the study of the kicking components within sports

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Recruiting Process per the Recruitees, part 5

Moving from one level of kicking up to the next is a highly competitive, very challenging, and often complex process. With National Signing Day once again nearly here, we take our second annual look at the move from high school to college. To get a sense of the key aspects of the recruiting process from the vantage point of the players, we asked kickers and punters from the Class of 2012 the following two questions:
  1. What would you say was the most beneficial advice you received before going through the recruiting process?
  2. Is there one thing you learned during the recruiting process that you wish you had known beforehand?
While everyone's unique individual circumstances led to varied answers, some common themes also emerged.  We received numerous responses, so this topic will span several posts. Following is the first batch of answers:

Paul Griggs, Purdue
  1. Keep your options open. I began to understand this piece of advice very quickly because the recruiting game is changing just as quickly as the world of college coaching, so one week you may be talking to the special teams coach for a school and the next week he may have just taken a job half way across the country. 
  2. Just how time consuming the process really is. It got to be a challenge to balance school work and recruiting work and I even had a ton of help from my parents. There were many nights where I would be on the phone with 3 or 4 coaches and those calls would take a few hours and then I would still have to eat dinner and do homework which made for some late nights.
Colby Cooke, Vanderbilt
  1. Stay honest to your coaches and do the best you can at college camps, and you will find a home. 
  2. Nothing really important but it's a lot harder and longer than I expected.
Tyler Grassman, Buffalo
  1. Be patient. Kickers and Punters tend to be the last ones chosen as far scholarships go. Just to do all I can do, then once I have done that to be patient. 
  2. I learned it was a difficult process. I learned even if I was told I was at the top of someone's list that there were many other Guys in the same boat as me. It was hard to cope with that. However I matured through the process and realized schools only take a kicker every 2-3 years and there are many kickers being just as competitive as I was.
Adam Griffith, Alabama
  1. Just be open minded and not be nervous. Get all the questions answered. Meet as many coaches as I could.
Sean Wale, Boise State
  1. Just keep working hard even through the ups and down of the recruiting process. To stay focused and that it is a very long road. Unfortunately the schools of your choice are not always scholarshipping kickers or punters for that year, so you have to do your homework on what schools are and try to get into contact with those schools. Also to get involved with a national kicking organization, get a good kicking coach, and just learn to network. The weight room and speed training were also a big plus in the process. It’s not all about football, but you also have to get good grades. 
  2. I don't think there is anything I learned that I wish I would have known beforehand. From the beginning through networking I knew what I was getting myself into. I had talked to so many people who had gone through it before me so they basically lead the way. I did learn though that it is very competitive to kick or punt at the D1 level.
Conrad Ukropina, Standford
  1. Treat every day and every training session as if it served a major purpose in your ability to get to the next level. Not taking anything for granted definitely geared my mindset towards taking advantage of every opportunity set in front of me. Also, it made sure I didn't let any day of training go to waste; I knew I would get better every day, something that is huge when it comes to kicking and punting, as routine muscle memory drills are key to success. 
  2. I wasted a lot of time as an underclassmen sending out mass emails and calling coaches. Honestly, these attempts at getting looks from big colleges when I was still relatively young and unproven turned out to be a complete waste of time. However, the two biggest things I found as a specialist to aid my recruitment were attending college camps and having my coach or someone who personally knew the college coach call him. Camps are obvious: you get exposure right in front of the eyes of the coaches who will ultimately be recruiting you. Furthermore, a college coach getting a referral from someone he knows and trusts (a well-known kicking coach or a high school head coach for example) carries more weight than a call from a junior place kicker-punter from Los Angeles who "thinks I can play for your school."
Thomas Meadows, Purdue
  1. I was told that being a kicker usually means that I would have to prove myself at that college's camp in order to get offered. This helped me because I wasn't stressed out during the school year about not getting offered yet. I knew I would have to wait until camp season. 
  2. I didn't know that coaches really do look for good personal qualities in the players they recruit. They look for things like saying ‘sir’, how easy you get along with others, and how you carry yourself in certain situations. These are all things that can't be learned from a highlight tape. Luckily, I had been raised well and I had some of those qualities.
Cason Beatty, Florida State 
  1. I was told to set my goals high and shoot for them but make sure you have a backup plan in case your number one school didn't come through. 
  2. You don't always have to be in the front of the group but when you are spoken to, speak confidently and when it’s your turn to kick/punt step up with confidence and show them what you are bringing to the table.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NFL Pro Bowl Records

