the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, August 12, 2011

ArenaBowl XXIV: Marco Capozzoli & Jason Witczak

ArenaBowl XXIV kicks off tonight at 8:30 pm ET with the Arizona Rattlers hosting the Jacksonville Sharks. In preparation for the big game, we spoke to the key player from each team.


How did you end up with Tulsa last year to start out your arena career?
“It actually happened out of the blue. I was talking to my agent about the arena league and he stated that it would probably be hard to get in since they were already half way through their season. I was taking my LSAT and right when I got out I had a call from an unknown number. Listened to the voicemail and it was head coach Mitch Allner asking me if I was interested in coming out there for a workout. They needed an emergency kicker because their kicker was struggling. I flew out there the next day, practiced on Wednesday (kicked with the team), then we bussed out to Dallas on Thursday, and then I kicked in my first arena game on Friday and went 10 for 10 on extra points. I stuck there the whole season.“

How long did it take to adjust to some of the difference s in arena ball as compared to college or high school ball?
“I didn’t really have much time, I only had a day to adjust to it. It’s a lot different in terms of the fast paced game, but in terms of kicking I think the biggest difference is it’s just a lot more kicking! In the outdoor games you’re used to hitting about four kickoffs maybe and then you’re lucky if you hit four extra points or a field goal throughout a whole game. In the arena league you’re kicking about twenty times, including ten kickoffs and ten extra points, and maybe some field goals throughout. Being on a high powered offense like the Sharks I’m out there quite often. I think that’s the biggest difference to adjust to besides the small uprights (and that’s just hitting a perfect ball).”

Looking back over your entire football career, does a particular kick come to mind as your biggest kick?
“In my college career it would have to be a game winner against Brockport. It was I believe a 42 yarder with two seconds left. It was a tie game and that won the game. In terms of my professional career I’d have to say that last game, the conference championship, where I hit the 36 yard field goal with under a minute left to basically seal the deal and help my team to get to the Arena Bowl was probably the biggest kick of my career.”

For this current week heading into the championship game, what does the life of an arena kicker look like?
“It really hasn’t changed anything since the beginning of the season. Just go out there and do our thing. We have to practice just like it’s any other regular game. You can’t get caught up in all the hype. We have media day coming up and all that. Coming from a small school, this is something that I always dreamt about, just playing in a big game where media’s all around you. The newspapers and TV stations are at every practice. You just want to stay balanced and level minded throughout the whole thing. Just go out there and do what we’ve been doing all season.”


When you rejoined the Rattlers a couple weeks ago, it was your fourth time with the team?
“Yes, this is my fourth stint with the team. I basically hadn’t pursued football in the past twelve months. I kind of got tired of all the political stuff. I’ve been focusing more on golf and World Long Drives tour events in the past year and I’ve done pretty well. I got the call probably two weeks before my return to see if I was interested. I kicked a couple balls. I kicked probably three days in a row and my body felt pretty good. I decided to give it a comeback and it was like I never missed a beat. It’s a pretty cool feeling.“

Are you working with the same snapper and holder as the last time?
“I had never seen the snapper or holder. They’re pretty good. In Arena I’ve gone through so many different snappers and holders. It’s just part of being a kicker and a lot of the younger guys I think struggle with that. My most important thing is to be on the same page and have a really good relationship with my holder. I think we’ve done a really good job. The snapper is one of the better ones around. We have pretty good continuity right now.”

It didn’t take too long to get in sync with them?
“It probably took about two kicks. It was like I really had never even missed a day. It’s kind of weird… even my mind was thinking the same thing, talking to myself and my routine, all my little mannerisms that I do that are all the same exact thing that I’ve done my whole career. It’s like an alive feeling. It’s going to be hard to retire again.”

Speaking of retirement, two of your prior times with the Rattlers ended with ACL injuries. After either or both of those did you consider retiring from football at those junctures?
“No, I never really did think about it. The thing that kind of made me retire last year was I had a couple of really good workouts… the Baltimore Ravens flew me in last year and [special teams coordinator Jerry] Rosburg told me I was one of the most talented kickers he’s ever seen. I got excited again like I did back in ‘01’, 02 and ’03 when I had all my NFL opportunities. Once again I was let down by them not bringing me in and bringing in a veteran. That always happens. Then I worked out for a UFL team, Las Vegas. In the open workout for them I went 15 for 15. I kicked better than I ever have. It was the day after an arena game last year. Then they brought me back for private workout and I went 15 for 15 again in front of them. They told me I was the most accurate kicker they’d ever seen, but they were worried about my age and they were worried that I was a liability. You have no control of it. You see it a lot in kickers because they’re so singled out, but there’s a lot of other position players that are just as good and don’t get shots. After awhile (this is my eleventh professional season, sixth in arena) it just wears on you mentally. I’ve got a family now, so at that time last year I decided it was time to let it go. I left the Rattlers on good terms. [GM / head coach Kevin Guy] knows that he can trust me and brought me back for my experience. I’ve got a really good relationship with coach Guy and he’s awesome to play for. The opportunity to win a title is why I am back.”

Looking back over your entire career, does a particular kick come to mind as your biggest kick?
“Probably that 57 yarder that I hit in Nashville. Then I hit a four pointer to win a game when I was with the Barcelona Dragons in ’03 against my former team from the year before, the Rhein Fire. Those are probably my two most memorable kicks.”

Can you give us an idea of what your itinerary looks like this week heading into the championship game… the life of an AFL kicker heading into the big game?
“I’m on hole number one right now, enjoying a round of golf with one of my buddies. Tomorrow I have daddy day care... I have my son all day while my wife works. My parents fly in. Then we’ve got the AFL awards banquet. Then on game day for home games I always stick to my routine… I’ll go to the golf course, hit a bucket of balls, putt for a little while, go home, take a nap, cook a steak, and then head down to the game.”

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