the study of all things kicker related

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United: Footspeak

FC Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 win over Manchester United FC.

It is Barça's fourth European Champion Clubs' Cup, and their third in the last six years.

We take a look at all four goals scored in the match, plus a few words from the final two scorers:

Pedro Rodríguez 27'


Wayne Rooney 34'


"To be the man-of-the-match is the least important thing, because it was incredible how we played. We were very good in all areas. We're very happy to lift another trophy. It was a difficult season but we showed who we are. We were the better team."
"This is the reason I came to Barcelona. I'm very happy, very satisfied. We have a team with ambition, a team with the will to win."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Matt Stover: Specialist Tributes

Yesterday, word spread through cyberspace. Today, kicker Matt Stover announces his retirement from the NFL. At the following two links you can check out the impressive numbers and records from his long, productive, and accurate career, as well his charity work through the Matt Stover Foundation.

We asked fellow specialists to weigh in with their memories and thoughts for the occasion:

"Matt Stover represents all that is good as a kicker. He was consistently excellent over a long period of time. He was a leader on his team and in the NFLPA. Three kickers in NFL history have carried their team to an NFL championship: Mark Moseley, Adam Vinatieri, and Stover. Remember that 2000 season there was a long period in which the Ravens offense did not score a TD. Matt took younger kickers like myself under his wings and imparted knowledge that made us better kickers but also better men."

"My memories of Matt were mainly of his time with the Baltimore Ravens. When the team moved to Baltimore it was also during the time frame when I really focused more on kicking in high school and I was paying attention to kickers in the league. I remember him always being one of the better kickers in the league in points each year throughout his career and watching him kick in the Super Bowl. He was also a great kicker to have on your Fantasy Football Team, as he rarely missed! Congrats on a great career."

"Too bad. It was always neat to watch him come out of his unique stance - especially since the ball went through nearly every time. I wonder how he developed that stance? Regardless he's a great kicker who was fun to watch. All the best to him and his family post retirement!"

Carlos Ojeda, Erie Explosion kicker
"Classic pre-kick stance.. and as solid a kicker you'll find."

Steve Hauschka, Denver Broncos kicker
"Matt is a true kicking professional. He works hard in the weight room, on the practice field, on the mental piece and to top it off is a great person. It's no wonder he had such an accomplished career."

Craig Hentrich, NFL punter 1994-2009, LEGacy Kicking
Matt was one of the best and most consistent kickers in NFL history. It has been a pleasure watching, playing against, and knowing Matt for all these years. Best of luck to him!

Mike Lansford, LA Rams kicker 1982-1990, Mike Lansford Kicking
"At the end of my career I left the Los Angeles Rams via 'Plan B' (a freak version of free agency) and signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns. Bill Belichick was just named the new coach for the Browns. He and I had crossed paths my entire career - he was the Special Teams coach for the NY Giants when they drafted me. He watched in horror as I tried to adjust to kicking without a field goal tee, killing the backsides of the Giant linemen... cut me... then (after I became a barefoot kicker and made the Rams) praised my abilities and was very friendly as we met before games and after each time we faced each other over the next 9 seasons.

So, I felt like Cleveland (although a bit frosty for a barefoot kicker) would be a great move for me at that time of my career. So I signed with the Browns for a salary that was pretty high for the time. What I didn't know was that Belichick was also romancing a young kicker named Matt Stover. Stover had been on the Giants, yet hadn't been active. I was very much aware of his talent as he and I were on the tryout circuit during the Free Agency period and kicked against each other multiple times. The Browns signed Stover too... then strangely - while in the best shape of my life - the Browns "failed me on my physical" and released me. Matt Stover ends up kicking for 19 years and being a talented and respected professional and representative of the NFL, on and off the field.

Congrats on a great career!"