Individual game and career records in the NFL Pro Bowl:

Points, Career:
52, David Akers, Philadelphia 2001-02, 2004, 2009-10 (19 PATS, 11 FGs)
45, Morten Andersen, New Orleans 1986-89, 1991, 1993; Atlanta 1996 (15 PATs, 10 FGs).

Field Goals, Career - 11, David Akers, Philadelphia 2001-02, 2004, 2009-10.

Field Goals Attempted, Career - 18, Morten Andersen, New Orleans 1986-89, 1991, 1993; Atlanta 1996.

Field Goals, Game - 5, Garo Yepremian, Miami (1974).

Field Goals Attempted, Game - 6, Jan Stenerud, Kansas City (1972), 4 made; Eddie Murray, Detroit (1981), 4 made; Mark Moseley, Washington (1983), 2 made.

Longest Field Goal - 53, David Akers, Philadelphia (2003).

PATs, Game - 7, Mike Vanderjagt, Indianapolis (2004); David Akers (2010).

Punts, Career - 33, Ray Guy, Oakland 1974-79, 1981.

Punts, Game - 10, Reggie Roby, Miami (1985).

Longest Punt - 73 yards, Shane Lechler, Oakland (2002).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Recruiting Process per the Recruitees, part 4

A year ago, a large group of high school seniors, all kickers and punters, offered their thoughts on the college recruiting process (part 1, part 2, part 3). A year later, having completed their first semester of college, several of them followed up with a few additional thoughts after a year of hindsight.

Blake Kidd, Air Force
"I went to the Air Force Academy and for six weeks we had basic training so I couldnt practice at all. My advice to future recruits is to not get full of themselves, stay humble, and always work at their skills no matter how well they are doing. I lost a little bit of my touch during those six weeks of basic training and its been tough getting everything back. If those recruits stay on top of their game and stay humble, I think they will do well."

Dillon Wilson, Kansas State
"I learned a lot going though my 1st season of college football. I red-shirted this year, and highly suggest it. It gave me a year to get used to school, football, workouts, etc. I learned that the pace of college football is a lot faster! When they say its the "next level" they are not lying! With the whole recruiting process I suggest to really do your research on the school as well as the football team. I made the right choice and love where I'm at, but, i have a lot of friends who say they made the wrong choice. When they got there...they said the atmosphere and school was different then they thought it was going to be. Where your going to go to college is a big choice...make sure and do your research!"

Trenton Martin, Marshall University
"Always listen to your coaches and your parents, they are your main sources of support and experience. Most importantly, play your hardest you can every time you touch the field."

Mike Beamish, University of Pennsylvania
"I am at my freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania and I am having a blast. I am on their sprint football team punting and playing running back. recruiting was tough for me because the schools interested in me did not offer engineering, my current major. I'd say the most important thing is to stay patient. As I had to wait until january of my senior year for Upenn to contact me. keep all of your options open as sprint football got me the help I needed to gain acceptance to this school."

Kris Albarado, USC
"One of the biggest things I've learned is that college is much harder than it is in high school, and they hold you to a much higher standard in all aspects, football, strength and conditioning, and especially academics. I have a word of advice for any one out there who can't decide where they would like to go, I would tell them to go to the place they feel most comfortable at even if its all the way across the country and to trust the coaches because the coaches are all there to help you reach your full potential as a player and as a student."

