the study of the kicking components within sports

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back on Campus 2012: Let the Kicks Begin

The 2012 college football season kicks off this weekend with a full slate of games, including quite a few on Thursday evening. Various kickers and punters weighed in on various topics and matters over the past few weeks:

"Last season, he was Teggart's holder on field goals. And that taught him a little something about pressure. That aspect is awesome because I got to hold for Dave [Teggart last year] and the biggest thing about that is that it takes the snapper, the holder and the kicker to make it happen. So the pressure kicks? I probably was just as nervous as Dave was. Going out there being the holder and having game experience has really helped me the past two years....

The transition for me [from high school] was very tough. The situations, the level of intensity and the transition to the ground [from a tee] is just totally different. And the tempo of the game. The adjustment to that ... I think I broke through that and I think I'm at a level where I'm comfortable to go out there." 

"Zero return yards. That’s the goal. I’m very observant, so I know what it takes to get to the next level, and numbers aren’t everything. I’ll take hang time and fair catches over distance and the possibility of a return any day, and I guarantee if you if you talk to any person affiliated with the NFL, they want the same."

“I made a profile online. Me and my buddies went out to the field one day and just made a video of some field goals and kickoffs and I put it up on YouTube. I put a link to my [recruiting] profile. Coach Sawyer called, and I just followed up with him and talked with him. They got me to come up here....

I have never been north of Tennessee. This is my first time in a cold weather environment like this. I have seen snow once or twice, but snow here is probably different than what I think of snow."
"[Nate Kaeding]’s been a great resource to me. When he was back in town, we would go out and kick. It was good to have another pair of eyes. … He always knew what was going on because he has been in more situations than I have."

"I’ve had a lot of improvement in the last few weeks. I’m getting smoother with steps and the timing is coming down every day I work with the snapper. I could be faster, but the process has been speeding up more and more since we had the kick scrimmage. In time it will come, especially being so young and getting this experience early, I have nowhere to go but up....

I’ve been waiting for it for a long time. Whether I was going to play or not, I’ve been waiting for my first college football game. It’s the first game so I think a lot of [students] want to get out here and see us. There’s a lot of hype about Kent State, so I think a lot of the community is going to come out here. That’s going to make it really exciting to be here."
Corey Acosta, Southern Miss kicker
"Danny [Hrapmann] was a great kicker who did some great things. Sure, he'll do great things on the next level. I'm just trying to do my own thing, not trying to live up to him. He and I are different kickers. If I tried to do everything he did, that just wouldn't work well for me....

That's something he taught me. He had a tough year his first year, but he bounced back better than ever. One thing I learned from him is no matter if you struggle, you can always get better. Don't listen to anybody outside the team. Keep working hard and good things happen." 

Darragh O'Neill, Colorado punter
"The fatigue I felt last year directly correlated to a lack of flexibility. So I did a lot of flexibility stuff, a bunch of stretching and some fast-twitch things in the weight room that will help with hang time. I just have to make sure that I'm always stretching. That has shown massive improvement, even in terms of how my leg feels every day. To get better hang time, you have to get through the ball. Flexibility is a huge factor in that." 

Matt Hogan, Houston kicker
"Everything is mental. I didn’t believe it when I started but afterwards once you get down on yourself everything goes wrong. If you think right before a kick that you’re not going to make it, it’s not going to go through. I always say I’m going to make everything....

UH has gotten a lot bigger, growing as a family. It’s nice to be around these guys and Tony Levine. The coach who recruited me is now the head coach. He’s kind of like a friend, and a father figure, and a mentor in my eyes."

"This week, I just don’t want to think about the game, about 60,000 people, about it could be the last time we ever play West Virginia, about how if I screw up we’re going to lose the game. Punting the ball is punting the ball, no matter the game, and whether it’s Division I, II, III, whatever. I feel prepared now and I feel like I’ll feel prepared then. And when I take the field, I’ll be ready to go, to punt the ball, to hopefully help my team....

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to [various teammates] about the hype of the game, the importance of this game, the seriousness of this game. We have to get prepared and be ready to win, go in knowing we can win and having the ability to do so, having that in the back of your head, envisioning it even. But it’s all about being consistent every time you hit the field. Every play counts, every snap counts – but that’s the way it should be every game. People have told me how important my position is and how important it is that I prepare for this game. I really don’t think there’s a certain way to prepare. I think everyone is different; it’s one of those things you do your own thing. I’m going into a situation I’ve never done before, so you have to find a way [to prepare] for the game, watch film, whatever, but more just to get ready for the situation. You should really prepare like you do every game, whether it’s West Virginia, UCF, Tulsa, Houston. It doesn’t matter the opponent. Getting prepared for the game, any game, is all the same."

NOTE: we'd gladly welcome any other collegiate kicker, punting or snapping news. Feel free to send us an e-mail at the link atop the page.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fifth Kicking Competition Concludes: Justin Medlock over Olindo Mare

Entering the second year of his contract with Carolina, kicker Olindo Mare had to compete to retain his job when the team signed Justin Medlock in the off-season. Earlier this month, Mare discussed the competition:
I'm always concerned with myself and not what's going on around me or who I'm competing with. Because really, you're competing with everybody.  There's a long list of guys that want to kick. The competition is always open. I don’t know what coach isn’t looking for younger, better, bigger, stronger. That’s their job. But there is something to be said [for] having made 300 or 400 field goals. It’s worth something I would hope.

Read more here:
In the end, the Panthers did decide to go younger. Mare was released yesterday and Medlock got the job. The same thing occurred at punter, with veteran Nick Harris being released and rookie Brad Nortman winning the job. Team general manager Marty Hurney noted:
We were very pleased with all four of those guys. With Brad and Justin, we had two young kickers with extremely strong legs who had very good training camps, and just thought performed very well and had bright futures.... I think he showed his leg strength up there [Canada]. I think Justin’s got a chance to make the long field goals.... We made this decision because we felt very good about Nortman and Medlock both.
Last month, Justin Medlock discussed the twists and turns of his professional kicking career - from a brief NFL stint as a rookie, to Canada, and now back to the NFL:
[Being released by the Chiefs] was a bad thing to happen – my path would have been a whole lot different – but it's actually the best thing that ever happened to me as a kicker. I needed to go through some downs before I went up, because I needed to learn that some of the stuff I was doing wasn't right. For a good three to five months, I was pretty messed up, didn't really know what was going on. I think every kicker has been like that at some point.
The CFL is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't know if I'd be here without that because it got me back on the map. But it also hurt me in a sense because like there was a time when the 49ers needed a kicker – a lefty. I'm a lefty from the Bay area, but I couldn't sign there because I was in the CFL. That was the wrong place at the wrong time.

It's crazy. In as little as 24 hours, I probably would have been back in the CFL [back in March]. We were negotiating and were probably within five thousand dollars. To think I was that close to going back to the CFL, that will be something to look back to if I make it in the NFL, because I would have been 31 before I got out of that contract. If I make it here, that will be a story.