Nick Novak, NY Jets kicker
"I always admired Matt's consistency on the field and off. He sets a very high standard for young men to follow. What stands out the most for me is when Matt wrote a letter to me after I hit a game winning field goal against Georgia Tech. He wrote to not only congratulate me, but to also lift me up. Prior to that kick it was a rough redshirt freshman campaign with the Terps. What struck me, was that Matt was actually watching and wanted to see me be successful on the field, but more importantly he taught me to let go and let God take over. Matt is one of the best to ever kick. He deserves nothing short of a first ballet Hall of Fame nomination. You're an inspiration, thanks for always giving back and using your platform as an NFL kicker to do so many great things in the community."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kicking (удар ногой) with Olesha, Oleg & Oleg

"It requires a considerable act of imagination to conceive of a universe without football [soccer], to understand just how bizarre and intriguing the game must have appeared. The Russian writer Yuri Olesha, born in Odessa in 1899, recalled first explaining football to his father: 'they play with their feet'. The old man replied incredulously, 'With their feet? How can that be?' "
- from The Ball is Round: A Global History of Soccer, by David Goldblatt

Ukranian Oleg Blokhin made a career of playing with his feet, both with Dynamo Kiev and with the Soviet national team. These days he coaches others to play with their feet.
  • Oleg Vladimirovich Blokhin (Ukrainian: Олег Володимирович Блохін)
  • born 5 November 1952 in Kiev
  • Ukrainian football coach and current head coach of the Ukrainian national team
  • Blokhin was one of the greatest strikers in the world throughout the 1970s, hitting the target regularly through a period of great success at his hometown club Dynamo Kiev and becoming the greatest goalscorer in the history of the Soviet League.
  • In 1975 he was named European Footballer of the Year, winning the Ballon d'Or, becoming the second Soviet and the first Ukrainian player to achieve such a feat.
  • Blokhin played during most of his career for Dynamo Kyiv, becoming the USSR national championship's all-time leader and goalscorer with 211 goals, as well as making more appearances than any other player with 432 appearances. 
  • He won the championship 8 times. 
  • He led Dynamo to the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1975 and 1986, scoring a goal in each final. 
  • Blokhin is also the USSR national football team's most capped player with 112 caps, as well as their all time leading goalscorer with 42 goals; he played in the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups where he scored 1 goal in each.
  • He was one of the first Soviet players to play abroad, signing for Austria's Vorwärts Steyr in 1988, he also played in Cyprus with Aris.
Russian born Oleg Parent is just getting started, but his career could also feature his feet. His kicking career also began with the round ball:
"I started playing soccer when I was four years old. I played soccer for my school, with my friends, and for big soccer club as well. And I don't think I will ever stop playing soccer because its such a fun sport to play. And I played on the streets of Russia and dreamed all my life to become an professional soccer player."
Since those early days his life has seen many changes. Orphaned at age three, he was adopted a decade later by an American couple from California. On the west coast of a new continent he learned of surfing, tacos, and kicking an oblong ball.
"I was adopted about five years ago, so I came here the summer of 2006 and I joined flag football in 8th grade. I kicked here and there, but I thought it was only for fun. So when I became freshmen in high school me and my dad we were trying to kick a football at my high school, just kind of messing around but I actually was doing good. The next thing I knew I became kicker. And of course I got lessons from Brad Bohn and Chris Sailer. That's how I became kicker."
This year his kicking career advances to the next level as a freshman at North Carolina Central University.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Altum Percurrere Umbraticis Calcitronis