Stay tuned for part 5 in our Recruiting series, when we check in with the class of 2012.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Life of a Kicker

by special guest blogger Michael Husted:

Louie Aguiar and I had just finished our Pro Combine Qualification Camp in Vegas yesterday and decided to get some lunch and watch the rest of the Patriots/Ravens game. We started holding this particular camp so that aspiring pro kickers, punters and long snappers, who are working full time while still pursuing their dream of playing in the NFL, can avoid missing a lot of work. By attending this weekend camp, they have the opportunity to qualify for our annual Pro Combine in front of NFL special teams coordinators and scouts. Our Pro Combine is the first step in the interview process for free agents to hopefully make an NFL roster.

Championship Sunday, as they call the AFC/NFC championship games, is a high pressure game with a lot of risks and rewards. What we were about to witness was something not many people get to experience, not even me or many other NFL kickers that are still in the league. Billy Cundiff, who I consider a good friend, was going to attempt a 32 yard field goal to send the AFC Championship game into overtime. Anyone who is a kicker and has been in a game tying or winning situation knows the feeling, no matter at what level. However, being a retired NFL kicker who had been in many last minute/second situations, but not to this magnitude, my stomach started to knot up a little and I became a little nervous. Here I was at Apple Bee's in Las Vegas, and I was getting nervous...

Any kicker who tells you that they don't get nervous in those situations has been sniffing too much glue. They may be able to hide it, but every kicker gets nervous, not only for a game winning or tying kick, but really, for any field goal attempt. In fact, I remember watching an interview with Jerry Rice, arguably, the best wide receiver to have played the game, saying that he still got nervous on game day after 18 years in the NFL.

As I watched Cundiff miss the kick, I had many thoughts enter my head. In the meantime, my phone and Louie's phone started to "blow up" with texts. Former NFL kicker Mike Hollis texted me. Dallas Cowboys punter Matt McBriar and I exchanged several texts. One of my kicking students, senior Cornell kicker, Brad Greenway texted me and I received a phone call from James Wilhoit who was driving back to Phoenix after kicking extremely well at our camp this weekend. Why did Billy rush onto the field? Maybe he thought that the Ravens were going to use their last time out or had used it and was getting another kick in the net. Regardless, if I'm a head coach and I see my kicker rushing out there, I call a time out right there. Nothing good happens when we are rushed. The end result was a missed kick. Billy, being the PRO that he is, didn't make any excuses, didn't point any fingers. He took the blame. Yes, this miss will sting for a long time. However, Billy is a strong individual and realizes that there is more to life than a football game. He will be a better kicker because of this miss, but more importantly, a better person. It may be hard to see that today, next week or next month, but it will happen. I always tell my kickers that "You learn more from you failures than you do from your successes."

After the game I went onto Facebook to see what people were writing. I noticed several kickers, high school and college posting that they would have made that kick. As Billy commented, he has made that kick 1,000 times. However, none of those kickers have ever been, and probably will never be in that position. So, realistically, they don't know how it feels nor do they know how to manage that pressure situation. In fact, there are several retired and current NFL players that have never ever been remotely close to that situation, myself included. (I'm not going to even talk about all all of those people who have never kicked a football, yet they feel that they are an authority on kicking.)

I don't know how many NFL kickers have ever been in Billy's situation, down by three points and having to kick a game tying field goal to send the AFC/NFC Championship to overtime. I can't recall anyone recently. The only two kicks that I can remember that were somewhat similar, but not exactly the same, were both by Lawrence Tynes. By the way, congrats to Tynes on making his kick last night to send the Giants to the Super Bowl. He also kicked a 47 yarder against the Packers a few years back to win the NFC Championship. However, in both of these situations, the scored was tied. There is a difference when the scored is tied and you are trying to win it versus being behind in the score and you are trying to tie it or win. With the score tied, if you miss, the game continues for a little longer, so, hopefully, you will get another chance. In fact, if you recall, Tynes had missed two field goals in that Packers game, including a 36 yarder at the end of regulation, leading up to his game winner.

