Northern Michigan on September 25….averaging 61 yards in 80 kickoffs…filmed a television spot for Ashland County United Way to promote the United Drive program to collect canned goods from local residents…volunteered for United Drive collection campaign…spoke to Ashland Middle School students about the importance of goal setting and he also read them books.

Morningside College (Iowa) - NAIA
Senior from Council Bluffs, IA….leads the Mustangs in scoring with 94 points from 19 of 25 FG’s and 37 of 42 PAT’s….15 of 19 FG’s less than 40 yards….Great Plains Athletic Conference all-time leader with 390 career kick scoring points, 51 FG’s and 230 PAT’s …scored 14 points in 43-7 win over Hastings on October 30….scored 11 points in 23-12 win over Nebraska Wesleyan on September 11….averaging 62 yards on 66 kickoffs….volunteer camper companion at Camp Quality Heartland, a camp in Omaha for children with cancer and their siblings….Humane Society volunteer….participated in World Mission trip to the Dominican Republic….youth kicking clinics at high schools and with the Billy Cundiff Kicking Camp in Des Moines.

West Chester University (Pennsylvania) – Division II
Freshman from Harleysville, PA….2nd on the Golden Rams in scoring with 63 points from 9 of 10 FG’s and 36 of 38 PAT’s….set school record for the highest FG percentage in a season with 90% and only miss was a 49-yard attempt at Slippery Rock....scored career-high 14 points and converted all five FG attempts in October including a 48-yard FG against Shippensburg in a nationally televised game on CBS College Sports Network on October 7….tied school record for most FG’s in a game with 3 against Shippensburg including a 42-yard FG with 25 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, leading to a 44-43 win in double overtime….scored five points against 15th ranked Kutztown on October 30…Autism Walk volunteer on October 16….Relay for Life participant on campus in October….participated in football team’s Bone Marrow Donor program….volunteers at the Harleysville Community Center…little league umpire….volunteers at various kicking clinics with kicking coach Jeff Dinnocenti.

Saint Xavier University (Illinois) - NAIA
Junior from Frankfort, IL….2nd on the #3 ranked Cougars in scoring with 108 points from 10 of 10 FG’s and 78 of 80 PAT’s….ranks 1st in total points among NAIA place-kickers….ranks 3rd in NAIA among place-kickers with 8.8 points per game….scored 12 points on November 20 in NAIA First Round Playoff game, a 66-19 win over Cumberlands….scored 14 points on 3 of 3 FG’s and 5 of 5 PAT’s in 46-21 win over Taylor University on October 2….moved up to 2nd in school history in career scoring by place-kickers….named MSFA Mideast League Special Teams Player of the Week on September 6, October 11 and November 8….averaging 60 yards in 72 kickoffs….participated in the school’s annual Service Day where students do community service projects….Emergency Management Association volunteer at the Department of Homeland Security in Palos Hills….volunteers at the PADS homeless shelter in Hazel Crest….South Bridge Community Church summer day camp volunteer and provides complimentary maintenance and lawn care….place-kicker tutor to kicker at his high school alma mater.

Georgia Southern University - FCS
Junior from Dalton, GA….2nd on the Eagles in scoring with 67 points from 11 of 12 FG’s and 34 of 34 PAT’s….tied for 1st in SoCon in FG % and PAT %....9th in SoCon in scoring….set school record for most consecutive PAT’s (84 of 84 in career)….led the team in scoring in 2008 and 2009….named SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week after scoring 11 points from 2 of 2 FG’s and 5 of 5 PAT’s….volunteers at the local Boys and Girls Club as mentor, tutor and participant in after-school athletics….reads to local elementary school students.

Northern Arizona University - FCS
Junior from Corona, CA….2nd on the team in scoring with 76 points from 14 of 18 FG’s and 34 of 36 PAT’s….Honorable Mention All Big Sky Conference….13 of 13 FG’s inside 40 yards….scored 9 points in 26-23 win over Southern Utah on October 2….scored 12 points including a 51-yard FG in 48-0 win over Western New Mexico on September 2….scored 12 points in the Lumberjacks 32-7 win over Idaho State on September 25….participated in Red Ribbon Week volunteer events….community drug-free campaign speaker at local elementary schools….involved with local Humane Society….Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer….St. Mary Food Bank volunteer….helped protect homes from 2010 flood and assisted with the flood clean-up efforts.

