the study of the kicking components within sports

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taylor Rowan: Kicking Around the Nation and Around Hanging Objects

Taylor Rowan's kicking career began in Florida at Melbourne High. Most recently he's been in the opposite corner of the country, kicking for the AFL champion Spokane Shock. Between those two he's kicked in several other varied locales: from 2005 to 2008 he was a four year starter at Western Illinois University, and in 2009 he kicked for the Arkansas Twisters of the AF2 and the New York Sentinels of the UFL. He recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us:

What is your earliest recollection of kicking a football?
“Back in my junior year of high school, the head football coach for our school was my P.E. teacher. Two days before their first game the kicker got hurt and quit. So the coach came up to me, knowing I played soccer, and said, ‘Do you wanna kick for us Friday?’ I wasn’t interested, because of the pressure of doing it after never having practiced it and having to kick two days later. But he ended up coming to me again and saying, ‘If you want to pass my gym class you’re going to be out at practice’. So I was out at practice that afternoon before soccer, and ended up kicking the ball that afternoon and did extremely well. I kicked in my first game Friday night and kicked a 32 yard field goal. That was before I even knew how to step off or anything.”

Back at Western Illinois you set the FCS record for 129 consecutive extra points. For those casual fans that aren’t impressed by that, could you explain why that is a lot harder than it sounds?
“Starting out in my freshman year we were playing Toledo. I remember going two-for-two in that game and my coach saying, ‘let’s see how long we can keep that up.’ It’s not just a kick. A lot of fans say, ‘Well it’s easy to kick a ball through the uprights’, which it is – but when you add in a rush and a hold and a snap, everything has to be perfect every time. So going 129 straight over four year consecutive years is pretty tough. Especially when you’re kicking six or seven extra points in a game, some times it’s easy to get a little bit relaxed and pull one left or right. But the continuous form from twenty yards out isn’t a given. I definitely had a great snapper and holder during the whole process.”

A couple question relative to your arena football experiences… Was your time with the Arkansas Twisters your first encounter with the narrow goal posts?
“Yea it was. After my college experience I had graduated and moved down to Florida. As I was driving from Spokane Washington back to Florida, I got call while I was driving through Arkansas. I actually stopped in and tried out with about six games left. I remember going in for the first time and figured I might want to do a one-step kick to put it through the uprights. But that upright being half the size is pretty intimidating. It really, really, really makes you focus solely on form. That was a whole new experience, especially going from college to a narrow upright. The college jump to arena was very intimidating.”

How do kickoffs differ in arena ball?
“The net is exactly 58 yards away and it’s eight feet up, so it’s about sixty yards to get it to the net. You only have eight yards you can go back, but I’ve figured out that going eight yards back instead of any further has actually helped me out on kickoffs. For any kickers out there you know what I’m talking about – the further back you start going the more inconsistent your steps start to get. So it’s actually helped me a lot on my kickoffs, getting more consistent. I do five steps back and three over. It’s the same kickoff and everything, but without having wind in there it allows you to hit the ball little bit better. The only thing that’s a little bit different from outdoors is that every arena you go to is different. Some of the arena roofs are a lot lower than other arenas, so you have to be able to adjust your kickoffs – line drive the ball a little bit more in some arenas, while in some arenas you can really just kick away. The key is to get a lot of hang time and let the ball hit off the high part of the net, so it takes a lot longer for the returner to get it.”

You mentioned the low ceiling in some of the arenas, aside from that, are there any other unique facilities conditions that made kicking a challenge?
“Yea!. In some of the arenas you have to deal with a really low scoreboard in the middle, so sometimes you have to go off to the right or left side to kick around it. In some of them the rafters are extremely low. Some of them have flags hanging in there. In Orlando, when you go play the Predators, their nets are a little bit closer together. The nets normally extend to the very edge of the field. But in Orlando they have rounded endzones, so the nets are actually a little bit less than three-quarters of the field. So you have to kick around the scoreboard, and then in kicking around the scoreboard you also have to hit the net which is a lot skinnier. The key is obviously hitting the iron, so the ball bounces out as a live ball. There are a lot of obstacles you have to deal with.”

How was the ArenaBowl experience?
“The ArenaBowl experience was one of a kind! Playing for Spokane Shock is the best experience I think you can have in playing arena football, with how many championships they have here. ArenaBowl was pretty cool. We had three or four games on NFL Network leading up the ArenaBowl… having Kurt Warner on the field and all these well known NFL guys on NFL Network just walking around. Playing for Spokane, every game is pretty much sold out, so just the noise level. Then playing Tampa Bay, which is one of the most well known franchises in the history of arena football, playing them and their coaches - just a different level, their team being a more experienced, older team and our team being a new team with a lot of younger players. It was pretty cool… being on national television in a sold out arena was definitely the loudest experience I’ve ever played in, and that’s including playing SEC opponents in college.”

Looking back over your entire career, does a particular field goal come to mind as your biggest kick?
“I would say my biggest kick was either North Dakota State or Illinois State my senior year [of college]. Against North Dakota State we were up by three with less than two minutes to go. It was a 54 yard field goal in their dome. If we missed it, all they had to do was drive maybe 25 yards the other direction to kick a field goal to tie it. There was somewhere between 45 seconds and minute left, and I went out and hit a 54 yarder which broke the record in the Fargo Dome. The other one was Illinois State my senior year. The game was tied and I kicked a 34 yard field goal to give us a win. There’s a lot of kicks I could think of. This year there was a 40 yard field goal against Chicago right before half to put us about by three.“

Are you still on the coaching staff for Feely Kicking School?
“I am. I’m on the coaching staff right now for Feely Kicking School. It’s been kind of tough, going from UFL to AFL to college and moving all over the place. It’s been kind of tough to settle in, but when I’m home I always go over and coach for him. Right now I’m just coaching at local high schools around the area in Spokane.”

Has coaching others ended up helping you with your own kicking?
“Yea, actually I was just on the phone talking to my dad about that. I’m heading up here in a little bit to a high school to coach. It’s a lot different when you’re coaching and you’re actually kicking with the players, because it puts a lot more pressure on you. If you’re going out and kicking against someone who kicks in the NFL, like Jay Feely or any of these other guys that you’re kicking against – they have nothing to gain. If you kick better than them then you have everything to gain, so there’s a lot more pressure on an NFL guy. It’s the same thing going out and kicking with high schoolers for me. Some of these high schoolers are really experienced, so you have to be on your game kicking against them to show why you’re coaching and have the better form. In coaching them it definitely helps me with my kicking – just keeping form, keeping the head down, and really following through the ball straight. You have to be able to exemplify that when coaching.”

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