the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

George Blanda: A Tweeting Tribute

A selection of tweets from yesterday and today, in memory of George Blanda:

George Blanda, who played until he was 48 years old as a QB and kicker, passes away at 83.

George Blanda played for Bear Bryant at Kentucky, George Halas in Chicago, and Al Davis in Oakland. What a career. RIP, Mr. Blanda.

Sorry to hear of the passing of George Blanda, he was probably the best and most versatile player that ever came out of Kentucky.

George Blanda never made All-SEC or All-Am. or even kicked a field goal while at UK. However he was a STAR in the NFL.

George Blanda is gone. It seemed like he'd go on forever. I remember watching him w Houston Oilers & "bowling ball" Charlie Tolar in AFL.

Got to see Blanda in early '60s when he was QB/Place kicker for the Oilers. He was in his 40s then & tough as nails.

Blanda helped the Oilers win AFL titles in 1960 and 1961 and said he would always think of himself as an AFL player.

Awww. Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders QB George Blanda passes away. 1st superstar I remember from watching pro football when I was a kid.

In 1970, Blanda's last-minute heroics as QB & kicker resulted in four Raiders victories and last-second tie. He was 1970 AFC Player of Year.

Blanda was the Raiders' kicker and backup QB when I was a kid growing up in CA. I can remember his straight-on kicking style.

I remember him sticking a 53 yarder for the win! Forgot the game, but he was a badass kicker and QB!

George Blanda is gone. One of my heroes has passed. RIP #Kickers

Blanda in the NFL from before the Korean War began until nearly the end of Vietnam. Nolan Ryan only other 4-decade HOFer I can think of.

Class of 1981 enshrinee George Blanda dead at 83. He played 26 seasons, was enshrined in Canton in 1981.

RIP George Blanda who proved that athletes can compete successfully well into their 40's.

Ahhh, dangit. George Blanda has passed away. He was one of my favorites! Good QB, Good straight toe Kicker. Rest in Peace, Mr. Blanda.

It always amazed me that Blanda had played in the 40's, that seemed so ancient to me in my early 70's youth. Loved the back of his card.

George #Blanda 1 of most interesting people in NFL history. There are 2 kinds of QBs, Type A that give instruction & Type B that take them...
George #Blanda was Type AAA. He gave instructions & took them from almost nobody.

RIP George Blanda. You gave me many good memories of what Football should be played like & did it for 26 years!!

And a little bit of our childhood dies as well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

NFL Week Three: the Good, the Bad, & the Redeemed

While two missed kicks that would have won games have been the focus of the media spotlight, there is plenty of kicking news from the third week of the NFL.

Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant has seen more than his share of trials in recent years, both professionally and personally. Yesterday was one of the bright spots. With only two minutes remaining in overtime, his 46 yard field goal gave the Falcons a 27-24 upset win over the defending champion Saints. Bryant commented after the game:
"You take like a Michael Jordan, or anyone in the baseball scenario bottom of the ninth and two outs with the bases loaded or Jordan getting the ball in like the last second of the fourth quarter. You want that ball in your hands.... It’s a good feeling to contribute to a win."
On the previous possession in overtime, New Orleans could have won it, but Garrett Hartley's 29 yard field goal attempt went wide left. He commented afterward:
"It was all me. Everything else was great, perfect. That's my job. When we get the ball down to the 11-yard line, we need to walk out of here with the 'W,' and tonight I did not fulfill that role as part of this team.... It's something I have to strive to get back to being able to do on a regular basis and not this up-and-down roller coaster that I've started off this first three weeks with. They expect me to go out there and do my job, and tonight, on the second kick, I didn't. Bottom line. And that can't happen."
In a similar vein, he also noted:
"It came down to a 29-yard field goal, and I just yanked it left. No ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s clearly my mistake.... It’s back to the drawing board. It’s the highs and lows of being a kicker, and it stinks. I missed a big kick last year [against Tampa Bay] and I was able to learn from it, and I plan on doing the same thing.... You have to let it sting, and it's going to."
For the second week in a row, teams have very successfully played keep away from the Browns' dangerous return man Josh Cribbs. Last week it was Ryan Succop and the Chiefs. This week it was Baltimore. Ravens kicker Billy "Stud" Cundiff commented:
"When you have a top returner in this league, it’s our turn as special teamers to make a difference. [Punter Sam Koch] was trying to put the ball deep down the sideline and far down the field as he could.... [On kickoffs] you try to get the ball to the back of the end zone as far as you can. For us, it was a big challenge. We wanted to make a difference in this game. That’s what we felt what we did."
Washington punter Josh Bidwell injured his hip in pregame warm-ups. Kicker Graham Gano, who serves as the backup punter, got in some quick practice and then handled four punts in the game - one of which was blocked. He assessed his performance:
"I had to watch how many balls I kicked. Josh and [long snapper] Nick [Sundberg] did a good job of kind of pacing me through that.... As far as being comfortable back there, I'm fine. But I think practice-wise I was rusty, and it showed a couple times. I'm disappointed in the way I punted, because I should've done better."
Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski had a busy game of mixed results, hitting three of six field goal attempts. Among the makes was a 54 yarder. One of the misses came on the final play of the game, with the Raiders trailing by one point. He was wide left from 32 yards. Punter and holder Shane Lechler commented afterward:
"I looked up, expected it to split the uprights. It sounded good. Everything was good."
After Cowboys kicker David Buehler missed a field goal in each of his first two games, the Dallas media was clamoring for him to be replaced. After he missed several kicks in practice one day last week, their cries got louder. But first owner Jerry Jones and then later an especially animated head coach Wade Phillips spoke out in support of their kicker. Buehler responded this week against the Texans, hitting a 49 yarder just before half time. Coach Phillips commented after the game:
“It was important for the team. It just proves you can watch a couple of kicks in practice and not know for.... He’s still a young guy, but his percentages are going up and that’s what we’re looking for. He’s got a nice swing. He hits the ball good a high, high percentage of the time. That’s what you’ve got to go on. I’ve seen kickers, really good ones that way, plus he’s got the length. Like I said last week, a 48-yarder, a 49-yarder, the guys out on the street right now are older kickers, might not try it. That’s important too.”
"I just tuned everybody out and do what I had to do. I worked hard and everybody had faith in me and I had faith in myself and I wanted to go out and prove it."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 4

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

Senior and former Irish kicker Nate Whitaker made five FGs (24, 41, 36, 33 & 29 yards) as Stanford won 37-14 over Notre Dame.