I've had some unlucky things happen, but I'm ready to change my luck. I haven't kicked a field goal in the NFL since 2007. Some people think, 'Whatever. He's been released a thousand times.' But from 2007 to now, I'm a whole different kicker. I feel like I can kick in this league.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Fourth Kicking Competition Concludes: Nick Folk over Josh Brown

The competition for the New York Jets kicking job featured incumbent Nick Folk and free agent acquisition Josh Brown, signed shortly after the rams had released him. Both kicked extremely well in camp and preseason according to special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff last week:
[It’s] the best competition at the highest level that I’ve been associated with, ever,” Jets said. “I’ve had some really good kickers in my career, fortunately — Fuad Reveiz, Raul Allegre, Dean Biasucci, Pete Stoyanovich, Olindo Mare, [who] broke an NFL record — none of them ever had a better camp than these guys are having. Now, how does that transfer from here? I can’t answer that. But I know one thing — both guys have raised their games. If this was golf, they both have their ‘A game’ going right now. I think both guys have pushed each other.
News that Folk had won the job came via the usual source in this day and age - social media. Josh Brown broke the news that he had been waived:
Just got released by the Jets. Now, off to the great NW.

Best of luck to the 2012 Jets... Thanks for one of the most memorable camps in 10 yrs. GREAT GROUP OF GUYS!!
Last week, Nick Folk discussed the competition and his friendship with Brown, which dated back four years.
I enjoy competing. I think it’s a blast. I have a good time with it. We have a pretty good relationship, Josh and I. I respect him. I respect what he’s done. He’s been a great kicker for a long time.... We chat just about everything from family life to football to just about anything.

You’re out here kicking field goals, kicking off, trying to put your best foot forward and show them what you can do and that you can do it not only for this year but for an extended period of time.... You can’t get mad at a guy if he outkicks you or if they pick him. In the end, you control what you control and that’s me kicking as best I can, and when they make the decision, it’s their decision to make. You’ve already put your influence on the field, and that’s all you really can do on your end.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Third Kicking Competition Concludes: Graham Gano over Neil Rackers

In Washington, the younger incumbent held off the veteran challenger to retain the Redskins kicking job. Pressed for time, head coach Mike Shanahan gave the sort answer as to why they decided to go with Graham Gano over Neil Rackers: 
Graham, won the statistical battle in practice and in games and that’s why he is on our team.
Graham Gano had a little more time and went into details of the competition:
I saw Neil this morning when he was walking out. We had a good little talk…. He was a big professional about it. He wished me the best of luck this year. He said he’s pulling for me to do well. He’s a great guy.

I’m excited to have the opportunity. It was a good competition between Neil and I in the practices. We didn’t get as many field goals as we would have hoped for in the preseason. Neil is a true professional about everything. He’s handled himself as a professional this whole time. It was good to have him here.... I think every day Neil and I went out, we knew practice was going to play a key role in it. We hoped for more opportunities in the games…. We’ve kicked a lot in practice over the offseason and the preseason. I’m not sure what played into their decision. I think we both did well…. We thought it was going to come down to the last week but it was the coaches’ decision.

I feel like I’ve improved for sure. I think I’m more mature as a kicker in this league. I feel like I did a good job last year. But I’m just looking to improve this year and keep getting better…. I think the more and more you play, the more mature you’re going to get, the more confident you’re going to be in your play.

These days are always tough. You make friendships with the guys, a ton of guys throughout the preseason. To see them let go, it’s really hard. I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere. He’s a great kicker. You wish that we could both be here all year long but you know that’s just the business. It’s tough and I’m just happy I get the opportunity to be here.
Last week, Neil Rackers discussed his approach to the competition:
It’s go do your job and they’ll tell you who they like at the end of camp. That’s the only way Graham and I can both look at it. You’re not kicking against the other guy; you’re doing what you do best and they’ll tell you who they want at the end. I’m a firm believer in karma. I’ve never rooted against another kicker. I enjoy Graham and he’s very good at what he does. He’ll be successful and I root for him to be so.
Postscript: But the story didn't end here. The day after Rackers was released, which occurred the day after the Ravens had released Billy Cundiff in favor of Justin Tucker, the Redskins signed Cundiff and released Gano. Via social media, Gano said goodbye:
I would like to thank the Redskins organization for the 3 years I spent with them. I will miss my teammates and I wish you the best of luck!

Second Kicking Competition Concludes: Shayne Graham over Randy Bullock

The Texans' kicking competition ended unexpectedly yesterday. Rather than coming down to what was shaping up to be a very tough decision it was determined by an injury.

Head coach Gary Kubiak made the following comments in a press conference:
You know what guys, I’m not in a good mood today and that’s the number one reason. Let’s get this over with. We lost Randy (Bullock). Randy is going on IR. I just found out 15 minutes ago. He has torn a muscle somewhere in the groin area. I don’t know all the specifics. Obviously, it’s going to be a long process back, so it’s been a disappointing last half hour for me and for us to find this out. It had been bothering him for a couple of weeks and he continued to kick through it. He’s very tough and he kicked very well last night. He came in here today, black and blue. We ran some tests on him and so it’s a sad situation. He’s going to kick in this league. He’s going to kick a long time. He’s going to go on IR this year and thankfully we’ve got Shayne (Graham), who has done a hell of a job, too. He was pushing him neck and neck to kick for us. It’s a tough deal.”

I don’t like dodging things that way. I feel bad for the kid. It’s sad. I just got through visiting with him.

[Shayne Graham]’s been real consistent. Heck, he’s made every kick he’s had in the preseason and made another (53)-yarder last night. He’s kicked off well for us. He’s a guy, who throughout the course of his career has been a very, very accurate kicker inside of 40 [yards]. He’s done a heck of a job. Like I said, it was right down the middle between those two guys. I think we would’ve been proud with either one of them. I think this situation obviously calls for Shayne to move forward and be our guy. We expect him to do well.
Last week both kickers had weighed in on the ongoing competition. Rookie Randy Bullock commented:
My resume speaks for itself, but at the same time, that's college. At this point, I've got to build myself a new resume and I feel like I'm in the process of doing that, being able to compete with a guy that's been doing this for this long. I know I'm constantly under the microscope. There's a guy who's been doing it for a long time. If I'm not on top of my game, it'll show. The mental aspect of it, it's tough. But you've got to grind and be focused in and be ready to go whenever it's your opportunity to go.
Veteran Shayne Graham elaborated on what it's like to compete against a fellow specialist:
When I line up for a field goal, I don't line up saying 'I'm going to make this so I can win a competition'. You line up because you're a competitor and you want to make your kicks. I don't count his reps, I don't count my reps, I just line up and keep my focus on making my kicks because that's really the only thing I can do to better myself in any situation. As a player, you do what you're asked, and you let the coaches make their decisions. No matter what their perspective is, this is the situation I'm in, and when I put my cleats on and line up, put my pads on, it's to do better for myself and to perform well for myself and to do what I can do to help this team. Whatever decisions are made beyond that are out of my control.