There have been some big misses in post-season games by some of NFL elite kickers in the past. Mike Vanderjagt, at the time, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, missed a 46 yard field goal to tie the game against the Steelers in a AFC Divisional playoff game. Gary Andersen, one of the best kickers in NFL history, after posting a perfect regular season field goal percentage, missed a 39 yarder in the NFC Championship Game against the Falcons, that would have put the Vikings up by 10 points, almost assuring them a trip to the Super Bowl. The other Anderson, Morten, the NFL all time leading scorer, who, after drilling a 39 yarder in overtime in the same game to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl, missed a 26 yarder in the Super Bowl against the Broncos. Note: At least one of the "Anderso(e)ns," if not both, will most likely end up in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The life of a kicker seems easy. We're joked upon by our teammates and even by people who have never even played the game outside of the annual Turkey Bowl in the park. However, it is not as easy as it seems. The two biggest things that you need to have are "thick skin and resolve." John Gruden, once told me, we are like snipers. We are called upon only a few times and we can't miss. We have to be perfect. Ahh, if only this game was perfect. It's not, we are human and we make mistakes. We make kicks and we miss kicks. In the end, I am reminded of a quote from one of our country's greatest Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt.
"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Seven Angles of Lawrence Tynes' Kick

A little over half way through overtime, Lawrence Tynes made a 31 yard field goal. It gave the Giants a 20-17 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and set up a Super Bowl rematch with the Patriots. Afterward, he discussed various aspects of the kick.

"It's my second NFC Championship Game, my second game-winner. It's amazing. I had dreams about this last night. It was from 42, not 31, but I was so nervous today before the game just anticipating this kind of game. I'm usually pretty cool, but there was something about tonight where I knew I was going to have to make a kick. Hats off to Eli, offense, defense. Great win."
“It was just a dream, a typical kicker dream. I was a little more full of anxiety today, I’m usually not that nervous before a game. I think a lot of it had to do with conditions. Who knows why I dreamed last night that I would kick a game-winner?”
"The weather was terrible, the balls were wet, the balls were full of grass. It was tough sledding out there. The moisture, the footing was tough, the balls were really slick."
“I just have a routine, man, three steps back, two steps over, keep my head down. It’s the same thing everywhere. I could do it in the parking lot, I do it in my room all night, it’s just a little different with the people in the stands.”
“That’s the best part, man, to celebrate with these guys that are out there busting their butts for 60 minutes. Listen, we play a small fraction of the game, these guys are out there getting their teeth busted in for 60 minutes, and the joy I feel I share with them.”
“We exorcised some demons from the Giants from the 2002 postseason game, so I’ll be happy to call Matt [Allen] because he’s a good friend of mine and he was involved in that play. Me and Matt played college ball together, I thought about him today before we played so, you know, we exorcised some demons tonight so that was cool.”
“I’ve got to take the kids to school at 7 a.m., I’m not sure if I will sleep tonight.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tweets for Cundiff

"It's a kick I've kicked probably a thousand times out there.... 
I didn't convert and that's the way things go. There's really no excuse for it.... I think the disappointment is letting my teammates down."
- Billy Cundiff after missing a potential game tying 32 yard yard field goal attempt with 15 seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game, which New England won 23-20 over Baltimore

Fellow kickers and punters weighed in with specialist empathy via twitter:

Feel bad for #Cundiff... Kickers dream to be in that position. Quickly turns to a nightmare.

That was a good snap and hold, just a tough miss for Cundiff. No worse feeling for a kicker. It will haunt him the rest of his life.

Oh man!!! 10 sec on the play clock, rushed to get lined up, never got comfortable.. Feel for him

Missed FG is on Cundiff's shoulders, but shows importance of total operation - snap, hold, & kick. Would've been good with a perfect hold.