Senior kicker Collin Wagner hit 5 of 6 FGs (45, 32, 42, 32 & 21 yards) in Penn State's 22-13 win over Temple.

Freshman kicker Auburn Jimenez made a 43 yard FG with three seconds remaining to give Macalester a 44-41 win over Crown. 

Senior kicker Iain Vance hit a 30 yard FG with one second remaining to give Georgia State a 24-21 win over Campbell.

Junior kicker Ben DeLine hit a 35 yard FG as time expired to give Colorado State a 36-34 win over Idaho.

Freshman kicker Alexander Norocea made five of six FGs (20, 20, 35, 44 & 35 yards) in Brown's 29-14 win over Harvard.

Sophomore kicker Eric Cejudo hit a  31 yard FG late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and then finally made a 29 yarder on the sixth overtime to give Whittier a 42-39 win over Puget Sound.

Sophomore kicker Colston Bayless made a 26 yard field in overtime to give Glenville State a 17-14 win over Fairmont State.

Junior kicker Alan Gendreau hit a 55 yard FG during Middle Tennessee's 34-14 win over Louisiana Lafayette.

Senior kicker Chris Hazley made four FGs (29, 45, 29 & 32 yards) in Virginia Tech's 19-0 shutout of Boston College.

Senior kicker Steven Fetzer's 39 yard FG in the second overtime gave Illinois State a 44-41 win over Missouri State.

Senior kicker T.J. Chiarolanza hit a 23 yard field goal with seven remaining to give Lycoming a 26-24 win over Ithaca.

Sophomore kicker Dakota Warren hit an 18 yard FG as time expired to give UTEP a 16-13 win over Memphis. His other two FGs in the game went for 50 and 57 yards.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Long Road from Australia to the NFL, part 1

With the smashing success of our recent Marn Grook post, and with the AFL Grand Final nearly upon us, we continue with the Australian theme. In recent years, Darren Bennett, Mat McBriar, Ben Graham, Sav Rocca have shown that the Aussies' extensive background in punting balls can translate into successful NFL careers. Chris Bryan is the latest, having spent camp this summer with the Packers and then ending up with the Buccaneers just prior to the regular season. Landing one of the coveted 32 NFL punting jobs is challenging enough for someone from the United States, so how do those from the other end of the world go about it? Today we look at two of the possible scenarios.

For Americans, the road to the NFL passes through American colleges and universities. Australian Jay Karutz is trying that route. He joined the highly competitive kicking camp and college recruiting process, albeit with far more complicated logistics and higher expense given the long distance involved. He ultimately received a walk-on offer from Ohio state and a scholarship offer from Eastern Michigan, the latter which he accepted. Karutz recently commented on the whole experience:
"I figured I might as well take a crack at it rather than thinking 10 years down the track we should have taken the crack....
You would have some coaches and they were excited and you think, 'OK, this sounds good, they want to recruit me. Then, you don't hear from them for like four months and you keep sending them e-mails and you're wondering what's going on....
"Pretty much every day, there's something new that pops up that keeps you guessing, 'Why am I here' or 'How did this happen?'" he said. "But the longer you're here, the more like you feel like you fit in and you know where to go for things, and I'm just happy to be here. I'm really enjoying it."
"We tried to explain to [the various colleges] what I was capable of doing, but I think they were a little scared of a kid from a different country who had never played before. Maybe they'll think differently in the future....
[American football is] speed and power, whereas Australian rules is endurance and aerobic capacity and the ability to be able to run a very, very long way. People are running anywhere from 10 to 15 to 20 miles a game."
One road that Americans do not tend to travel is first playing rugby around the world. But that is what Australian Dan Powers has done.
His professional rugby career began in the National Rugby League in Australia, then moved on to France, and finally ended up in the United States.

We recently spoke to Dan regarding his quest to be an NFL punter.

Unlike most Australians looking to make the transition to American football punting, you come from a rugby background rather than Australian Rules football. From a kicking perspective, how does that differ?
"Not much to be honest both codes use the drop punt or Aussie punt as it is known here, Rugby uses the spiral punt more than the AFL so that transition has come a little more natural for me than it may an AFL guy. The purpose for kicking is probably more similar to the NFL in Rugby than Aussie Rules as we use the kick to gain terroritory while also making sure our kick is coverable through both hang time and direction as opposed to AFL which use it to pass and score."
Your road featured a detour through France. What do recall most from that experience?
"I had a fantastic time in France, leaving Australia and family for the first time really was the catalyst for me to grow up and become a man. Obviously the language barrier is the biggest challenge there but it was the cultural idiosyncrasies that caught me out the most, smoking in restaurants, dogs in restaurants, all the different hand gestures. From a sporting aspect I was subjected to vocal crowds, I had played in front of big crowds in Australia but in France the bought drums, trumpets, whistles you name it and they loved to use them at critical times in the game."
You’ve worked out for the Dolphins and the Jets. How did that come about? Did they find you, or did you seek them out?
"I had put together some film that was picked up by Coach Steve Hoffman and was invited down to Miami in early 2009. Unfortunately the timing wasn't ideal and Coach Hoffman was snapped up by the Chiefs and that was that for me. The Jets was with a few other punters just before the 2009 training camp. I really wasted two great opportunities by not being ready, I was still playing rugby for the USA team and turned up to both workouts after long tours, I was also still thinking of myself as a rugby player trying to punt instead of a punter trying to punt, these failures taught me nothing comes easy so I went and got coached by the best in the business, Coach Gary Zauner, Coach Filip Filipovic, my agent and former NFL kicker Jon Baker and I train with NFL punter Dirk Johnson (who is a deadset legend) plus I get NFL mentoring on how to carry myself in from former Jags linebacker Bryan Schwartz and Super Bowl champion Darrius Holland. When the next opportunity comes I will be ready to realize my NFL dream."