We get along really well. There's times when he asks advice on certain things because there's a lot of things. He's known the college side for four years. As far as individual kicking, I really can't help him on a technique side because we're different. We still look at each other as a friendly competition. We don't have any animosity toward each. We don't do things behind each other's back. We don't give bad advice hoping to screw each other up. So we get along great, and it's a good working relationship. But we also know that it's high stakes, and we're playing for the same thing.

First Kicking Competition Concludes: Justin Tucker over Billy Cundiff

Two of the NFL kicking battles that began in minicamps and OTAs came to a resolution yesterday and two more concluded this morning. The first occurred in Baltimore yesterday morning when the Ravens released veteran Billy Cundiff and handed the kicking job to rookie Justin Tucker. Head coach John Harbaugh explained:
These decisions are never easy, and this one was difficult for all of us – Ozzie [Newsome], Jerry [Rosburg] and me. Of course, that says something about Justin, the way he has kicked and our belief in him.... Billy had a great camp, the best he has had with us. He showed, like he always has, a toughness and an ability to come back and be a top flight NFL kicker.
Responding yet again to the continual questions regarding last year's AFC Championship Game rushed and missed field goal in the waning seconds, Billy Cundiff recently commented:
Let's be honest, I feel like I've been through enough. There's not a single thing that I think somebody can trap me that I'm not prepared for. So, I know my confidence has been high, I know when I came into training camp a lot of people asked me where my head was at and kind of questioned whether I'd be able to even kick. Whatever the case may be, I felt like I proved continually throughout training camp that I came in prepared. And regardless of what's thrown at me, what the situation is, I feel like I'm ready to kick.
After handling all the kicking in the preseason game against Jacksonville, Justin Tucker discussed his kicking progress, which ultimately landed him the starting job:
I really do feel like I’m kicking the best I’ve ever kicked, and that’s a big testament to what Coach Rosburg and Coach Harbaugh and Randy Brown have been able to do with me since I’ve been here. To the naked eye, it doesn’t look like I’ve made a lot of changes, but I’ve made a complete transformation from the kicker that I was in school to the kicker I am now. I owe a lot of my recent successes to them because they’ve been on me about getting better at something every single day.... Pretty simple things, but once you have other habits ingrained into your muscle memory, it’s kind of hard to change right off the bat. It took a little work, it took a couple days, and I now I feel like I’m striking the ball as confidently as ever.
Stay tuned for updates from Houston, Washington and New York (Jets)...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ode to Training Camp

What is your favorite training camp story or anecdote? 

We asked that question of former kickers who are now kicking coaches.

Rex Robinson, Total Kicker
"This one is easy. 1981 Training camp with the Bengals TE/P Pat McInnally was almost late but made quite an entrance when he showed up for a team meeting in a shimmel shirt, jock strap, knee socks and turf shoes. The room erupted! Even the normally stoic Forrest Gregg couldn't keep it together. Classic!"
Brian Jackson, Team Jackson Kicking
"When I was a true freshman at Ball State University in 2003, there was a memory I'll never forget from training camp. After a couple weeks of building comradery and getting to know my teammates, it wasn't long before they knew I could be gullible at times. A fellow linebacker, that goes by the name of Puz, commented that I had a really good low center of gravity and would make for a good fullback, being that I was 5'6 185 lbs. He had mentioned to me that the coaches were considering using me at fullback in certain formations and that I would need to be ready to hit some guys come the next week. Of course I didn't believe him, until teammates that I hadn't ever talked to before started asking me about my high school experience with playing fullback and how they were ready to see me make some good blocks on our 6'3 300 lb defensive linemen. I still wasn't convinced till in an evening film session, our running backs coach told me to get with the equipment manager and try on different pads to make sure I was properly attired for some physical contact. This was when the gullible gene hit in. You could tell that Puz made his rounds. I remember calling my folks that night to try and transfer to other colleges because there was no way I was going to be playing fullback, running full steam at a guy that could crush me with his pinky. Yes, I was that convinced. The next morning in team film, our head coach did give it up that I was only at Ball U to be a specialist, and the whole team had a big laugh as I wasn't going to be playing fullback. It was definitely a relief, but it showed that the guys liked me and wanted to have some fun. After almost ten years, it's definitely the most humorous memory I have during training camp."

Mike McCabe, One on One Kicking
"Traveling to college camps on the road for 10,000 miles in two months. I travel so much its not that difficult for me. But to see the top college kickers get out the car and try to walk you wonder if they are athletes. LOL they walk as though they are crippled."

Brent Grablachoff, Kicking World
"I vividly remember two-a-days back in high school. I was on the varsity team as a sophomore and those two practices a day were the worst! The light at the end of the tunnel was knowing that at lunch time, after the morning session we would get big sub sandwiches delivered to chow down on! Those subs were so good, especially with an ice cold Gatorade after just having finished ten 100 yard wind sprints in full pads in the heat of the summer! My best memory of training camp has got to be the hard work my team put out during those two-a-days because it surely structured and molded me into the guy I am today as far as my work ethic, commitment, perseverance, etc. Those practices helped to ‘bond’ the team and get everyone working as one unit. Going through a battle whether it’s preparing for a war, a football game or enduring grueling double practice days; the process will absolutely help bring unity and ‘togetherness’ to a group of people. I think training camp and two-a-day practices are an excellent way to instill a work ethic into students and ‘beat out’ any laziness they may have! Flipping ahead to now, I serve subs at all our Two-day kicking camps… thinking about it, the memories I have from my own high school training camps must have influenced that!"

"I never took ice baths too seriously. It wasn't until my senior year of college that I took an ice bath after every "two-a-day" practice and practice in season, and it was my first year in college that I didn't have any nagging injuries that popped up. Now I'm an advocate for ice baths."

"I recall my rookie year with the Tampa Bay Bucs. We had four kickers in training camp, Eddie Murray, Tracy Bennett, Darren Alcorn and myself. It was our second preseason game and we had just finished our pre-game warm up. I was talking with Tracy asking him what happened in Denver the year before when he was in camp competing with incumbent David Treadwell. He was explaining to me how the special teams coach came up to him before the game started and told him that he was going to take all of the kicks in the game so that they could take a good look at him in a game situation. They released him the next day and all they were really doing was getting some film on him so that he could potentially get picked up by another team...

Just then, the Bucs special teams coach, George Stewart, came up to us and said, "Don't ask me why, but Coach Wyche wants Husted to get all of the kicks until he says otherwise..." I immediately looked at Tracy with big "saucer" eyes and he was looking right back at me. So, now I am thinking, "Oh crap, I am going to get cut after this game." The game was in Atlanta and my parents drove down from Virginia to watch the game. "Well, at least they will get to see me in a NFL game before I get released," I said to myself. I kicked very well in the game and wasn't released. Darren Alcorn was released the next day and Tracy was released later in the week. This left just Eddie and me on the roster going into the third preseason game. I ended up having an even better third preseason game which resulted in Eddie being released and me as the only kicker on the roster. (FYI, Eddie ended up in Dallas that year and they won a Super Bowl.)"