High Scoring Indoor Kickers? The goal posts are narrow, very narrow. The ceilings are often low and obstructed. The extra point attempts are typically more plentiful than field goal attempts.
Today we take a quick look at this year's current top three scoring kickers in each of the indoor football leagues.
  • 73 Marc Capozolli, Jacksonville Sharks (58-76 PATs, 5-7 FGs, 8.1 ppg) 
  • 73 Taylor Rowan, Spokane Shock (67-72 PAts, 2-3 FGs, 8.1 ppg) 
  • 72 Juan Gamboa, San Jose SaberCats (60-73 PAts, 4-5 FGs, 8.0 ppg)
  • 52 Tyler Lorenz, Marion Blue Racers (31-44 PATs, 7-16 FGs, 6.5 ppg) 
  • 42 Julie Harshbarger, Chicago Knights (18-23 PATs, 8-14 FGs, 6.0 ppg) 
  • 40 Jeff Hubbard, Dayton Silverbacks (25-35 PATs, 5-23 FGs, 4.4 ppg)
  • 122 Garrett Courtney, Allen Wranglers (47-56 PATs, 25-42 FGs, 11.1 ppg) 
  • 119 Parker Douglass, Sioux Falls Storm (101-105 PATs, 6-12 FGs, 11.9 ppg) 
  • 108 Chris Nendick, Chicago Slaughter (45-55 PATs, 21-37 FGs, 10.8 ppg)
  • 118 Craig Camay, Trenton Steel (67-76 PATs, 17-29 FGs, 13.1 ppg)
  • 79 J.R. Cipra, Harrisburg Stampede (28-34 PATs, 17-41 FGs, 8.8 ppg)
  • 64 Craig Wissler, Abilene Ruff Riders (43-49 PATs, 7-15 FGs, 8.0 ppg)
  • 96 Dustin Zink, Northern Kentucky River Monsters (90-101 PATs, 2-8 FGs, 8.0 ppg)
  • 55 Chris Kollias, Saginaw Sting (55-74 PATs, 0-8 FGs, 5.0 ppg)
  • 52 Daniel Eidson, Eastern Kentucky Drillers (34-39 PATs, 6-15 FGs, 4.7 ppg)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kicking Under Pressure

by special guest blogger Michael Husted:

I received a call last week from a D1A school just getting out of Spring Ball. They needed a kicker badly. They brought a kicker in on scholarship last year, but he is having trouble kicking under pressure. The head coach stated that he was one of the best that he had seen when kicking off of a “holder,” but when he has a snap and a hold, he struggles.

In my years of kicking, coaching and evaluating, I can tell you that this kicker is not alone. Many people can kick when there is no pressure, when they are on the field all by themselves. However, it changes when there are people watching, during practice, and during the game. You always hear people say that he is a great “practice” player, but not a “gamer.”

At the Aguiar/Husted Pro Camp, during our Pro Day, we have two kicks where we operate a “Snap, Hold, Kick.” It is interesting to see how many people react/kick differently when there is a snap and hold. In theory everything should be the same, but for most, it is not. Managing pressure situations is what separates “men from the boys.”

At the National Camp Series, the high school event that I started a few years ago, we base it off of NFL style workouts. Why? Because, instead of just going out there and kicking in front of someone to impress them and get a better subjective ranking, we want to place specialists in pressure situations so that they can not only position themselves for college exposure, but more importantly, prepare them to perform and be successful when it counts the most:
  1. At the end of the game and you have to drill a 38 yard field goal to keep your team’s playoff hopes alive
  2. Your heels are near the end line in the end zone and it is an all out rush to block your punt
  3. You have two guys stacked over you, have to snap a perfect ball and then execute a text book block so your punter can get the kick off
If someone misses a kick, putt, free throw, what will they do the next day? They will go out and shoot 500 free throws, putts, kicks from that same location. Will this make a difference the next time they are in that situation? Most likely, not. Why do they do it then? Because, it is what they know and it is “easy” just to go out and go through the motions.