Monday, September 20, 2010

NFL Week Two: Field Goals Aplenty, Changing Kickoffs, and a Touch of Ice

Six different kickers each made at least three field goals during the second week of NFL games. In all six cases, their team won the game. Six wins. No losses. So there you have it. Definitive proof that kicking is the most important aspect of football.
3 FGs, Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland
Janikowski made field goals of 38, 41 and 22 yards in the Raiders 16-14 win over St. Louis. The Raiders did not write or issue a post game transcript of any comments from Janikowski.

3 FGs, Ryan Succop, Kansas City
Succop made field goals of 35, 26 and 23 yards in the Chiefs 16-14 win over Cleveland. Although his placekicking accounted for the majority of his team points, afterward he spent more time discussing his other responsibility - kickoffs. This week he used a different technique in order to keep the ball out of the hands of Browns' returner Josh Cribbs:
"Obviously you want to go out there and pound the ball. That’s the first time I’ve really ever hit those mortar kicks. I’ve always been a guy who usually kicks deep. Obviously, with Cribbs and their return game, we felt like this gave us the best chance to win."
3 FGs Neil Rackers, Houston
Rackers made field goals of 47, 43 and 35 yards in the Texans 30-27 win over Washington. His final kick won it in overtime. If not for a last second timeout earlier in the extra period, Redskins kicker Graham Gano would have been listed here instead. He hit an apparent 52 yarder to win it, however Houston head coach Gary Kubiak "iced" him with a timeout just before the play got under way. Gano missed the subsequent re-kick. Afterward, Gano said of the two kicks:
“I could hear him blowing the whistle. I knew he was going to do it. Every coach does it. It was something we’d practiced the last two weeks. It’s to be expected.... I think I was a little too relaxed [on the re-kick]. I was as confident as ever, and I still am. But I kind of lifted my head up in excitement to see where the kick went, and that’s something that next time I’ll know not to do. It’s never good that it happens, but it’s good that it happens now rather than when we’re in the playoffs, and I’ll get another opportunity.”
"This means a lot. I've been working with these guys for six months now, and I've enjoyed the heck out of them. They're a hard-working ball club and it's nice to come through for them in a key situation.... I'm pretty sure I looked similar to a high school cheerleader. I ran around by myself for a second. It's real nice to have your teammates come over and congratulate you after a big win."
3 FGs, Garrett Hartley, New Orleans
Hartley made fields goals of 46, 19 and 37 yards in the Saints 25-22 win over San Francisco on Monday night. All three FGs came in the fourth quarter and the final one broke a tie as time expired. The defense got a hand on the final kick, as Hartley discussed afterward:
"I thought I made good contact with but when I heard the ball get tipped I just kept saying go, go, go. It wasn't the prettiest field goal but three points is three points."
4 FGs, Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh
Reed made field goals of 36, 34, 25 and 27 yards in the Steelers 19-11 win over Tennessee. Like Succop, Reed spent more time discussing his kickoffs than his many field goal attempts (nine in the first two games). Unlike Succop, Reed's changes in his kickoffs are permanent rather than a special tactic for one game.
"Coach Al [Everest, the special teams coordinator] is helping me change my steps. I was a little bit inconsistent with my steps. He was explaining the importance of the last three steps being your drive steps. I kind of start explosively instead of walking into it.... Most special-teams coaches don't know how to kick."
5 FGs, Mike Nugent, Cincinnati
Nugent made field goals of 36, 30, 46, 38 and 25 yards in the Bengals 15-10 win over Baltimore. What did his team mates think? Quarterback Carson Palmer commented (starting with kickoffs of course):
“He had a couple of huge kickoffs where he kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone and didn’t give them a chance to return it. He’s been a great kicker since he’s been in the league. He’s just had some issues with injuries, and now we’ve got him here and he’s healthy.... He hit five today. Five for five. That’s big-time. We expect that of him. We gave him some chances where they were makeable. We didn’t stick him out there with a 55-yarder and then give their team field position. We gave him chances once we got close to the red zone and inside the red zone. He just did a great job of putting them in.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 3

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

Senior kicker Josh Jasper hit five FGs, with a long of 51 yards, in LSU's 29-7 win over Mississippi State.

Junior kicker Jason Cunningham made five FGs, including a long of 55 yards, in Montana State's 48-21 win over Drake.

Junior kicker Patrick Jacob hit five FGs, with a long of 43 yards, in Princeton's 35-22 loss to Lehigh.

Junior kicker Andrew Lyons made a 47 yard FG with 23 seconds remaining to give Alabama State 18-15 win over Prairie View A&M.

Senior kicker Wes Byrum hit a 39 yard FG in overtime to give Auburn a 27-24 win over Clemson.

Junior kicker Eric Dobratz made a 32 yard FG with 2:11 remaining to give Shepherd University a 19-16 victory over Fairmont State.

Sophomore kicker Nick Foor hit a 37-yard field goal with 10:59 left to give Apprentice School a 9-7 win over Greensboro College.

Junior kicker Rich Rodriguez made a 52 yard FG with 18 seconds remaining as Fort Lewis won 30-27 over Western New Mexico.

Freshman kicker Josh Blanton made a 28 yard FG with 12:36 remaining to give Lincoln University a 23-22 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State.