I feel so sick for Billy Cundiff....

Poor Cundiff. He totally wiped the raid at 1% :/ #feelsterribletomissakicklikethat, #keepyourheadupBilly

Wow- gotta feel for Billy Cundiff. Never fun to see anyone miss a kick, especially in that situation.

Haven't seen the game but heard of the missed fg. Still amazes me how everyone blames the kicker??

Feel bad for Billy Cundiff. Did not want to see that.

timing looked a little off perhaps... I dunno Cundiff is a great kicker .... Unfortunately misses happen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bowling for Kickers 2011, The Final Kicks

In the big regular season game, four missed field goals by Alabama kickers and one overtime kick by LSU had given the Tigers a 9-6 win. In the even bigger game last night, it was once again about kicking - but this time it was all Alabama... 
Final score: 21-0.

Sophomore kicker Cade Foster, who had three of the four missed kicks in the prior meeting, handled kickoffs as usual. 
His only field goal attempt ended up being a fake play which netted a first down.
"I didn't know. Shelley was kicking the ball great tonight. He was on fire. When it's not broken, why fix it? He was making kicks, and that's what mattered. I'm not disappointed I didn't get the opportunity. I'm just happy Shelley made the kicks."
Sophomore punter Cody Mandell averaged 44.3 yards on three punts with a long of 52 yards. He tweeted afterward:
"S/o to all my specialists for doing their thing tonight!!! @JeremyShelley90 set a record! Dude is a beast!!! @carsontink was on point tonight. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS! It is amazing! What a feeling!"
The on-fire Dude-Beast, also known as junior kicker Jeremy Shelley, accounted for all of the Tides scoring through the first three quarters with five field goals (23, 34, 41, 35 & 44 yards). Back in the first game, his lone attempt was blocked. His second attempt last night, a 42 yarder, was also blocked:
“Coach came and talked to me and I just had the same feelings he did. We both know I had the range, I just had to have faith in that and really get the ball up in the air like I need to, like I normally do.”
In the end, his makes outnumbered the misses, and the Crimson Tide are this year's national champions.
“I feel like it’s great for both of us to have that redemption and be able to show the Bama nation what we can do....
That first one was the most nerve-racking. Once I hit that first one, I was like, ‘All right, let’s keep this going.’....
I haven’t hit a game-winner since I’ve been here. Hitting five in a game like this, it’s unbelievable. I can’t imagine anything being better.”

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2011: The Year in Kicking

What was the biggest kicking/punting/snapping moment of 2011? 