Tusculum College (Tennessee) – Division II
Senior from Bellech, Wales….leads team in scoring with 111 points from 21 of 26 FG’s and 48 of 49 PAT’s….scored 18 points on 4 of 4 FG’s and 6 of 6 PAT’s in 54-44 win over Catawba on November 6….scored 10 points in 51-35 win over Brevard on October 30….scored 6 points in 39-36 win over Urbana on September 18….named South Atlantic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week for his 12 point effort in Tusculum’s 54-30 win at Western Carolina from the FCS….averaging 62 yards on 82 kickoffs….Adopt-a-Highway Program roadside cleanup…. meets with local elementary school students weekly to help mentor the students in the Lunch Buddies Program….Bible School volunteer….Upward Bound Leader….Tusculum College Sports Information Office volunteer.

University of Pennsylvania – FCS
Senior from West Bloomfield, MI….2nd on the 14th ranked Ivy League championship team in scoring with 62 points from 9 of 14 FG’s and 35 of 36 PAT’s…All Ivy League Honorable Mention….Penn’s all-time leading scorer with 238 points….school’s record-holder in nine categories including FG’s made, PAT’s made, PAT %, kicking points…holds Ivy League record for most conference FG’s in a season….top 10 in Ivy League history in career FG’s attempted, FG’s made and scoring by a kicker….11th highest career points of any player in Ivy League history and 2nd among kickers….3rd in conference history in career FG’s….scored in all 40 career games….109 of 110 in career PAT’s ….three-year participant in the Bone Marrow “Be the Match” program….Wharton School Peer Mentor….Freshman Move-In volunteer….Friars Senior Honor Society….Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Youth Social Event Coordinator for teens with special healthcare needs.

Georgia State University – FCS
Senior from Duluth, GA….leads the team in scoring with 79 points on 15 of 17 FG’s and 34 of 36 PAT’s….scored 8 points including game winning 33-yard FG to beat North Carolina Central 20-17 in overtime on October 16….made the game-winning 30-yard FG with one second left to beat Campbell 24-21….one of just four Seniors on Georgia State’s first-ever football team…. averaging 59 yards in 39 kickoffs….volunteered for Kaboom Play Day by working with local elementary school students to teach them the value of a healthy, active lifestyle….visited patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta….participated in cleanup project at historic Oakland Cemetery.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kyle Stelter: Acquisition and Acknowledgement of Accuracy

During his senior year in high school, Kyle Stelter took up long snapping as suggested by his offensive line coach as a means of increasing his college prospects. Kyle took the advice and has been snapping ever since. His collegiate career started at University of Wisconsin Stout and concluded at University of Wisconsin River Falls. Most recently he snapped for the St. Paul Pioneers, champions of the Northern Elite Football League. His snapping activities are not just limited to his team play. He is the founder and co-owner of the USA Special Teams Academy where he instructs others in the ways of snapping. We recently spoke with Kyle and discussed (not surprisingly) snapping.

When you first started snapping as a senior in high school, what was the most challenging aspect to learn?
“Just being accurate. Being accurate is one of the biggest problems guys have. It’s something that’s really hard to get down as a beginner.”

How long did it take until you felt comfortable in that new role?
“Quite a while actually. I didn’t feel extremely comfortable and confident in my role until I was a sophomore in college.“

What’s harder, snapping on a punt or snapping on a placekick?
“Snapping on a punt, because there are a few more aspects to it. Not only do you have to snap the ball back there as fast as you can and be accurate with it, most of the time you also need to block. You’ve got a bunch of big guys running at you trying to take your head off. It’s a difficult task.”

Are there any adjustments you make when playing in rain or in cold weather?
“If it’s raining I always like to keep a towel on my waist or on my belt somewhere. Just keep my hands as dry as possible for as long as I can. It depends on what level your at and how good the refs are with the ball, but usually the refs will be pretty good about getting you a dry ball or at least keeping it as dry as possible. In cold weather I like to use a hand warmer. So I’ll keep my hands in there as long as possible until I have to go grip the ball. Just make sure you’ve got a sure grip.”

On average, how long does it take for a new snapper, holder and kicker that have just started working with each other to get their timing and rhythm down?
“It depends on what level you’re at. In high school I would say quite a while because you don’t have that special teams time. You’re usually not just a specialist, so you only get maybe a couple minutes a day to work on it, if that. You could never get used to it in high school if you don’t work out a lot with those same guys. In college I would say maybe a couple weeks. You’ve just got to get used to your timing. If you’re working with the same guys all the time it’s a little easier to get used to the routine, who you’re working with, and where your snaps are and how fast they are.”

Are there any conditioning or training routines that are unique to snappers and that don’t really apply to other positions?
“Basically as snapper you just want to be able to snap as much as possible, get into a rhythm, and be able to do the same thing every single time. Some things that I like to do… there’s a lot of different drills for accuracy and speed. I like to use a weighted football to build up my endurance and my strength. That helps me with my speed as well. Just working on different scenarios… If there’s a hard wind, sometimes I’ll snap into the wind just to get used to it. Going through different situations… blocking different ways. Different scenarios with the clock… sometimes you’re being rushed and you need to get out there and do your job but still be accurate.”