Off a fake field goal, punter/holder Aaron Bates threw a game winning 29 yard TD pass in overtime, as Michigan State beat Notre Dame 34-31.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kicking 4 Celiac

What is celiac disease? The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University defines it as follows:
Celiac disease is a an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine, which can lead to malabsorption of nutrients. A genetic intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley, triggers this destructive reaction of the immune system. Common resulting complications of celiac disease in adults include reduced bone density (osteopenia and osteoporosis), anemia, increased risk of other autoimmune disorders and malignancies, infertility and neurological problems.
Many of you are probably now asking, what does celiac have to do with kicking? For that answer, we turn to the Kicking 4 Celiac website:
On October 10, 2010, arena football kicker, Craig Pinto, will be kicking field goals for 12 straight hours, for two reasons.
First, he will be attempting to set a world record for most field goals kicked within that time frame, but Craig's main focus is to raise money and awareness for Celiac Disease - the disease that he has been living with for over 10 years now. KICKING 4 CELIAC was born out of Craig's desire to show children and adults alike, that living with Celiac Disease will not shut you down physically. "With something that has affected me, and is so close to my heart, it only makes sense to utilize things I love - kicking and football - to raise money and awareness for my other passion," says Craig. "And that is spreading the word and educating people about Celiac Disease."

On the day of the event, each field goal will be judged by official referees to meet specific record breaking criteria, and all kicks must be from 40 yards out. To add to the challenge, an equal amount of kicks must be taken from the middle of the field, as well as from both hash marks.

All proceeds will benefit the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, the only center in the United States that provides comprehensive medical care, including nutrition, for adult and pediatric patients with Celiac Disease. Checks can be made payable to Trustees of Columbia University and mailed to Kicking 4 Celiac, 117 Roslyn Road, Mineola, NY 11501
We recently spoke with Craig regarding the event, celiac, and kicking:

What challenges does Celiac present to an athlete and/or specifically to a kicker?
For any athlete, I think the main challenge when diagnosed with Celiac Disease is changing your diet to find the right nutrients to put into your body. You need to figure out alternatives to replace what you will lose eating a “normal diet” having an allergy to Gluten. For me as an athlete, I had to bring my own meals to pre-game meals, and traveling for road games was just as difficult, because most athletes, or at least the ones I played with, did not have Celiac Disease, so eating pre-game meals was never an issue for them - they never had to think twice. I had to make sure the meals that were prepared for us on the road were not cross contaminated if I had to order from wherever we were dining. No matter what though, I always had my own form of gluten-free pasta ready to go, just in case.
Have you been doing anything different to train/condition for the Oct 10th event? 
For this event, since it is more of a marathon, I have been doing a lot of cardio. I have also been kicking in hour and two hour long intervals without stopping, to get myself more mentally prepared with what I will be doing on the 10th.
Do you have a ballpark target in mind for number of field goals you'll kick in 12 hours? 
Definitely. Right now my target number is 500. The event is being monitored by a Guinness World Records judge, and if I make 500 that will set a world record. My goal is obviously to shatter that number, but right now I am on pace for a little less than 500. I will have to step up my game that day.
Looking back over your entire career, does a particular field goal come to mind as your biggest kick?
Yes, it actually just happened a few weeks ago. Through high school, college, or with the NJ Revolution in the AIFA, I had never kicked a game winner. I had the opportunity to play with a semi-pro/minor league team here in Nassau County called the Nassau Punishers. Last season in the Eastern Conference Championship game, I missed a kick with a few seconds on the clock that would have tied it up and sent us to overtime, I felt like I let my family down. We played the exact same team a few weeks ago, this season, and with 2 seconds left in overtime, I kicked the game winner. It was easily one of the most memorable kicks and best feelings of my life. My teammates carried me off the field, it was like I exorcised the demons of last season. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

UFL 2010 Specialists

The United Football League kicks off its second season this weekend. Having expanded to five teams, that means that fifteen specialists will be at work.

LS Aaron King, Texas El Paso
P Tom Malone, USC
K Fabrizio Scaccia, St. Lucie West Centennial High School

In a recent interview, Fabrizio discussed landing in the UFL:
"I couldn’t sleep (Wednesday) night because I knew the final cuts were (Thursday). I’m at a loss for words. I don’t know how I’m here right now. A year ago I couldn’t imagine this.... A year ago I was playing semipro football and not knowing what to do with my life, really. Then it just blew up. After that 68-yard kick, it started happening."
LS Ryan Senser, Ohio
P Ken Parrish, East Stroudsburg
K Nick Novak, Maryland

LS Jaret Retkofsky, TCU
P Jy Bond, Australia
K Taylor Mehlhaff, Wisconsin

Taylor recently updated us on his camp experience:
"We've been working very hard through training camp and practices in preparation for our first game Saturday. Camp has gone well. I'm kicking the ball really well right now and with a lot of confidence. The UFL provides a great opportunity to play football and I'm excited to be here in Hartford. I'm very fortunate and blessed to be in the position I'm in and I don't take it for granted! Just like the NFL, you worry about taking care of your business and taking it one day or even one kick at a time."
LS Rigo Morales, Texas A&M Kingsville
P Danny Baugher, Arizona
K Parker Douglass, South Dakota State

LS Matt Overton, Western Washington
P Justin Brantly, Texas A&M
K Jeff Wolfert, Missouri

Jeff recently updated us on his journey to winning the kicking job:
"It's been a long road to landing a starting spot with a Professional football team. I traveled to four different open try-outs for UFL teams and finally received a closer look from the Omaha Nighthawks. Based on my tryouts with them, I was invited to minicamp for a closer look. I did very well at minicamp and a few weeks later I was offered a contract. Signing with the team was not a guarantee of a roster spot. I was the second placekicker they signed. I beat out the first kicker during the first week of fall camp and then with two days left before final cuts the team brought in a more experienced kicker, Justin Medlock. I was concerned I may be replaced solely based on my lack of professional experience. Turns out I did well enough over the course of camp and the few days heads up against my competition that the team decided to stick with me.
From minicamp to this week, I believe there are only a select few players that are still with the team. A lot of experienced and talented NFL veterans have been signed to fill roster spots. With all of this turnover I feel fortunate to still be kicking. I am enjoying the rest of my bye week right now and feel I am kicking at a higher level than I ever have before."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Opening Game Kicks, part 2

We asked kickers, punters, and coaches the following question:
What is your favorite opening game kicking story?
The first batch of responses was posted last week. Today we take a look at the second batch.