When we posed that question we received some diverse answers - although LSU-Alabama, Sebastian Janikowski and Matt Prater all surfaced more than once.
  • "The record number of 50+ yard field goals made this NFL season." - Chris Husby, Special Teams Football Academy
  • "The Alabama vs. LSU game in the regular season." - Tom Feely, Feely Athletics
  • "Has to be the Alabama-LSU game where the missed field goals lost the game for Bama. Nothing gets more attention to our specialist role than when we miss and it costs a big game. P.S. Alabama will make amends in the title game." - Nathan Chapman, ProKick Australia
  • "Sebastian Janikowski tying the NFL record with a 63 yard kick and Matt Prater hitting the 59 yarder against Chicago to send the game into OT." - kicker Rob Maver
  • "The ones off the top of my head: Janikowski's 63 yarder, Boise miss II - the Sequel, LSU's Punter - Wing, and Carlos Ojeda 19-19 on PATs + drop-kick in 138-0 win for Erie :)" - kicker Carlos Ojeda
  • "When Matt Prater tied the game with a 59 yarder and then won it with a 51 yarder in OT. Now, the Broncs are in the playoffs and would not be if he missed either one of those kicks. Many, many kickers across the nation could hit the two field goals in a row in practice, but few kickers could do that in a game with that type of pressure. I am sure Matt has worked very hard to get to the point of where he is at!" - Dan Zeidman, Lifetime Kicking Academy
  • "Matt Prater... 59 to tie... 51 to win. Tebow Smebow..." - Rex Robinson, Total Kicker
Of course, 2011 was a long year (roughly 365 days), so there was plenty of notable kicking. Following, in no particular order, are just a few of the other highlights:
  • The 2010 college football season culminated in the 2011 calendar year with a field goal - a 19 yarder by Wes Byrum to give Auburn a 22-19 win over Oregon for the National Championship.
  • Jeff Cunningham surpassed Jamie Moreno for the most career goals scored in MLS.
  • Once again, the NFL decided to tweak its rules and move kickoffs to a different yard line.
  • Following a 2-2 draw, Japan out-shot the USA 3-1 on penalty kicks to win the Women's World Cup.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Alex Henery in the fourth round. He would go on to post the highest field goal percentage for a rookie in NFL history. Although he wasn't drafted, Dan Bailey was signed by the Dallas Cowboys and would play a significant role in many of their wins.
  • Despite losing star Dan Carter to injury, New Zealand went on to win the Rugby World Cup.
  • Long time Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover retired.
  • FC Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League with a 3-1 win over Manchester United FC.
  • Geelong won the AFL Grand Final 119-81 over Collingwood.
  • Several kickers put up strong numbers in the CFL in 2011, but none had a bigger year than B.C. Lions veteran Paul McCallum, whose season culminated with a Grey Cup victory.
  • Texas A&M kicker Randy Bullock won the Lou Groza Award
  • Louisiana Tech punter Ryan Allen won the Ray Guy Award
  • Saint Xavier University kicker Tom Lynch won the Fred Mitchell Award.
  • San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers was very busy in 2011, breaking the NFL single season scoring record along the way. His 166 points surpassed the previous mark of 164 set by Gary Anderson.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bowling for Kickers 2011, part 2

Outback Bowl
Junior kicker Dan Conroy hit two field goals (35 and 28 yards) in the overtime periods of Michigan State's 33-30 win over Georgia.
"I did but I didn't [feel pressure on the winning kick]. I really felt like someone was lifting a weight off my shoulders. I prayed before every kick when I went out there, and my body was almost numb. It was just different."
Conroy also commented on his counterpart on the opposite sideline:
"As good as I feel for us, I feel terrible for Blair. As a kicker, you understand how that would feel."
Georgia kicker Blair Walsh had missed two field goal attempts in overtime - a 42 yarder at the end of the first OT period that would have won the game and then a 47 yarder that was blocked and would have re-tied the game in the third OT.
"I'd trade whatever record I got [SEC's all-time leading scorer] to have the field goal that won this game. I know you can't put everything on one play — a whole lot happened today — but I didn't come through in the clutch. That hurts. If you're with Georgia, you're hurting."
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Junior kicker Quinn Sharp hit a 22 yard field goal in overtime to give Oklahoma State a 41-38 win over Stanford.
"It's not an easy feeling. Everything comes down to you. You are the last one. It is on the line. I believe in our offense and defense, and they believe in me and our special teams unit."
Allstate Sugar Bowl
Sophomore kicker Brendan Gibbons hit a 37 yard field goal in overtime to give Michigan a 23-20 win over Virginia Tech. In a press conference afterward, Gibbons provided a unique twist on the mental aspect of kicking, when he answered what he had been thinking just before the game winning kick:
"Brunette girls. Every time we were struggling in kicking, coach tells me to think about girls on a beach or brunette girls. So that's what we did. Made the kick."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Long Road from Australia to the NFL, part 4

Previously in this series (see part 1, part 2, and part 3), we heard from numerous Aussies who have transitioned to American football. They came from various stages of punting careers - including punting for U.S. colleges, attending NFL camps, playing in the UFL, and having returned back Down Under to instruct the next generation.