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drop Kicks, part 2

Doug Flutie’s extra point on January 1, 2006 was the first drop kick the NFL had seen in 65 years. Nonetheless, drop kicks could still be found in pro football the past decade or so, if one turned their attention elsewhere – to the smaller indoor venues. Our story now goes back to August 1, 2000 when kicker Jef Wood entered the drop kick record book.

After kicking in college at Walla Walla Community College and Western Oregon University, several years in the semi-pros, and a brief stint with the Portland Prowlers (IPFL), Jef landed with the Carolina Rhinos of the af2. The prequel to August 1st occurred one week earlier, which he recently recounted for us:
“It was the end of the 4th quarter, we were ahead a little, and we had just scored our last touch down in our round one playoff game against the Pensacola Barracudas. My coach Ernest Wilson sent me in to kick a PAT. As I was setting up he yelled to the holder and said for me to drop kick it, so I stepped back five more yards into a punt formation got the snap and drilled it through. It felt natural and effortless like I had done it a million times. Well I did practice it a million times, just never did it in a game until then.”
The Rhinos won the game and advanced to the quarter-finals:
“The next week came and we got to play against the Augusta Stallions. This game was a battle. Just before the half ended there was about five seconds left in the half and Coach Wilson sent me on to kick a 46 yard field goal. As I was setting up he yelled to me, just like in the previous game, "DROP KICK IT WOOD!! :) ya I smiled. My heart leapt to my throat… I had never drop kicked this long of a kick in any game ever. So I dropped back five and just like the week before and mentally set up just like any kick. I got the snap, took my steps, dropped the ball staying true to my target line and BOOM!, the kick was up and it was gooood! 46 yards out and there was enough height and power behind the kick everyone said it would have been good from 60 easy!”
That 46 yarder remains the longest drop kick in AFL history. Jef “It’s All Good” Wood concluded his football career the following year with the Macon Knights. Their game against the Tallahassee Thunder that year was of special interest to drop kick aficionados:
“They had a really good drop kicker too [Phil Setterquist]. My coach Chris Sigfried suggested I mentally prepare for this game because I would be going up against the leagues other only drop kicker. ‘Put on a show’ he said, so I went into a state of Zen like meditation. When game time came I felt ready. This was a very good game. Every time they scored the Thunder kicker drop kicked. We would score and I would answer back with my dropkick. We lost, but I didn't miss a kick; I put on a show. Another [game] I will never forget… how many guys do you get to see showcase their drop kick talents in the same game.”
While two-point conversions via drop kick have been more common in indoor football, the even more lucrative four-point field goal also occasionally appears. The most recent occurred on May 12, 2007, when Carlos Ojeda hit a 21 yarder for the Alaska Wild against the Corpus Christi Hammerheads in the Intense Football League.

But that is not the end of our story. Drop kicking is still alive today in indoor football, courtesy of a rather unusual kicker. Scott Duvall is the opposite of current typical kickers in many aspects - he prefers drop kicking to placekicking; he's a lefty rather than right-footed, and he kicks straight-on rather than soccer style. He's also a few years older than your average pro kicker:
"I’m a little unusual player in the league… I’m 56 years old for one thing. I came out of a 24 year retirement playing semi-pro. I was aware of the indoor game, but I wasn’t aware of the point difference in the rule book for drop kicking. It’s two points for drop kicking and its four points for a field goal if done by drop kick. That’s something I used to do as a hobby, but never really put it to the test. It was intriguing to me to get into it to try to see if it could be done. It had been done in the af2, but was never done in the CIFL. I wound up doing it and setting the record in the league for the first time. I did it against the Chicago Slaughter in 2009. The drop kicking end of it is what drew me into trying out for teams in the Continental Indoor Football League."
Duvall's CIFL first drop kick occurred back on May 22, 2009 when he played for the Milwaukee Bonecrushers. He remains in the league this year, but now plays for the Indianapolis Enforcers.
"This year, since I signed with the Indianapolis Enforcers, I want to contribute to that team by maybe getting the first field goal, because that’s never been done [in the CIFL].... It’s difficult signing a 56 year old. They don’t think you can make it though a long schedule. They’re probably a little apprehensive because of my age. I’m happy that Indianapolis sees the value in it. A lot of teams in the league don’t put much value in kicking. When you can kick two-pointers in lieu of one-pointers, and you score as much as you do indoors, it can make a huge difference by the end of the game. They all add up. Indianapolis has seen the value in it, so their willing to take a chance at it."
With drop kicking still lingering in the indoor game, could it ever see a revival in the NFL? Scott weighed in on the possibility:
"I’d like to try it in the NFL, but that’s a little bit tall. If the point system was there it would be a worthwhile venture. Get these kids learning how to do drop kicking. I always thought it would do two things: it would bring back the old-fashioned kicking and it would give another aspect to the kicking game. Are they gonna drop kick it? Are they gonna go for one point or go for two points. If they would align the scoring system with this indoor, where it’s in every indoor football league’s rules that if you drop kick it is two points and four points if you drop kick a field goal, it would give it credence. It would give it worthiness, ‘why don’t we try it’."
When Scott eventually goes back into retirement, will that be the end of drop kicking? The answer is no. The next generation of kickers is keeping the drop alive. Just the other year at the high school level in Canton Oklahoma, kicker Coby Moody successfully drop kicked several PATs and field goals.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Drop Kicks, part 1

On January 1, 2006, something unusual happened. The setting was an extra point attempt during an NFL game between New England and the Miami Dolphins. With no kicker on the field, Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie set up deep, received the long snap, dropped the ball on the ground and kicked it through the uprights for the point. in other words, a "drop kick".

A drop kick is broadly defined in wikipedia as:
"a type of kick in various codes of football. It involves a player dropping the ball and then kicking it when it bounces off the ground. It contrasts to a punt, wherein the player kicks the ball without letting it hit the ground first. Drop kicks are used as a method of restarting play and scoring points in rugby union and rugby league. They can also be used in gridiron football codes and Australian rules football, though this is now rare."
In Rule 3, Section 8 of the Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the National Football League it is defined as:
"a kick by a kicker who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground."
Of course neither definition addresses just how much fun it is to drop kick. Flutie provided that information is his comments following his kick:
"It's just something I've done for fun, messing around. When I was with Mike Vanderjagt, in our days up in Canada, that used to be our pregame ritual. Rich Camarillo, he used to toe it. I saw him before the game, and I told him we were thinking about doing it, and he just shook his head.... I was pretty fired up that we did it. It was fun, like football's supposed to be."
Aside from the unusual sight of a quarterback kicking and the rarity of drop kicks these days, Flutie's kick was also an NFL last and first in two other regards. Lastly, it provided a memorable and noteworthy final play to his NFL career (to go along with his memorable hail Mary pass at the end of his college career). It was also the first soccer style drop kick in NFL history. Drop kicks were more frequent in the old days, when the ball was rounder and when kickers approached the ball straight on.