Filip Filipovic, The Kicking Coach
"My first college punt was blocked TWICE. I punted the ball. I heard a thud right after I kicked it. It was a textbook punt block. Two hands extended - he took the ball right off my foot. But then I saw the ball go over my head. I quickly turned around and caught the ball after it took one bounce. It was one of those lucky bounces - or so I thought. It happened so quickly that I thought that I had enough time to punt it again. Since I was facing my own goal post, I attempted something that looked like a soccer bicycle kick. The opposing player did not even go for the ball. He leveled me as I was in mid kick. I saw sky and I saw grass. I had no idea which one was up and which one was down. Meanwhile, the ball rolled toward my end zone, it was scooped up and returned for a touchdown."

Damon Duval,
Montreal Alouettes
"It was last year, 2009 - an opening game Grey Cup rematch: Montreal vs Calgary. I went 6 of 6 with four field goals over 40 yards, and had a 46 yard punting average. We ended up killing Calgary after they beat us in the final the year before, so it was a great feeling."

John Matich, The Kicking System
Going back a few years… during my redshirt freshman year at Boston College (1996), I was competing for the staring position with another senior kicker. All thru the spring we were pretty close in competition but he was the senior and our special teams coach was favoring him as the starter. A week before the game, this senior kicker tore a muscle in his quad, and by default I was the kicker. That year Boston College was going to open the season in Hawaii against the University of Hawaii. The game was not going as planned as we were down early. I connected on my first field attempt from 27 yards and connected on my second field goal later in the third quarter. After some controversy at the quarterback position, Matt Hasselbeck (Seahawks), brought us back and we had an opportunity to win the game on a 46 yard field goal attempt. With six seconds left I kicked the ball and got tackled by all the guys flying in to block the kick. All I saw was Hasselbeck jumping up and down celebrating. I was flat on my back with two or three guys on me, I never saw the kick go thru. Best feeling I ever had besides getting married of course.

"Billy Cundiff had been working with me what seemed like all summer in preparation to his senior season at Drake. He was really putting in the work. They were playing the University of San Diego the first game. He called me after the game to let me know that his first field goal was a 62 yard game winner and record kick. Pretty Cool!"

"The first kick of my college career at Wittenberg University was not without on-the-field drama. As a 17-year-old freshman, I had beaten out the incumbent kicker, a junior who doubled as the starting center on the 1964 undefeated small college national championship team. After we scored our first touchdown of the 1965 season-opener, I trotted onto the field to kick the extra point. When I reached the huddle, the center wanted to stay in the game to kick the PAT. As we argued and our coach, the legendary Bill Edwards, signaled from the sideline for me to stay in the game to attempt the kick, we were flagged for delay of game. Alas, my first extra point was made from 25 yards out. I handled all of the extra points and field goals for the next four years, setting the NCAA College Division record for career points scored by kicking in the final game of my senior year at Wagner College."

Mike McCabe, One on One Kicking
Clemson junior Dawson Zimmerman has been named the National Punter of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards. Zimmerman had a career day in Clemson's 35-10 win over North Texas last Saturday. Zimmerman set a Clemson record for net punting in the contest with a 51.0 net figure, over five yards further than the previous mark of 46.7 net punting yards by Dale Hatcher against Kentucky in 1981. He had 309 yards on six punts and North Texas had just three punt return yards against him. His 51.5 average was fourth best in Clemson history. Zimmerman's day included a 79-yard punt in the second period, the second longest punt in Clemson history. The only punt that is longer is an 81 yard punt by Mitch Tyner against Texas A&M in 1973. Through the first weekend of college football Zimmerman leads the nation in punting average.
Brent Grablachoff, Kicking World
"My favorite opening game memory is the first football game of my college football career. As a freshman I earned the starting kicker job in the summer workouts with the team and had the opportunity to start my season off with the opening kickoff. I had a great start to my career with 5/5 PAT’s, two 40+ field goals, a tackle and a fumble recovery on the kickoff! The best part about the day was not the stats. It was seeing the look of happiness in my parents eyes after the game. They walked down from the stadium to meet me on the field after the game and were so proud of their son on his first college football game. Football stats come and go but it was the feeling of accomplishment and pride I was able to share with my family after the game that will live vividly through my life."

Monday, September 13, 2010

NFL Week One: The Long Ball

Opening week of the 2010 NFL season saw plenty of big stories. The biggest of course was all the big legs (although technically leg speed is of more importance than leg size/strength). Six kickers hit field goals of over 50 yards.

Honorable Mentions
Before we get to the six long balls, it should be noted that fifty is an arbitrary number, which simply happens to be a round figure in our numerical system. Four other kickers made long field goals that almost made the list:
49 yarder by Neil Rackers, Houston Texans
49 yarder by Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons
49 yarder by Connor Barth, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
49 yarder by Graham Gano, Washington Redskins

51 yarder by Rian Lindell, Buffalo Bills
Lindell had two long field goal attempts during the second quarter of the loss to Miami. He was good on the first one, a 51 yarder midway through the period. He came up short on the second one as time expired in the first half. That would have been a far more memorable kick, as it would have tied the NFL longest FG record of 63 yards.