Today we hear from two players closer to the beginning of the process. Tom Hackett and Tim Gleeson are both members of the class of 2012 that are still in Australia learning the American version of football. We asked both of them a few questions:

Can you tell us a little about your kicking background prior to learning American football?
  • Tom: "Basically, in Australia we play a game called Australian football, which is based around the art to kick the ball. Similar to how a QB throws it, so I have been kicking since I could walk."
  • Tim: "My kicking background stems from Australian Rules football, which I have played since I was 4 years old. Growing up with a younger brother, Will, we would kick the football every day after school without fail, often using trees on the neighbor’s nature strip as goal posts. We would practice every kick under the sun; from bananas to inside-out spirals. When my dream of turning pro didn't work out at the end of 2010, I got into contact with Nathan Chapman, who I had heard had placed a former football teammate, Alex Dunnachie, into college (University of Hawaii). I had my first training session with ProKick Australia in December 2010 and I loved it straight away! It was a completely new challenge in a game that I (initially) knew little about."
What have been the easiest and hardest parts about transitioning/learning how to kick in American football?
  • Tom: "The art of kicking an American football and an Australian football is somewhat different. The ball shape is different, and the size of an American football is smaller. Being able to kick an end to end punt is what I have been doing for years playing Australian football, that is by far the easiest thing regarding the transition. The hardest would have to be the mental side of things. They say punting and kicking is very similar to Golf, where the mental side of the game is crucial."
  • Tim: "For myself, there was nothing easy in the transition from Australian Rules kicking to punting in American Football. It felt like a never ending cycle for a while – (Nathan) Chapman would change something in my technique, only for me to pick up another awful habit. One particular aspect that I forever seemed to struggle with was the dropping of the football. In Australian Rules, players habitually push the ball onto their boot, in contrast to punters, who float the ball out of their hands. That was my prime adaption issue, literally having to ‘forget’ 18 years of habit and muscle memory."
What should Americans know about Australia that we probably don't know?
  • Tom: "Americans should understand that the game of Australian football is very physical. We come from a tough and physical nation and that coming to America, we are representing our country and will therefore not give up anything lightly."
  • Tim: "We come from a sport where athletic superiority is a must. We gut run for 120 minutes and hit with no protection. Although we don’t have the size and strength of most American Footballers, it is none the less easier. Americans should take a look at this video, which showcases the strengths required to play top-level Australian Rules. Finally, although the punting position in a team may not be as laudable as others, we don’t want to be taken jokingly. John Smith, (the kicking coach with ProKick Australia and the guru of American Football in Australia) along with Nathan Chapman, make sure that all their students heading over to the U.S are 100% ready both physically, and mentally, to succeed."
Postscript: Tim is now in the U.S. at the University of Wyoming.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NAIA: Small Schools, Big Kicks – part 3

by guest blogger Terry Stecker, kicker for Kansas Wesleyan University

When I made the first drive down 9th Street in Salina, Kansas to Kansas Wesleyan University, I didn’t know what to expect as far as getting used to my new home for the next four years. I thought it would take a long time to make friends, a long time to get used to my classes, a long time to find things to do in town and on campus, and a long time getting over being away from home. Well, I was wrong. It was the complete opposite; I made friends in no time, as a first time freshman, my role on the football team was important, classes are easy, the town of Salina is filled with things to do, and being away from home was no big deal at all. Kansas Wesleyan University has a great family atmosphere and very established academic programs that I had interest in. Although it’s a smaller university, it has a lot of tradition and events to keep the students involved with the University and the town of Salina. I learned that the town is very involved in the KWU community and comes to show support at all the athletic events and academic events as well. I am proud to be a Coyote at Kansas Wesleyan University.