It’s often mentioned that kicking is 80 to 90% mental. Does that also apply to snapping?
“I think it does. If you go out there and you’re not confident in what you’re doing, or you don’t understand the situation… it’s a big portion that’s mental. If you have a bad snap, you just have to forget about it and move on. You’re going to have to do it again, and if you’re worried about that last snap it’s just going to mess with your head. Everybody is going to have a bad snap in their career; you’ve just have to forget about it and move on. Maybe ask your punter or holder where it was, get that locked into your head and how to fix it, and then move on from there.”

Do you have a favorite story or moment from this past season with the St. Paul Pioneers?
“There’s a lot of good moments. Winning is a fun experience compared to a college team that didn’t really have a successful season all three years that I was at it. In the all-star game it came down to a game winning field goal in overtime. That was something exciting, having to run out there and snap for a game winning kick and then having everybody acknowledge you… it’s a pretty good feeling. Especially when usually nobody knows your name.”

Is there anything you’ve learned since becoming an instructor that you wish you had known back during your college playing days?
“Just some different drills and workout training techniques that I’ve picked up on. I wish I would have worked a little bit harder on technique. In college I didn’t really have a coach, so I just went out there, did my thing, and kind of had to learn from myself what I was doing wrong. I wish I myself would have had a coach, working with me and helping me fine tune my technique – instead of me having to be out there with a video camera, checking out what I was doing wrong, and trying to adjust it myself.”

In a recent article NY Jets kicker Nick Folk said regarding long snapping: “I think it’s hard for people to really understand until they try to fire one, then get run over.” Do you have anything you’d like to add to that?
“Yea, it’s tough. You’ve got to be very skilled to be able to throw a ball as hard as you can between your legs and the try to get your head up so you don’t get killed. There’s a lot of practice that goes into it, a lot of training, and a lot of people don’t think it’s a hard thing to do. They see people do it and say, ‘aww, I could do that’. But until they get under, between their legs, and try to do it themselves… then they could finally appreciate what we do as a long snapper.”

Earlier this year, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe drew attention to the fact that long snappers are the only position not included in the Madden Football game. Do you have anything you’d like to add to that?
“I know it’s our job as long snappers not to get noticed, but it would always be cool to have some of our snappers acknowledged in the game. I bet it would be hard for those guys to develop all the stats for the snappers, but it would still be cool to be acknowledged in a video game where everybody else in the league is acknowledged.”

This interview sponsored by the National Camp Series.

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 14

A summary of notable kicking during the fourteenth week of the 2010 college football season:

While junior kicker Alex Zendejas' two PATs that were blocked for the losing side received most of the attention, senior kicker Thomas Weber hit five field goals (52, 36, 38, 40 & 40 yards) for the winning side in Arizona State's 30-29 overtime win over Arizona.
"It feels great. I don’t think there are words to describe it. You can’t change the past, but it definitely helped me grow all season and it definitely helped me prepare for this moment. It was great to be able to give back to them and kind of repay them in some and be accountable, like I said. I couldn’t ask for any better teammates or coaches....
It's obviously disappointing that we will not be playing in a bowl game. That being said, the win last night over Arizona in Tucson was as exciting as any game I have ever been a part of, and being able to say that my last game at ASU brought the Territorial Cup back to Tempe is something I will never forget."
Junior kicker Dave Teggart hit a 52 yard FG with 17 seconds remaining to give Connecticut a 19-16 win over South Florida and their first ever BCS berth.
"You dream about those situations all the time as a kicker. We kickers don't get on the field that much, so you want to make the most of your opportunities when you're out there and that's what I tried to do."
Junior kicker Jimmy Stevens' 27 yard FG with 8:28 remaining gave Oklahoma the Big 12 championship with a 23-20 win over Nebraska.
"It’s nice to know the coaches have a lot of confidence in me. It’s also nice to know all the guys in the locker room have a lot of confidence in me. They were happy for me, proud of me. Happy I was making all my kicks."
If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Sweet Spot, part 3

Although he didn't use the term, Washington Redskins kicker Graham Gano was talkin' 'bout hitting the "sweet spot" when discussing his game winner against Tennessee the other week:
"Before I even looked up, I knew it was going in. It feels like kicking a pillow, really. You don't even feel it."
Many of the kickers, punters, and coaches that we previously spoke to also mentioned not feeling the ball when connecting with the sweet spot. Of course there always seem to be an exception to every rule, and in this case it may be when kicking in extreme cold. Calgary Stampeders punter Burke Dales didn't mention any pillows when recently discussing frigid weather conditions:
"It’s like kicking a rock. It’s heavy - well, it feels heavier. I guess it would be the equivalent of kicking a cinder block. That’s what it feels like. You have to get a good foot on it, and you have to hit the sweet spot, that’s imperative."
Regardless of weather, or any other conditions and factors, in the end kicking is a simple matter of hitting the sweet spot. Or maybe it is not quite-so-simple, as our final coaching feedback discusses:

"Hitting the football on the sweet spot requires physical and mental routine that enables a kicker to achieve it again and again.