52 yarder by John Kasay, Carolina Panthers
Perhaps more notable than Kasay's 52 yard field goal against the Giants was his total of ten kicking points in the game. It moved him ahead of Norm Johnson into eighth place on the all-time NFL career scoring list.

52 yarder by Jeff Reed, Pittsburgh Steelers
Reed set a Heinz Field record with his 52 yard field goal early in the game against Atlanta. He almost broke the record again on his next kick, however his attempt from 55 yards hit the upright. On the day he was 3 of 5 on FGs. The other miss came from 40 yards in the final minute of the game with the score tied. He commented after the game:
"It's the last one that bugs me. I crushed it, perfect kick. It started right down the middle and knuckled off to the right at the last minute. I can't really explain anything. I can't blame the field. I can't blame anything. I thought it was a great kick, and I didn't make it.... I'm glad we came away with a win. I'm glad we're 1-0, but there won't be a lot of celebrating for me."
54 yarder by Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals
Nugent's 54 yard field goal against New England tied his career best and is tied for second in club history. He noted afterward:
"It feels good to do but it is not like I am thinking about it when I am out there. We had good execution, a good snap, a good hold. Everything worked. At the time I was hoping we were coming back and it would get us going."
54 yarder by Matt Prater, Denver Broncos
Following a lightning delay, Prater tied the game against Jacksonville early in the fourth quarter with his 54 yard field goal in the rain. He is now 8 of 10 on career kicks from 50+ yards - best in the NFL.

56 yarder by Mason Crosby,
Green Bay Packers
On the final play of the first half against Philadelphia, Crosby made a 56 yard field goal. It broke the previous Packers' record shard by Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell and Dave Rayner. Crosby noted that the play was scripted:
“Yea, that was exciting. That was the yard line we kind of set. Said let’s get to the 38 and they did exactly that. It was nice.… I guess I had a little energy going on that one. I just went out there and did my job. That’s kind of how I’m looking at this year. Everyone else is doing their job, I’ve got to go do mine.”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Big Kickers on Campus, 2010 week 2

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

Following a fourth quarter rally, sophomore kicker Tyler Bitancurt hit a 20 yard field goal in the first overtime to give West Virginia a 24-21 win over Marshall in the "Friends of Coal Bowl".

After missing two FG attempts in the first half, sophomore kicker Brandon McManus hit a 30 yard FG in overtime to give Temple a 13-10 victory over Central Michigan.

Freshman kicker Chris Boswell made FGs of 50, 23, 50 and 24 yards in Rice's 32-31 win over North Texas.

Junior kicker Matt Dean made a 48-yard game-winning field goal with 6:11 left Thursday night to give Delta State a 27-25 victory over Arkansas Tech.

Senior kicker Devin Barclay hit 5 of 6 FGs in Ohio State's 36-24 win over Miami (FL).

Sophomore kicker Mat Kahl made a 22 yard FG with six seconds left giving Beloit a 34-31 victory over St. Norbert.

Senior kicker Scott Enos made a 31 yard FG with seven seconds remaining to give Hawaii a 31-28 win over Army.

Senior kicker Nico Grasu hit an 18 yard FG with 2:13 remaining to give Washington State a 23-22 win over Montana State.

Junior kicker Jake Nichols made a 25 yard FG with 11:51 remaining to give McDaniel a 13-10 win over Moravian.

Sophomore kicker Dan Conroy hit FGs of 44, 41, and 50 yards on Michigan State's 30-17 win over Florida Atlantic.

Freshman kicker Shaun McClain made a 35 yard game winning FG in the fourth overtime of Weber State's 50-47 win over Northern Colorado.

Junior kicker Dave Leombruno hit a 37 yard FG with six seconds left to give Bridgewater State a 10-7 victory over the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

Freshman kicker Richard Marteney made a 34 yard FG with 1:15 remaining giving Wisconsin-Stout a 27-24 win over Jamestown College.

If we missed someone that should be on the above list, please let us know!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thursday Night Kickers & Coaches

After Olindo Mare missed a pair of field goal attempts in a game last year, his coach was less than supportive in his comments to the press. Last night, two kickers that each missed two field goals received a stronger show of support from their respective coaches.

Temple University's sophomore kicker Brandon McManus got off to a slow start last night, missing two FGs in the first half. He redeemed himself with a third quarter score and then a 30 yard game winner in overtime to give the Owls a 13-10 win over Central Michigan. McManus commented after the game:
"I like pressure. I like the fact that their coach called timeout. I think they think it's going to freeze the kicker. It didn't freeze me. I accepted the role.... It's hard not to think about the previous two. I tried to block it out of my mind. I know what I did wrong. The big thing that was important to me was, my teammates continued to talk to me. They continued to believe in me."
Temple head coach Al Golden said of his kicker:
"I'm really happy he had the chance to atone [for his misses], get that opportunity."
New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley's season got off to a slow start last night when he missed both his field goal attempts in the teams 14-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Following the game, Hartley noted:
“Both of those were completely me. The snap, hold and protection were great. Things like that are inexcusable at this level. I just have to look back and not over analyze things and just kick the ball. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.... Regardless of who talks to me and tells me it’s OK, I know it’s not OK at this level and to go out there and miss field goals that could definitely secure a touchdown plus the 2-point conversion lead. That’s a mistake, fully on me and I have to correct.”
New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said of his kicker:
"A year ago I would have had three kickers in today... he kicked well in the postseason ... he's our kicker."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Top 25 Prolific Kicking Careers

Courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, following is the current list of the top 25 career scorers in NFL history. All 25 are kickers, although George Blanda also did a bit of scoring on offense. The highest scoring non-kicker, wide receiver Jerry Rice, currently sits at 26th on the list.