KWU has given me the opportunity to live my dream at playing at the collegiate football level. Competition in the KCAC (Kansas College Athletic Conference) is valued and held to a great standard for all teams that participate. After getting my first start (vs Sterling College 9/17/11), my confidence went up and my nerves calmed down as I felt I had what it takes to be a successful place kicker in the KCAC and NAIA. After that game, I was blessed to get the news from my head coach about becoming the starter for the rest of the year. I went on to scoring 58 points on our team, second behind our running back, Brett Giesen. I also got the opportunity to kick a career long 51 yards, and was named KCAC and NAIA Special Teams Player of the Week.

For kickers and punters looking to kick at the next level: any school in the NAIA is a great school to be at. The competition is there, the college life style is there, and the learning lessons are there. Do not overlook the any schools in the NAIA. There are many athletic and academic individuals that choose to come to the NAIA level. It is just as competitive, successful, and full of tradition as any division 1 or division 2 school in the country.

Editor's note: for more commentary from NAIA kickers and punters, see part 1 and part 2 of this series.

Monday, January 2, 2012

NFL Week 17: in the Groove

Around the NFL yesterday in the final week of the regular season...

In Arizona, the Cardinals once again went into overtime and once again won the game there. Their four overtime wins this year are an NFL record. The final and decisive points in this week's 23-20 win over Seattle came on a Jay Feely 28 yard field goal.
"I think it speaks to the character of our team. We had a lot of things go wrong throughout the year. I don't think we've had one game where we've kind of put a complete-game effort together, where we played our best, yet we didn't quit. We never stopped playing."
In Philadelphia, kicker Alex Henery hit field goals of 35 and 20 yards in the Eagles 34-10 win over the Redskins. It extended his streak of successful kicks - with his last misses being a pair of field goal back in week 4 against the 49ers. For the year he made 24 of 27 field goals for an 88.9% rate, the the highest ever for an NFL rookie.
"The game finally slowed down. You know how people say how everything goes so fast in the NFL compared to college -- and it sure did for me. That was the biggest thing for me. Once things slowed down I was hitting the ball better and I got into a groove.... After the San Francisco game it gave me a moment to step back and see how I was doing and look at the big picture. That was when it all came together."
In Cleveland, kicker Phil Dawson accounted for all the Browns' points in their 13-9 loss to the Steelers. Had his final field goal of 49 yards been just a little longer, he would have tied the NFL record for most 50 yarders in a season (eight).
"I was so in the moment I didn't even think about it. The moment I came to the sideline the guys were telling me. One yard from history. There should be some sort of difficulty factor, like in Olympic diving."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bowling for Kickers 2011, part 1

R+L Carriers 
New Orleans Bowl
Junior kicker Brett Baer made a 50 yard field goal as time expired to give Louisiana-Lafayette a 32-30 win over San Diego State.
"I was on the sidelines with 35 seconds left and I'm kind of down on myself because I'm thinking about those two extra points [missed earlier in the game]. My holder Brady Thomas came up to me and said 'Man, you've done this before.' I had all the confidence in Blaine and the guys to get me a chance. I couldn't be more happier."
Little Caesars Bowl
Senior kicker Carson Wiggs hit three field goals (49, 19 & 26 yards) in Purdue's 37-32 win over Western Michigan. The Boilermaker's also were successful on two onside kickoffs, the second of which Wiggs recovered himself.
"The first one was a big-time miss-hit, it was supposed to be high up in the air. I haven’t hit one that bad since I’ve been doing it, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. We said we were going to do it again to them if it worked. It ended up working a little better....
They didn't change their lineup, so we did it again... Any time I can do something besides make a field goal or kickoff or something, it's always fun."
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas
Senior kicker Randy Bullock hit four field goals (24, 40, 47 & 31 yards) in Texas A&M's 33-22 win over Northwestern.

With his first field goal midway through the first quarter, kicker Randy Bullock broke Texas A&M's single-season scoring record set back in 1927. The Lou Groza Award winner surpassed Joel Hunt's record of 128 points and finished the season with 139 points after making three field goals and three extra points on Saturday.
to be continued...