We spend a lot of time kicking on the field or strength and conditioning, but we don’t spend enough time on mental fitness. We should all be training, mentally, just as much, if not more than we kick or exercise. I can tell you first hand that I wish that I would have mentally trained harder than I did. It wasn’t until the end of my career that I began recognizing the value. If only I would have started sooner…

Now that I have started coaching kickers and punters full time, I emphasize the mental game. There are many ways to train your brain, just like there are many strength and conditioning models. However, the biggest thing is to be consistent in your training. If you aren’t spending much time mentally training, then you need to start incorporating that aspect into your training. It won’t be easy, but neither is kicking a last minute field goal in front of 79,000+ people…

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ohio Kicking Multitasker

"Born Charles William Harley in 1894, he was considered one of the two greatest college halfbacks of the first half of the twentieth century. Harley could do everything exceedingly well: run, pass, punt, kick extra points and field goals, tackle, block, and play safety. He was born in Chicago, the sixth child of Charles and Mattie Harley.... As a high school quarterback, he lit up Ohio gridirons by scoring three or four touchdowns and kicking as many as eight extra points per game on a regular basis. As Ohio State halfback he did the same propelling the small school into national prominence almost single-handedly." - Todd Wessel
Harley's football career was relatively brief, but prolific:

  • In his career at East High School, Harley's team lost only one game, his last. So many people wanted to see Harley play that many times football games at East High's now-named "Harley Field" outdrew Ohio State football games.
  • Harley began his career with the Ohio State Buckeyes in 1916. He led the team to a 7–0 record and their first Big Ten Conference championship. The team scored 258 points in seven games and giving up only 29.
  • The Buckeyes repeated as conference champion in 1917 with an 8–0–1 record, and Harley repeated as a consensus first-team All American.
  • In 1918 Harley left school to be a pilot in the United States Army Air Service during World War I, but he returned the following year.
  • In 1919 the Buckeyes finished 6–1. Harley's only career loss was a heartbreaker; the team lost the game and the conference title to the University of Illinois on the last play of the last game of the season. That season, however, is remembered at Ohio State for the Buckeyes' first victory over the University of Michigan. Following that senior season, Harley was again a consensus first-team All-America selection.
  • Throughout his Ohio State career, Harley played right halfback on offense and safety on defense, and was also the team's punter and place kicker. He scored 201 points in a 23-game career [23 TDs, 39 PATs, 8 FGs].
From the Columbus Dispatch's Chic Harley time line:
1916: Ohio State beat Illinois, 7-6, after Harley managed to make a touchdown on a soggy, muddy field with two minutes remaining in the game. After his touchdown, Harley requested a new shoe, as the one he was wearing was caked in mud. He slowly replaced the shoe and laced it as fans waited breathlessly, then walked over and calmly kicked the needed goal. This win against the Big Ten powerhouse brought the OSU team, and Harley in particular, more national recognition.
In 2004, Ohio State retired Harley's jersey number (47).
“One of the big things for me is to go over to the Buckeye Hall of Fame Café and see he was a four-sport letterman in basketball, track, baseball and football. That’s unbelievable to me. For one man to have the ability to do that, that is amazing. It’s unfortunate we don’t have film of that. We have no idea how good he really was. He must have been amazing. All we have are the newspaper clippings. That was a time when the newspaper writers were like poets. Those were the leather helmet days, I guess.” - Rob Harley

Monday, May 9, 2011

CFL Draft 2011: Specialists

Yesterday's CFL Draft saw three kickers selected and one traded, although not necessarily in that order.

The Als and the Lions were the primary participants.

Brody McKnight (University of Montana) drafted by Montreal Alouettes, round 1, 8th pick

During the off-season the Als did not to re-sign veteran kicker Damon Duval, who had been with the team for six years. Still under contract is import kicker Colt David, whom they signed last year when Duval was injured. The drafting of McKnight won't come into play for another year, as he still has one more year to play at Montana. McKnight commented on the draft and his upcoming senior season:
"It is a very humbling experience and just sort of a reflection of what football at The University of Montana is all about. We work hard here at Montana and we send a lot of guys to the pros. I am very humbled and very grateful, and I owe everything to my teammates, my mom and dad, my coaches, and my family and friends....
Its always been a dream of mine to play football for the rest of my life, just like any other kid who grows up playing football. I am just kind of taking everything in stride and step-by-step; and just taking everything one day at a time, and one play at a time.
Yeah, it's a dream come true, but you know I am just going to focus on what I need to in the present, and that's helping the Griz win a Big Sky Conference championship and a national championship. Those are my main goals right now. But, I am obviously very appreciative to the Montreal Alouettes organization who selected me in the first round today. I have heard nothing by great things about their program, and look forward to the future."
Sean Whyte, traded from B.C. Lions to Montreal Alouettes