  1. 2,544 Morten Andersen, 1982-2007
  2. 2,434 Gary Anderson, 1982-2004
  3. 2,044 John Carney (45), 1988-
  4. 2,004 Matt Stover (41), 1991-
  5. 2,002 George Blanda, 1949-1975
  6. 1,983 Jason Elam, 1993-2009
  7. 1,835 Jason Hanson (39), 1992-
  8. 1,736 Norm Johnson, 1982-1999
  9. 1,731 John Kasay (40), 1991-
10. 1,711 Nick Lowery, 1978-1996
11. 1,699 Jan Stenerud, 1967-1985
12. 1,608 Lou Groza, 1946-1967
13. 1,594 Eddie Murray, 1980-2000
14. 1,584 Al Del Greco, 1984-2000
15. 1,530 Adam Vinatieri, (37) 1996-
16. 1,502 Ryan Longwell, (35) 1997-
17. 1,476 Steve Christie, 1990-2004
18. 1,470 Pat Leahy, 1974-1991
19. 1,439 Jim Turner, 1964-1979
20. 1,422 Matt Bahr, 1979-1995
21. 1,416 Jeff Wilkins, 1994-2007
22. 1,382 Mark Moseley, 1970-1986
23. 1,380 Jim Bakken, 1962-1978
24. 1,365 Fred Cox, 1963-1977
25. 1,314 Olindo Mare (36), 1997-

A few observations and notes:
  • John Carney and Matt Stover are the highest active players on the list, although neither is presently on an NFL roster.
  • Jason Hanson and John Kasay are both within range of hitting the 2000 point plateau in a few years.
  • Can anyone catch Anderson and Andersen? Although five other active players on the list are closer, Ryan Longwell might have the best odds as he is the youngest of the active players.
  • Which kicker is closest to joining the top 25? David Akers, age 35, currently has 1182 points and is 31st on the list.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Some Good News & Some Bad News

As the pinnacle of American football, the NFL's very limited number of jobs are sought after by a very large number of players. While this is evident at various times throughout the year, it is especially so at the end of each preseason when teams must make their final roster cuts to meet the 53 player limit. Heading into this past weekend, three teams still had undecided competitions at the kicker position. Bottom line, that meant that by Saturday's roster deadline three kickers received good news and three received bad news. Being at or near the pinnacle also means that all six kickers received the full attention of the media before, during, and after.

Prior to the decisions, the comments from both players competing for the Cincinnati Bengals' job mentioned the importance of obtaining good film, whether it be for the present job opening or a future one. Dave Rayner, who would ultimately receive the bad news, noted:
"I really don’t have any idea what’s happening because they haven’t said anything to us either way. It’s still a competition and I’m going into it like the job is still wide open. The truth of it is one of us is not going to be here so you want to put together some good film because there is always a chance that at some time in the year someone is going to mess up or get hurt or something is going to happen so you always have to be ready."
Mike Nugent, who would ultimately receive the good news, noted:
"I definitely think I can be ready. I feel like I’m getting there. I always want to make sure I’m honest with the coaches. Because I wouldn’t tell them I’m ready to go if I wasn’t.... I think all you can do to convince them is do what you can on the field, so I hope the video looks good."
Prior to the Baltimore Ravens' decision, Shayne Graham discussed the process:
"I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball well. There are a couple of days I’d like to take back. I don’t know if there’s any unbalancing of the scales right now. We’ve got one week to get it figure out. Luckily for me, my job is not to make that decision. My job is to make the kicks when I can and make the best of those opportunities.... The tough one will be upstairs when they have to make that decision. No matter what happens, it’s justifiable to either end. Obviously, we all want to be the one who wins out."
Graham did not win out, as the Ravens opted to go with Billy Cundiff, who subsequently discussed his reaction upon receiving the good news:
"It was really nice to get a good call at this time of the year. In years past, that hasn't always been the case. This time, I was able to see the fruits of my labor. But we know that in January, no one really cares that you made the team. They want to know how well you played. So I've got a lot of work to do.... My wife and I talked about it every day, and we made sure to never look past the next obstacle that was in front of us. When I looked back during my flight home, I thought, 'Man, I took advantage of every situation I had, and I performed as well as I could considering what was laid out in front of me.' So I was really happy with what I had done, and when I got the call, I felt like it was affirmation and confirmation of what I had already thought of my performance."
For Cundiff, it also capped his comeback to the NFL after a hiatus of several years:
"We were joking about it in training camp that this is the first training camp since 2005 I’ve been through with the team that I was with the previous year. So I’ve had five or six years here where I haven’t had the ability to work with the same people over the course of the offseason and get all of those reps. But when I came in from the whole offseason programs and went into training camp and the preseason games, there was a comfort level there that I haven’t experienced in a really long time.... I had a chance to compete against a guy who had been a franchised kicker the year before, a guy that’s played in a Pro Bowl. So if you need any more motivation than that, I’m not sure you have a pulse. So I had a lot of motivation. I didn’t necessarily think of myself as the underdog, but I definitely thought that I had something to prove."
As we discussed back in April, the Houston Texans competition featured two very well established veterans. Neil Rackers ended up winning the job:
"I’m excited, very excited. Right now, I’m thinking a lot about Kris and his family and their situation. I respect Kris so much.... I’m excited to be part of a really good team. My mind-set when I came here was to compete with Kris knowing that it would make both of us better kickers. I’m a competitor. I’m a team guy. I play with a lot of heart, and I’ll do anything I can to help my team win."
Of the three kickers that received bad news, Kris Brown had by far been with his team the longest:
“I did everything that I could do, and they had a difficult decision to make. I’m disappointed, but I can’t say it caught me off guard. I’ve said from Day 1 that I would focus on what I could control – competing and kicking. I think I had as good a camp as I’ve ever had. I kicked extremely well. I wanted to make the decision tough for them. When I look back on these last nine years I like to think that I’m responsible for some of the success the team’s had. I’ve made a lot of great friends. I’ve built a lot of great relationships. I’m going to miss everybody. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to look around and see what’s out there, and I’m sure I’ll kick again.”