First of all, there are technical points that are very important. One of them is keeping your eyes on the target. The rhythm running to the football is another one. To hit the sweet spot all the time, your global technique has to remain the same.

But why is it so difficult to hit it over and over? A lot of practice is to make the movement an automatism. When the movement becomes a second nature, the emotions come along to stabilize the whole kicking motion or unfortunately, destabilize it. Being confident, staying concentrated on the target, having pride to execute the attempt, and staying positive are some of the good emotions. Being afraid, insecure about your skill, afraid of teammates, fans or friends’ feedback are some of the feelings that you don’t want in your kicking routine.

To be able to succeed under pressure requires the proper control of these bad feelings. Being anxious is a lack of a common need: confidence. A lack of confidence could be catastrophic while trying a 35 yard field goal. With anxiety comes stiffness. Stiffness destroys your kicking motion. At the end of your movement, the follow through is not the same. Hitting the right spot on the football can’t be the same either. Worst, anxiety could make you lift your eyes too early. Raising your eyes too early to see if a kick is good brings your head in a different direction, which open your hips a little bit too much. Oops… the kick is wide to the left. The sweet spot… Oops…

To progress, it is important to remain in the present moment. Each tenth of a second at the time."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

US Army All American Bowl: Influences & Memories

As we previously mentioned, on January 8th, high school all-stars from across the nation will face off, east versus west, in the US Army All American Bowl. The four specialists for this year's game are:
We continue with more of their responses to some of our favorite kicking questions:

What is the most important thing you’ve learned during your kicking career to date, that you wish you had known back when you first started?

Pruitt: "I wish I would have known how important the mental side of kicking was along with the physical preparation. Also, I wish I had received some technical kicking training earlier, instead of relying on my natural skills as a soccer player. I did not start working with a kicking coach (Chris Shaw) until February of my junior year. He has been instrumental in helping me to work on both my mental discipline and my kicking technique."

Snyder: "I wish I had learned at an earlier time to take better care of my body. After tearing my quad muscle the summer going into my senior year, I thought it was all over for me. Luckily after six months of tough rehabilitation I was able to bounce back in full stride. Now I am a lot more in tune with my body, I stop when I need to stop and I push myself when I need to."

Wile: "The most important thing I've learned and wished I had known before I started kicking was not to think about any misses in a game or your stats. All that will do for you is make you worry and mess you up on your next kick or punt."

Is there a particular kicker/punter that you consider to be your favorite and/or a role model?

Snyder: "I'd have to say my favorite kicker is Dan Orner. Simply put, he's a stud. He's always got the right thing to say to keep me mentally prepared or technically sound. Other than Dan, John Kasay amazes me. He's in his 20th year in the NFL and he's still got it (as evidence by his 55 yard bomb this year against the 49ers)."

Wile: "John Carney is my favorite kicker/role model. He is a San Diego local, and has been in the NFL for more than two decades and is still playing. I've had the good fortune to meet and work with him on several occasions. My favorite punter is Darren Bennett. He is also a San Diego local who I have been able to work with several times. He changed punting by introducing the australian rules punt into football."

Sade: "Dan Orner"

What was the biggest kick or game of your career so far?

Pruitt: "My biggest game was against Klein Forest in the first round of the Texas 5A state playoffs in 2009. I hit four field goals and the winning PAT in overtime. named me the 5A Region II Player of the Week for that game, and I was the only kicker in Texas recognized at that level for the entire season."

Snyder: "This year I hit my very first game winner against our local rival South Mecklenburg. It was only 33 yards but it was the feeling of pride that ensued, even when the weight of the game was on my shoulders. It was also on my Senior night, so I can't think of a more perfect ending to my senior season."

Wile: "The most important kick I have had in a game up to this point is at the end of the first half. There were six seconds left on the clock, the score was tied, and I kicked a 47 yard field goal from the left hash to put my team ahead going into the second half. The biggest game I have had up to this point in my career was the State Championship game last year."

Sade: "A 57 yard field goal at Nebraska in front of coach Pelini."