Just how rare was Flutie's drop kick? The following list of the latest drop kicks provides the answer:
  • Prior to Flutie's PAT, the most recent was back in 1941 by Ray “Scooter” McLean during the Chicago Bears 37-9 win over the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game
  • The last drop kicked field goal in the NFL was in 1937 by Earl “Dutch” Clark for the Detroit Lions in their 16-7 win over the Chicago Cardinals
  • Last major college field goal: 1948 by Gene Simmons in West Virginia's 16-14 win over Maryland
  • Last NCAA extra point: 1990 by Aaron Fitzgerald of the University of LaVerne against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
  • Last drop kick field goal attempt in a Canadian Football League game: 1974 by Tom Wilkinson during the Edmonton Eskimos 24-2 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
That would have been the conclusion of this article - a modern day footnote to a historical kicking technique - were it not for one remaining question. Why over the past month, during separate conversations with three different kickers, did each of them bring up the topic of drop kicks? In the forthcoming second part of this article we'll answer that question and discover that drop kicks are definitely not extinct.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mind Over Foot, part 6: Visualization

Kicking is 90% mental. 
Less is more. 
Seeing is believing. 
Believing you're seeing is more or less 90% of the answer.

One technique that some NFL kickers use to hone their skills is to practice kicking to the narrow goal posts as found in the various arena and indoor leagues. Chargers' kicker Nate Kaeding is one them:
"I've been doing it since freshman year in college. It helps. It's kind of a mental trick, you know, if you can kick them through the small ones you can definitely kick them through the big ones."
Although reluctant at first, Broncos' kicker Matt Prater eventually saw the bigger picture of the smaller goal posts:
"At first, I'd line up and the farther back I went, they looked like toothpicks....You've got to hit it perfect because if you're off by a little bit, it might go through the regular uprights but on those it looks like it's way off. So, it's good practice. It's good for visualization. You carry that over into a game."
Visualization? What exactly did Matt mean by that, and why is it good? Joe Friel and Chuck Graziano touched on the importance of visualization in their article Avoiding the Dark Side: Improving Performance by Training the Mind
"Practicing mentally can be enormously effective when coupled with good physical training. Studies have shown that creating a mental vision of yourself competing can have a direct result on your performance. According to the experts, some people naturally visualize themselves from the inside, seeing an image as if they were racing. Some see themselves as others would, as if they were watching a videotape of themselves. Irrespective of which type of vision you normally create, practicing in your mind, or visualizing successful performance can have a positive impact on results."

Retired kicker Morton Andersen visualized his way to scoring more points than any other player in NFL history. Back in 1999 while he was still playing, he discussed his process:
"I got my target. I looked through...all the arms waving, but there were no distractions. I was very single-minded of purpose, really. I felt very comfortable...

I don't know if you guys believe this, but visualization - if you do it enough - is a very powerful thing. Your mind is so powerful, it tells the body what to do.

I've trained for many years now. My mind is pretty well trained to do what I want it to do. That's what I rehearse. That's what I take pride in. That's a big part of my routine. My dominant response came to the forefront when I needed it, and that was a positive response."
Former NFL kicker Doug Brien still firmly believes in the importance of the mental aspect of kicking. His website elaborates on the fundamental roles of visualization and concentration:
"There are two things that I recommend working on to improve the mental game. First, is visualization or positive thinking. This is simply seeing yourself performing well. By spending 10 to 15 minutes a day, closing your eyes and watching yourself make kick after kick, you can make a real improvement. The more real you can make these situations in your head the better. Feeling the crowd noise and the pressure of the situation and then calmly making your kick, helps to raise your confidence and your ability to be positive and successful when these situations come up in a game. Concentration drills are also very helpful in improving your mental game.

If you tried visualization than you have actually already done some serious concentrating. Visualizing a successful kick is only possible with intense concentration. It is very easy to let distracting thoughts into your head and ruin the positive effect of visualizing. A good drill to practice specifically on concentration is simply to stare at a football. The idea is to get to know the "sweet spot" (the ideal place to make contact) on the ball. The drill is to literally stare at the sweet spot on the ball. When totally focused on that spot, think about how it feels to make solid contact with that spot. How it feels to hit the sweet spot and send the ball right down the middle of the uprights. After doing this exercise for 5-10 minutes a day, you will eventually be able to see positive images of kicking just by concentrating on the "sweet spot" of the ball. After getting more advanced I recommend doing this drill during practice or even during a game to get yourself focused on what you have to do. The ability to concentrate without letting any interfering thoughts enter your mind is the secret to successful kicking. Both of the drills I have discussed are very helpful in improving your mental game. I have done extensive work to improve my mental game."
There are various approaches to learning to visualize a kick mentally. One way is to literally block out one's eyesight. Earlier this year, one of the Sydney Swans' coaches had Australian kicker Lewis Jetta practice blindfolded.
"It is a bit different but you get used to it and then you transfer it all into what you do when you open your eyes. It's about teaching you how to be more relaxed when you're kicking and going through the whole process. You need to be able to relax with your eyes closed and then it's easier with your eyes open. Instead of trying to kick the goal, it's just a matter of letting it happen. I tried it once [and missed] and then I tried it again and it went straight through. It's been going good so far and I've been kicking goals with it. And it's been working for me when I've got my eyes open too."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Bad Sting & The Good Blister

It's still out there, but it's mostly in the fringes - perhaps a young player experimenting with it or a former practitioner demonstrating it. It hasn't seen the big time in nearly a decade, when St. Louis Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins resurrected it for the first part of the 2002 season. Even when it was popular (back in the 1980's) not many did it. Nonetheless, it still captures our imagination.

To learn a little more about it, we asked kickers and punters the following questions:
For those who typically wear/wore shoes when kicking or punting, did you ever try kicking barefoot? If so, how was it? For those who typically kicked barefoot, did you ever come close to going back to wearing a shoe?
"I tried kicking barefoot once in high school while goofing around before practice. I kicked the ball, got an immediate stinging sensation in my foot, and watched it go half the distance it normally went. After that I stuck to shoes."
"I've tried barefoot before but it hurts too much (for me at least). It needs a lot of repetition so your foot gets use to the skin to ball feeling. I think I was always afraid I'd break my toe somehow, so I didn't make too many attempts at barefoot kicking or punting. I have a friend that swears by it and did it in a semi-pro league and went to a free agent tryout and did one chart barefoot."
Filip Filipovic, Dallas Cowboys punter 2002, The Kicking Coach
"Kicking barefoot would have died out naturally even if the NFL and NCAA did not prohibit it. Broken in footballs feel good on your foot. But the "K" balls that NFL started using are not very broken in. Seams would be very painful to kick with a bare foot."
"The idea behind kicking barefoot is that you have a better feel of the ball coming off your foot. My belief is it does not present any real performance advantages. It really has an adverse effect in my mind. Footing is always an issue for kickers and punters, as we generate ground based power by transferring energy into a football starting with our feet. The inability to plant or keep normal rhythm throughout a kicking or punting play can be detrimental to its success.