News of the trade broke during the draft when Whyte tweeted:
"Just got traded to Montreal. Fly out tonight for a press conference. Sooooo pumped to finally get a chance to play."
Coach/GM Buono had been working on trading either Whyte or veteran Paul McCallum for the past year. Whyte commented on his old employer and his new employer:
"Wally used to pull me into his office and asked me about my frustrations and he told me there has to be some loyalty between us; that he would do the right thing. I never really understood him, until now.... There's no better situation for me. It's flattering to know what Montreal gave up to get me."
Hugh O'Neill (Alberta) drafted by B.C. Lions, 2nd round, 3rd pick
Having traded away Whyte, the Lions drafted a new  understudy to Paul McCallum. O’Neill discussed his new role:
“It’s a good opportunity to ease in to my new environment. I’m just going to try and adapt as much as I can. It’s definitely not a bad idea to groom me.”
O'Neill also commented on when and where he went in the draft:
“But I’ve always considered the rankings as projections at best. You never know exactly what teams are going to be thinking or what they’re looking for. Seeing that guy in the NCAA, working down there in a different environment, they might have been looking for something in that sort of category....
It was definitely kind of out of left field there. I had no idea B.C. was really in the hunt there because they had a pretty good kicking situation, so I hadn’t really talked to them too much over the course of the process here....
I’m just sort of excited to get a chance to head out there and learn from some guys who have been around the league for a little while now. I want to do whatever I can to get ready for the new kind of environment that I’m going to be coming to.”
Christopher Milo (Laval) drafted by Saskatchewan Roughriders, 4th round, 7th pick

With starting kicker Luca Congi recovering from torn MCL and ACL ligaments, his readiness for the start of the season is hopeful but not a certainty. The Riders consequently drafted Milo as "insurance". Head coach Greg Marshall commented:
“We had debated if we should take [Milo] earlier or not. He may be the guy to kick, given our injury situation come the opening game.”

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Potential Free Agent Specialists

Yesterday the NFL published a list of potential free agents. This is based first on the assumption that they get the whole lockout scenario resolved and second on the assumption that the new free agency rules would be the same as those used previously - which requires a minimum of six accrued years for a player to become an unrestricted free agent.

Their list is cluttered up with a bunch of offensive and defensive players. Following are just the specialists listed, along with a few supplemental notes:

Kickers

David Akers, Eagles, 12 years
Philadelphia drafted Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in the 4th round of the draft this past weekend. Prior to the lockout they placed a transition tag on Akers, however he did not sign it.
Matt Bryant, Falcons, 8

Phil Dawson, Browns, 12
Prior to the lockout Cleveland placed the franchise tag on Dawson.
Shayne Graham, Patriots, 10
New England's starting kicker Stephen Gostkowski is recovering from surgery following a torn quad muscle. He expects to be ready for training camp this summer.
Ryan Longwell, Vikings, 14

Olindo Mare, Seahawks, 14

Jeff Reed, 49ers, 9
San Francisco still has Joe Nedney, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury. For awhile their practice squad recently included Fabrizio Scaccia, who is presently back with the Arizona rattlers of the AFL..
Adam Vinatieri, Colts, 15
Indianapolis and Vinatieri were in contract negotiations prior to the lockout.
Long Snappers

James Dearth, Chargers, 10

Kevin Houser, Ravens, 10

Greg Warren, Steelers, 6

Punters

Ben Graham, Cardinals, 6  

Michael Koenen, Falcons, 6
Atlanta drafted Miami kicker/punter Matt Bosher in the sixth round of the draft this past weekend.
Brad Maynard, Bears, 14
The Bears signed punter Richmond McGee prior to the lockout.
Matt Turk, Texans, 16

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Specialist Draftees: Alex Henery & Matt Bosher

This year's NFL draft saw only two specialists selected. That is one fewer than last year's draft, which saw three punters taken. It is two fewer than the average of four. Most rookie specialists that end up on NFL team's training camp rosters are signed as undrafted free agents in the days following the draft. Exactly when and how that will work this year is unfortunately still up in the air, pending resolution of the Lockout. So for now we'll focus on the two draftees.