Monday, September 6, 2010

Opening Game Kicks, part 1

We asked kickers and punters the following question:
What is your favorite opening game kicking story?
Some discussed the opening game of a particular season. Others discussed the opening kickoff of a particular game. Following are their replies.

Mike Lansford,
"After being cut by three teams in two years I removed my shoe and then made the Rams. Our first game was against the Packers and their kicker was Hall of Fame kicker Jan Stenerud... someone that I studied closely as a young struggling kicker. So, not only am I excited about my first NFL game but I'm kicking opposite a legend. I remember having more pregame jitters about meeting Jan than the actual game. As a true vet he approached me, extended his hand, then proceeded to chew me out because I wasn't using his new kickoff tee (remember the round red kickoff tee the "Sidewinder"?). I almost had a heart attack right there on the field... but recovered to kick three FG's in the first half to help us lead the Packers 23-0 at halftime.

We lost the game 35-23. Welcome to the NFL rookie kicker!"

Dan Orner, Dan Orner Kicking
Here is my favorite first game kicks: Orner "Kicks" Syracuse Down to 0-2
So, how then, did Dan Orner, North Carolina's 5'7'', 170 lbs. junior, play such a major role in sending Syracuse to its second straight loss to open the season? Orner did not use his impressive stature against the Orangemen. He was not able to feed off of the miniscule cheering section of the Tar Heels. All Orner had to use was his right foot. Orner kicked three field goals, all from somewhere around the Rochester area, and split the uprights in the Carrier Dome Saturday night on national television. His field goals of 51, 52, and 55 yards (the latter being a UNC school record) caused 39,000 simultaneous thuds as everyone's jaws hit the floor on every successful attempt.

Syracuse's still maligned defense made some key stops that seemingly would have forced UNC to punt the ball deep into Syracuse territory. Not so fast. That's when the "Man With the Golden Foot" walked on the field and put three more notches on the UNC score with every sweep of his foot. I haven't seen kicks like that since Ralph Macchio in "The Karate Kid." Oh, if only Orner had used "the crane" to kick field goals. Now, that is talent.
"My most memorable opening game has to be my first NFL regular season game in my career. This game also happened to be the inaugural game for the Jacksonville Jaguars back in 1995 when the team first entered the NFL. We played the Houston Oilers and I scored the only points for the Jaguars on a 27 yard field goal, which also happened to be the first points in Jaguars franchise history!"

Jared Guberman, Ultimate Kicking
"It was opening day of my 2007 season at the University of West Georgia. This was my first ever collegiate football game that I started. I was 3 for 3 on FGs, 2 for 2 PATs and I had 7 punts for a 46.7 yd avg. I also set a career long punt of 74 yards that day. We beat Clark Atlanta which was one of our only two wins that season. I earned Gulf South Conference Special Teams POW and National Special Teams POW for my performance. It was a great way to start off the season and it helped me become First Team All-America at the end of the season."

"I was getting ready to kick off in Super Bowl XXXI (Packers vs. Patriots) when I was playing for Green Bay. A teammate had me convinced that the "turf monster" was going to grab my cleats and make me trip on my way to the ball. I worried about this all week prior to the "Big Game". I looked like I was running the hurdles on my way to kick off, making sure that my cleats did not catch. The "turf monster" did not rear its ugly head that day and I was able to get the ball airborne! Thank God!"

Rex Robinson, Total Kicker
"In 1978, Georgia opened with Baylor at home in Athens. I was a sophomore coming off a mediocre freshman year. I had worked extremely hard to do my part, something I felt I had failed to do in 1977. Baylor was favored and we upset them 16-14. I had FGs of 43, 38 and 33 yards. A 51 yarder was taken off the board because of a Baylor penalty, although I made the 38 yarder later in the same drive. I was named the Chevrolet Offensive Player of the Game, which was cool. Another cool thing was that Mike Singletary was a freshman LB for Baylor that day and he made a tackle on our sideline right next to me. I saw up close and personal, the eyes that became so famous with the Chicago Bears. He was unbelievable."

Michael Husted,
NFL 1993 - 2002, Buccaneers, Raiders, Redskins & Chiefs
"It was 1994 and the first year that the NFL made us kick off a 1" tee. It was a few games into the season. The original 1" tee had two pieces, the base and a rubber insert. Many guys were propping the rubber insert up to increase the height of the tee for better hang time. So, when the official would come out to hand us the ball, they would check to make sure that the tee was "legit." I was with the Tampa Bay Bucs at the time and we were playing the New Orleans Saints. I remember watching Morten Anderson show the official the tee and then after he had been given the ball and the official when back to the sideline, he propped the tee up...Everyone was doing it.

Then the NFL sent out a mandate requiring that the rubber insert had to be secured to the base. Well, our equipment person didn't get the fax or forgot about it. Therefore, at the beginning of our next game we had the opening kick off. My tee wasn't secured to the base. The official checked it and started yelling at me. I was like, "Dude, what are you talking about, I didn't get the 'memo'." So, he runs over to our head coach and tells him that if we don't get the correct team in the game in 30 seconds, we would have to kick off with out a tee and put the ball on the ground. Jokingly, I asked the official if I could go "Sandlot" and have one of the coverage guys hold it on his foot, an inch off of the ground. He didn't like that too much and said that our time was up and we had to kick the ball off of the ground. I laughed and said, "Yes, Sir." Sam Wyche, our head coach at the time, laughed as well and I proceeded back out to the middle of the field. We had a breeze at our backs for the kick off. I had one of our coverage guys hold the ball on the ground. I took my normal approach and kicked a line drive that went 9 yards deep for a touch back. As I was running down the field I ran right by the official, he looked at me, I looked at him, "bowed up" and gave him a wink. He laughed and the game started. Classic memory...

Good luck to everyone this upcoming season."