Throughout my playing career I always used a kicking shoe. I recommend to all the athletes we work with at EKS to find a full grain leather shoe (not synthetic) that is a size smaller than the tennis shoe you would normally wear. This will provide a tight fitting shoe that will give you quality feel of the football on your foot. This shoe still provides stable footing required to maintain smooth rhythm to the football. I also recommend to the athletes we work with, especially collegiate and pros, to use a different plant shoe. The plant shoe should be a style that you can buy molded cleats and interchangeable cleats (2 pairs). This will give you two different planting shoes that can be used in different weather conditions, yet still maintain the same feel on you plant foot because it is the same style shoe, just with a different cleat pattern.

Footing is vital. Don’t get caught unprepared."
Michael Husted, NFL kicker 1993-2002, NCS (National Camp Series)
"Yes, I tried it a few times and it did not feel good at all. This was in high school and I used to kick both the field goal block and the kick off tee with my shoe on and would hurt from time to time, especially in cold weather. So, when I did it barefoot, that was the end of the experiment. I used to watch in disbelief as Rick Karlis used to kick, in Denver of all places, barefoot. He used to wear a "moon boot" on his kicking foot and then would take it off and trot on for the attempt. I have heard that you eventually build up a callous and you get used to the sensation of kicking the ball without shoe. No thanks..."
"Tried it once in high school. Doesn't really hurt if you hit it solid, but prefer the shoe since my big toe has a possibility of dragging on the ground."
Mike Lansford, LA Rams kicker 1982-1990, Mike Lansford Kicking
"I wore a shoe at Arcadia High School, Pasadena City College, and the University of Washington. I was able to use a 2" field goal block at all of those levels. When I was drafted by the NY Giants I struggled (understatement) with getting the ball up in the air... in fact, if I got it over my center's ass I considered it mildly successful (as did he). This lack of trajectory got me cut by the Giants, SF 49ers, and Oakland Raiders.

I was improving, but still not getting a clean hit on the ball...until I developed a blister, removed my shoe (only because barefooted Tony Franklin had just entered the NFL), made the LA Rams, and became the team's all-time scoring leader.

By removing the shoe, I dropped my foot lower to the I was hitting the ball clean with the same power I enjoyed when I kicked with the FG block.

A blister saved my career.

Even today, when I coach kickers, I'll remove my shoe to kick (much to the horror of my students and their parents). At times I'll make my kicking clients take their shoe off if they aren't getting their foot in the proper ball striking position. After coming out of shock they notice that their foot speed is incredibly faster.

Going back to a shoe was never an option. I've lost my big toe nail permanently as a result of the trauma, which ruined my foot modeling career."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kicking Wisely During the Preseason

by special guest blogger Michael Husted:

Well, it's that time of the year that we all look forward to...FOOTBALL. However, the beginning is known as the the "Dog Days of Summer." In the NFL, it is called Training Camp. College football calls it Fall Camp and High School football calls it 2-A-Days. No matter what it's called, for players and coaches alike, it can be tough mentally and physically. Even for us kickers, punters and long snappers.

As specialists, we want to start kicking great right away. We feel that we have to kick a lot every practice to achieve this goal. The problem is that if we have two practices a day, we end up kicking many footballs. This is where tweaks, injuries, bad habits, etc. can occur. This is especially the case if we are battling for the starting job. (Note* When I use the word kick, I also mean punt and snap.)

We are like pitchers in baseball. You don't see pitchers throwing many full speed pitches every day. During the season, unless they are a reliever, they play every four to five games. We have to remember that it isn't about the quantity of kicks that we take, but the quality of kicks.

Here are things that you need to make sure are in your daily routine during these "Dog Days."
  • Warm up well, especially before morning practices 
  • Manage your kick count each practice 
  • Stretch well after each practice 
  • Become best friends with the ice tub 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Repeat 
Warming up well before you kick is more about getting the blood flowing. A solid dynamic warm up is key. You don't want to over stretch before you kick as it will fatigue your muscles.

Managing your kick count is going to be the hardest. When you are young, you want to kick...I did it. If fact, I was nicked named Kick A Matic by others due to the amount of footballs I would kick. I have heard that at other kicking camps, those kicking coaches will kick too much. Not wise. During these "Dog Days of Summer," we need to make sure that we have a scripted routine that we can follow and not just go out and swing away.

I consult kickers at all levels and part of the consultation is developing pre-season, in-season, pre-game and off-season routines. Twenty years ago, there were hardly any kicking coaches and the ones that were out there were new to coaching kickers and punters, let alone long snappers. Most of us back then had to depend on ourselves to develop our own routine, if you want to call it that. From my own personal experience as well as watching and studying some of the best kickers during my time in the NFL, I can share that experience with the next generation of specialists.

I truly believe that getting a great, not good, stretch in after you kick, lift or run is one of the most important things that you can do to stay healthy. You have just put a lot of stress and tension into your body. Stretching will help relieve it, but like I mentioned before, stretching does fatigue you. Therefore, post stretching is the best time. Even when you are exhausted from the practices, heat, whatever, make time to stretch. Flexibility is very important for our skill and longevity.

Unfortunately, I think that this is where many kickers slack off...Don't be one of them. STRETCH!

Typically, if you are kicking a lot and your team is practicing twice a day, if not three times, soreness will set in quickly. Ice baths were part of my routine after every practice. Getting the water temperature around 55 degrees will be great for your muscles. It's easy to get your toes, feet, and knees in the tub, but to get the rest of your body, up to your waist, is not fun...

However, you will be amazed at how much it helps you to recover. Be careful not to stay in the water too long. Most experts will say that 8-10 minutes is ideal. Too long in the water is not good for your body. 

All of the above is all for naught if you don't stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can cause us to lose focus, which can cause us to develop bad habits when kicking, which can cause us to get injured. It is a domino effect. According to Bobby Boucher, water should be the preferred beverage. Yes, Gatorade tastes good and has electrolytes (good), but it is also loaded with High Fructose Syrup (bad.) Several NFL and College teams will use Pedialyte, which, in my mind, is better than Gatorade. However, at FBU's Top Gun Camp, a company provided me with a product called Drip Drop to give to the kickers at the camp. I really enjoyed it and thought it worked well. No matter what you choose, make sure that you are well hydrated.

Good luck this season.
- Michael Husted

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fred Mitchell Award 2012 Watch List, part 3

Last week the the annual Fred Mitchell Outstanding Place-Kicker Award announced its preseason watch list. The Award’s Selection Committee Chairman Chris Kearney said, “These place-kickers are terrific on the football field and off the field representing their schools, their football teams, their conferences, their communities, their families and themselves. We look forward to following their accomplishments during the next few months.” The Watch List includes place-kickers from more than 750 eligible colleges. Fred Mitchell said, “It is a pleasure to include these fine young men on the Watch List for this Award. We are delighted to recognize them based on outstanding performance in the community and expectations going into the 2012 college football season. It is also a thrill to see so many familiar names on the Watch List, including 22 place-kickers that were finalists for the Award last season.” 