Alex Henery (Nebraska), drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 4th round

Henery was the top-rated kicking prospect heading into the draft, the first kicker selected in the draft, and the earliest selection of a kicker since Stephen Gostkowski who was taken two spots earlier in 2006 by the Patriots. Normally that would mean that Henery should be the starting kicker on opening day in September, barring any training camp or preseason disasters. That is still the most likely scenario, although it is somewhat clouded by David Akers' situation and the lockout. The Eagles placed a transition tag on Akers prior to the lockout, however he refused to sign it. Once again, we won't know those answers until after the lockout is officially over. So for now we'll focus on the post-draft comments of the various parties.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid:
"We're going to skip [discussing] Akers right now. We'll see how everything goes, but we're sure glad to have Alex on board right now. He was the best kicker in college football, and at this particular time, he was someone we couldn't pass up."
David Akers' agent Jerrold Colton:
"[Akers] looks at things in a big-picture type of way. He wants to see where he ends up next....
At all times David's desire was to remain an Eagle. But if [Saturday] means that he's not an Eagle, he's OK with it and appreciative of his time there."
"I didn’t know what to expect on how early I’d go or how late I’d go. Until it happened, I wasn’t going to believe anything anybody said....
They talked about flying me out there to look at the facilities, but I’m not too certain. It’ll be interesting how it all works out and how long it goes."
"It's not coming into replace [Akers], it's coming in to do my job this upcoming year is really how I look at it. It's not to go in and replace someone. This is the way it was when I was at Nebraska. There's been some good kickers, I wasn't trying to go in and be like them. I was going in to be myself and help the team anyway I could that year."
Henery also handled punting for the Cornhuskers during his college career.With Eagles' punter Sav Rocca potentially to be a free agent after the resolution of the lockout, Henery provides some additional security in that department in these times of uncertainty.

Matt Bosher (Miami FL), drafted by Atlanta Falcons in the 6th round

Bosher handled punting, placekicking, and kickoffs in college. That led to speculation in the moments following his draft as to whether he was intended to replace Matt Bryant (placekicker) or Michael Koenen (punter, kickoffs), both of whom are potential free agents after resolution of the lockout. Comments from some of the Falcons' higher-ups suggest the latter. If needed, even temporarily, Bosher could conceivably handle all three roles - something the Falcons experimented with using Koenen early in the 2006 season. For now we'll focus on the post-draft comments of the various parties.


Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff:
"The versatility aspect is very important in this league. He was our No. 1-rated punter-kicker. It was the right spot for him even though at one point we projected we might have to (trade) up for this guy."
Falcons' director of player personnel Les Snead:
"It's not a sexy pick. It's not what the fans want. But there's not too many people on the planet that can punt and kick off."
"You never know. It's tough knowing that you're going to have to wait until the last couple of hours of the last day to find out anything. With this position and all, it's just so up in the air."
“I had been in touch with them before the draft. I worked out for Coach [Keith] Armstrong. It’s always a crapshoot being a punter and a kicker with the draft. I was so excited to finally get that phone call and hear from all of the coaches.”
Still more Matt Bosher:
"[Les Snead called and] said, ‘Do you mind holding on for a second? We might have some good news for you in a couple minutes.’ I had a smile from ear to ear. I had to go on my front porch because I have terrible cell phone reception in my house, so everyone else was oblivious until it rolled across the bottom of the ESPN screen."