In alphabetical order, following is the final third of the 2012 Fred Mitchell Award Watch List:

TYLER SIEVERTSEN University of Northern Iowa – FCS 
Junior from Cedar Rapids, IA….led the Panthers in 2011 scoring with 93 points from 18 of 20 FG’s and 39 of 39 PAT’s….finished 2nd in FG% in FCS with 90%....2012 Preseason All-American recognition (First Team by Beyond Sports College Network, Second Team by The Sports Network and Phil Steele, Third Team by Associated Press)….2011 First Team All-Conference….MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week three times in 2011….voted 2011 Special Teams MVP by teammates….made all 3 FG attempts in MVFC Championship Game to clinch 23-20 OT win at Illinois State….made only FG attempt at Montana in FCS Quarterfinals….averaged 62 yards on 69 kickoffs….Just Read program volunteer to connect UNI student-athletes with elementary school students….Special Olympics volunteer….Kickers in the Midwest mentor…high school football camp volunteer….Salvation Army bell ringer

WESLEY SKIFFINGTON Stony Brook University (New York) - FCS 
Senior from Brandon, FL….3rd on the team in 2011 scoring with 93 points from 11 of 15 FG’s and 60 of 62 PAT’s….most prolific kicker in school history….all-time leading scorer in school history….First Team All-Big South Conference in 2011….set Conference record for most PAT’s in a season….tied Conference record with 10 PAT’s in a game against Gardner-Webb…made career-long 46-yard FG against Lafayette…5th among active players in FCS with 229 career points….averaged 57 yards on 65 kickoffs….Friends of Jaclyn Program volunteer….Sunrise Fund volunteer at Stony Brook University Medical Center

PAT SMITH Western Illinois University - FCS 
Junior from Quincy, IL….2nd on the Leathernecks in 2011 scoring with 30 points from 3 of 6 FG’s and 21 of 23 PAT’s….named 2011 Special Teams Player of the Year by teammates….made 3 of final 4 FG’s in 2011….averaged 63 yards on 35 kickoffs….Relay for Life volunteer….Special Olympics volunteer…Rocky’s Reach volunteer helping elementary school children during recess and reading…Jump Rope for Heart volunteer

MATT STOLL Texas A&M-Kingsville – Division II 
Junior from College Station, TX….finished 2nd on the team in 2011 scoring with 61 points from 9 of 10 FG’s and 34 of 41 PAT’s….8 of 8 on FG’s less than 40 yards….only miss in 2011 was blocked….made game-tying 49-yard FG as time expired at Angelo State to win in triple OT….scored 12 points at Angelo State and was named Conference Special Teams Player of the Week….entering 3rd year as a member of the Conference’s SAAC group that has won the SAAC Cup the past two years….Fellowship of Christian Athletes…Keep Kingsville Beautiful volunteer…Driscoll Children’s Hospital Teddy Bear Drive volunteer….helped run the Texas A&M consolidated football camp

JOSH STORM Randolph-Macon College (Virginia) – Division III 
Senior from Forest, VA….tied for 1st on the team in 2011 scoring with 74 points from 12 of 16 FG’s and 38 of 40 PAT’s….2012 Beyond Sports Network Preseason Honorable Mention…..First Team All-Conference in 2011….tied for 4th in scoring in the Conference and 1st among kickers….holds school career records for PATs made (116), kicking points (203)….4th in Conference history with 29 career FG’s and 1st with 116 PAT’s…averaged 57 yards on 70 kickoffs….served as mentor for elementary school students….ALS Walk volunteer

AUSTIN SWEENEY Bluffton University (Ohio) – Division III 
Junior from Adrian, MI….led the Beavers in 2011 scoring with 52 points from 9 of 13 FGs and 25 of 30 PAT’s….tied for 2nd in HCAC with 9 FG’s…two-time HCAC Special Teams Player of the Week….scored 10 points in 46-27 win over Defiance including a season –long 39-yard FG….holds school record with 72.7% FG%....ranks 5th in school history with 85 kick scoring points….averaged 51 yards on 47 kickoffs….filled sandbags following community flooding….Bluffton Nature Preserve volunteer….assisted with the Mennonite Memorial Home Service Day in 2012 and 2011

STEFAN TERLECKYJ Wayne State University (Michigan) – Division II 
Junior from Warren, MI….school's all-time leader in PATs made (114) and attempted (116) after only two years ... ranks 4th in FG’s made with 23 ... named to the 2011 All-GLIAC Honorable Mention team as well as the 2011 GLIAC All-Academic Team .... tied his own WSU school record with nine made PATs against Urbana to earn WSU's Special Teams Player of the Week honor... earned GLIAC Special Teams Player of the Week honors after scoring 12 points (3-3 PAT, 3-4 FG) in win at Northern Michigan ... connected on both FG attempts against Saginaw Valley to earn WSU's Special Teams Player of the Week award ... made his last six PAT attempts at St. Cloud after having his streak of 44 straight end on the first attempt in blizzard conditions in first round NCAA playoff game... scored 8 points at Nebraska-Kearney on 5 PATs and a season-best 43-yard FG ... became WSU’s all-time leader in PATs with his fourth at Minnesota-Duluth (108 for career) as WSU defeated the defending national champions on its home field ... recorded a kickoff coverage tackle at UMD saving a potential TD ... made all three PAT attempts in both the national semifinal at Winston-Salem State and national championship game ... set the WSU single-season scoring record by a kicker with 106 points ... finished first in both PATs made (21) and PATs attempted (22) for the 2011 NCAA Division II playoffs ... helped sell merchandise for breast cancer awareness at the WSU women's basketball game ... collected small toiletry items to make basic needs bags for the Covenant House Michigan as part of the Wayne Cares program ... participated in United Way's Martin Luther King Day of Service by assisting the Motor City Blight Busters with a renovation project in metropolitan Detroit

JOSH THIEL Saint Francis University (Pennsylvania) – FCS 
Senior from Leesburg, VA….2nd on the Red Flash in 2011 scoring with 63 points from 9 of 12 FGs and 36 of 39 PAT’s….2012 College Football Performance Awards Watch List….tied school record for most FG’s in a season (9) and most PAT’s in a season (36)….ranks in the top 3 in career FG’s made (18) and attempted (32)….best long distance kicker in school history with 3 FG’s of 45 yards or more….tied school 45-yard FG in whiteout conditions against Central Connecticut State…set school record the following week with 47-yard FG against Monmouth….went 1 of 3 in onside kick attempts….enters 2012 season ranked 5th in career points, 3rd in FG’s made and attempted, 2nd in PAT’s made….Student Ambassador on campus….Relay for Life volunteer….Sports Kids Day volunteer….Special Olympics volunteer…Dorothy Day Center volunteer….Children’s Miracle Network and Huntsman Cancer Institute volunteer through church…volunteers at school athletic events

DAN TRYON Wesley College (Delaware) – Division III 
Senior from Wilmington, DE….led the 3rd ranked Wolverines in 2011 scoring with 84 points from 6 of 13 FG’s, 64 of 74 PAT’s and one two-point conversion….set school records for most FG’s in a game (3), FG’s in a season (13), PAT’s made in a game (9), PAT’s made in a season (64) and the longest FG (46 yards)….named to the Team of the Week and ECAC Special Teams Player of the Week on October 18, 2011 after scoring school-record 14 points including a 45-yard FG….averaged 58 yards on 97 kickoffs....Team Captain and MVP of the 2012 lacrosse team….Special Olympics volunteer….Jumpstart’s Read for the Record program

BRETT ULLMAN Indiana University of Pennsylvania – Division II 
Sophomore from Baltimore, MD...led the team in 2011 scoring as a freshman with 63 points from 10 of 11 FG’s and 33 of 34 PAT’s….named 2012 Preseason First Team All-American by Beyond Sports Network...2011 First Team All-PSAC West….2011 Third Team Don Hansen All-Super Region One... 4 of 4 in FG’s between 30-39 yards and 2 of 3 from 40+ yards...made career-long 46-yard FG in the rain against Edinboro...only missed FG was a 47-yarder in second game of the year against Bloomsburg, then made nine straight for the rest of the season...Fitness for a Cause volunteer

BRADEN WIEKING University of Sioux Falls (South Dakota) – Division II 
Senior from Sioux Falls, SD….2nd on the Cougars in 2011 scoring with 53 points from 8 of 12 FG’s and 29 of 32 PAT’s…enters 2012 season with 309 points ranking 2nd in school history among kickers and 7th overall…scored 13 points against Black Hills State on October 15 including season-high 37-yard FG….scored 8 points in 38-23 win over Minot State on September 24….5 of 7 unsuccessful attempts were blocked….averaged 60 yards on 50 kickoffs….team’s nomination for Allstate Good Hands Team….Sioux Falls Fellowship of Christian Athletes volunteer and Group Huddle Leader on campus….Habitat for Humanity volunteer….Vacation Bible Study volunteer

JORDAN WIGGS Stephen F. Austin (Texas) – FCS 
Sophomore from Grand Prairie, TX….led the Lumberjacks in 2011 scoring with 87 points with 17 of 24 FG’s and 36 of 38 PAT’s….Honorable Mention All-Conference….led Conference kickers in scoring and finished 2nd overall in scoring in the Conference and 16th nationally in FCS….made career-best 42-yard FG at Nicholls….SAAC Toy Drive volunteer with football team serving underprivileged youths

KYLE WILLIAMS Hinds Community College (Mississippi) – NJCAA 
Junior from Pearl, MS….led the Eagles in 2011 scoring with 70 points from 10 of 17 FG’s and 40 of 44 PAT’s… scored 29 points in October from 4 of 6 FG’s and 17 of 17 PAT’s….scored 10 points in win over Jones County Junior College on October 6 by making both FG’s and all four PAT’s….scored 10 points in 59-32 win over Pearl River Community College on October 22 by making his FG and all seven PAT’s....made career-long 45-yard FG against East Mississippi and was 1 of 2 FG’s and 4 of 4 PAT’s in the game….Habitat for Humanity volunteer….Muscular Dystrophy Association of Mississippi volunteer

SEAN WILLIAMS Wittenberg University (Ohio) – Division III 
Senior from Plainfield, IN…led the Tigers in 2011 scoring with 75 points from 12 of 14 FG’s and 39 of 41 PAT’s….made school record 19 straight FG’s over the course of two seasons to break the previous school record of 12….made 50 consecutive PAT’s over the past two seasons to break the school record of 48….82 of 85 PAT’s for his career and holds school record for the highest PAT % among kickers with at least 40 attempts….tied the school record for most FG’s in a season (12) that he also tied in 2010….ranks 6th in school history with 75 points in 2011 and 4th with 79 points in 2010….made career-long 41-yard FG in 27-23 win over Carnegie Mellon…. 154 career kicking points is 6th in school history and just 12 points behind Fred Mitchell….ranks 5th in career FG’s (24) and career FG % (75%)….averaged 53 yards in 63 kickoffs….youth football camp volunteer in hometown….volunteered at Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in Springfield….Springfield Regional Medical Center intern/volunteer

CHANCE WILSON Alabama A&M University – FCS 
Senior from Huntsville, AL….led the Bulldogs in 2011 scoring with 60 points from 11 of 15 FG’s and 27 of 30 PAT’s….2nd in the SWAC in FG%....ranked 2nd in FCS in FG’s made per game….holds school record with a 49-yard FG against Jackson State…Martin Luther King elementary school volunteer….Special Olympics volunteer…volunteer high school kicking coach….Read Across America participant….blood donations to the Red Cross….North American Food Drive participant….Into the Streets of Birmingham participant….visits children in hospitals in Birmingham and surrounding area

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Special Teams the Key to Victory

It has long been said that “defense wins championships”.

However, some now argue that rule changes over the years have tipped the balance of power to the offense.

Of course we all know that neither of those is the real answer. We asked those-in-the-know the following question:
Why is Special Teams the most important element of football?
Jared Guberman, Ultimate Kicking Academy
"Special Teams is the most important element of football because it sets the tempo of a game, determines field position, swings the momentum of a game and builds confidence in a team. A team feeds off whether a kick is great or if there is a big tackle or if the opposing teams starting field position is horrible. Starting field position is one of the most important statistics in a team's ability to score on a drive. From the snappers, holders, kickers/punters to the coverage teams every aspect of the special teams is important and can determine the outcome of a game."

"Field position, field position, field position! I believe it was John Madden who once quoted, "Ray Guy (long-time Raider punter) was the best defensive player I have ever coached." That says it all."

"Special teams controls the field position of the game, therefore it creates and provides the offense's and defense's opportunities."

"The momentum factor!
  • Kick Off return for a touchdown
  • Punt return for a touchdown
  • Long FG at the end of the 1st half
  • Big hit on Kick Off coverage
  • Big hit on Punt coverage
  • Cause a turnover
  • Big hit by a kicker or punter"
"The biggest change in field position happens on a special teams play."

"It presents the best chance for a quick strike and for momentum to swing back your way."

Nathan Chapman, ProKick Australia
"Simple, they come to us (special teams) when they cant get the job done. They ask us to clean up the mess of bad field position or score if they can not take it all the way. I am sure they will not admit it but deep down they love special teams."

"It is commonly said that football is a game of inches and that couldn't be truer. When a punter or kickoff unit can consistently pin the opposition near its goal and force a long field it makes for that many more "inches" to travel for a score. When a kicker consistently converts on kicks it is not only a victory for the scoreboard but also crucial for momentum and yet another opportunity to keep the other team on the other side of the field.

You want to know why Special Teams are so important? Answer me this question... Without Adam Vinatieri's clutch kicks in the AFC Championship game vs the Raiders or in the Super Bowl that same year, who is Tom Brady and who is Bill Belichick?
Answer: A backup from Michigan with no rings and a journey-man coach with a losing record with the Browns."

"In any given game, there is more yardage exchanged in Special Teams plays than both team's offenses combined!"