the study of the kicking components within sports

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Recruiting Process per the Recruitees, 2013.2

Our annual look at the recruiting process continues. We asked kickers and punters from the Class of 2013 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?
Michael Geiger, Michigan State
  1. Be proactive, because that drove me to get my name out there as soon as possible.
  2. I wish I would have known how incredibly stressful the recruiting process can get at times!
Andrew Antognoli, Notre Dame
  1. Leave all doors open and stay consistent on contacting college coaches with all of your information, stats, etc.
  2. Get to as many camps as possible, they give you exposure, and exposure is key.
Ty Cummings, Houston
  1. Grades are very important for kickers looking for scholarships. 
  2. How important college camps are for establishing yourself with the coaches.
 Johnny Townsend, Ohio State
  1. Don't worry about rankings and just perform to your best abilities when it counts the most.
  2. I should've developed a relationship with the coaches before I went to camps so you are more comfortable around them and they know you. If you win the day that doesn't matter as much though. That's what I was told from my coach and that was most beneficial to me!
Tyler Czajkowski
  1. Go everywhere no matter if they're interested or not because you only go through it once. 
  2. I wish I been more vocal to coaches and stepped up more to talk to them myself. It would have greatly benefited me as an athlete.
Austin Rehkow, Idaho
  1. Like your coach. You'll be working for him for four years so it's best to be with someone you like as opposed to someone who blames his players for mistakes and criticizes his players publicly.
  2. I learned to really get your name out there and contact the coaches first so that they can see you're interested in their program.
Jim Cooper, Temple
  1. At the end of the day, the college football world is all a business. 
  2. Just because a coach says something when recruiting you, it doesn't necessarily mean he truly feels that way.
Tommy Openshaw, Vanderbilt
  1. Get your name out there. Send as many emails as possible and continue to make highlights. Rankings camps like Kohl's are okay, but they won't get you a scholarship. Get ranked but don't spend too much time or money on them.
  2. Summer college camps are vital. Make sure to pick colleges that are actually offering a kicker from your class. If you perform well at camp, that's what gets the scholarship and interest, not just being ranked high on a website. Also, for rising seniors, start working on kicking off the ground as soon as your junior season is over. Make sure to get a lot of height on your field goals. Having good grades and test scores and being a combo kicker/punter makes you that much more valuable.
Joseph Occhipinti, Western Kentucky
  1. The first thing I did was go to my guidance counselor at my school and talked with her about what I need to do to be sure I will be eligible to play college football. She told me to sign up on NCAA Clearing House. I did not know I had to do that before she told me so I am glad I asked. Also some advice I received was to be realistic when it comes to possible colleges you want to play for. Don't overlook the smaller D1 schools. Also be sure to look at the teams roster and see how many kickers/punters they have and what grade they are in. If they have both a kicker and punter redshirted as a freshman they are most likely not going to offer a scholarship or show interest for those positions.
  2. I wish I knew that I needed to be patient. I got really nervous after the summer college camps I hadn't gotten an offer yet. Kickers and punters come last on the recruiting timeline. So to keep teams interested in me I would create game highlights after every game and send it off to colleges. After the week four game I received a full ride offer to Western Kentucky University to kick. The Monday following after learning all I could about the school and it's academics I committed to them.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Name That Foot, episode 13

To which three individuals do the feet pictured below belong? 
The first person to correctly name all three in the comments section below earns an honorary degree in kickology, with a minor in trivial photography. Answers will be added to the post next week.

Hint: he's kicked for three different NFL teams in preseasons. Of those three, two are located east of the Mississippi River.
Hint: he has played for eight different clubs and one national team. Of those nine, eight are located in the western hemisphere. The lone eastern hemisphere stint was in Germany, early in his career. His current and recent teams are all in MLS.
Hint: he's played for one pro team, located approximately 2500 miles by road from where he played in college.

Bonus hint: 
All three players received a large pay raise last year. 

Nobody correctly named all three feet this week, although several identified A and C.

The correct answers are:

A. Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Connor Barth, who has previously been with Miami (preseason only) and Kansas City.

B. D.C. United midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, who has previously played for four other MLS clubs, three other pro clubs, and the Canadian national team.

C. San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee, who attended college at the University of Pittsburgh.

College All-Star Games - The Specialists

A few more opportunities to see your favorite college kickers, punters and snappers in action.

Casino Del Sol College All-Star Game: January 11th
  • East kicker Brandon McManus, Temple
  • West kicker Zach Brown, Portland State
  • East punter Josh Hubner, Arizona State
  • West punter Alex Dunnachie, Hawaii
  • East long snapper Brandon Harston, Houston
  • West long snapper Kevin McDermott, UCLA
East-West Shrine Game: January 19th
  • East kicker Caleb Sturgis, Florida
  • East punter Dylan Breeding, Arkansas
  • West kicker Zach Brown, Portland State 
  • West punter Josh Hubner, Arizona State
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: January 19th
  • long snapper Evan Jacobsen, New Mexico
  • long snapper Jordan Cowart, Notre Dame
  • kicker Adam Yates, South Carolina
  • punter Scott Kovanda, Ball State
  • punter Daniel Zychlinski, Stanford
  • punter Bobby Cowan, Idaho
  • Stars kicker Drew Alleman, LSU
  • Stars kicker Casey Barth, North Carolina
  • Stars punter Ian Campbell, UTEP
  • Stars long snapper Dax Dellenbach, Florida State
  • Stripes kickerJeremy Shelley, Alabama
  • Stripes punter Spencer Benton, Clemson
  • Stripes long snapper Carson Tinker, Alabama
Senior Bowl: January 26th
  • South kicker Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • North kicker Quinn Sharpe, Oklahoma State
  • South punter Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
  • North punter Jeff Locke, UCLA
  • South long snapper Carson Tinker, Alabama
  • North long snapper Luke Ingram, Hawaii
Texas vs. The Nation, February 2nd
  • Texas kicker Morgan Lineberry, Abilene Christian
  • Texas punter Alex King, Texas
  • Nation kicker Trey Farquhar, Idaho
  • Nation punter Pete Kontodiakos, Colorado State
South Carolina College All-Star Bowl: March 23rd
  • Upstate kicker Patrick Morgano, Presbyterian
  • Upstate punter Ben Granger, Furman
  • Upstate punter Bo Lindsey, Gardner-Webb
  • Upstate long snapper Lequawn James, Newberry
  • Lowcountry kicker Ryan Fowler, Vanderbilt
  • Lowcountry punter Eric Watts, Brevard
  • Lowcountry long snapper Tremaine Germany-Byrd, Benedict College
As always, if we missed anything, feel free to let us know!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Recruiting Process per the Recruitees, 2013.1

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 third 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 2013 and a few JC transfers 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:

Hunter Niswander, Northwestern
  1. Hard work pays off. Everyone has off days, but if you keep working you will have more and more good days. 
  2. Don't limit your options and get your kicks out to as many college coaches as possible, because at the end of the day you never really know what the best place is for you until you have a visit with them and see what the situation is really like.
Harrison Butker, Georgia Tech
  1. Go where you are wanted the most.
  2. As a kicker, you have to be patient. You're probably not going to be getting offers in the double digits just left and right like other top recruits in their position. Take everything you can get and don't close any doors.
Danny Stirt
  1. Go to college kicking camps over the summer. The coaches want to see you kick in person before they are going to commit to you. 
  2. A lot of times at college camps, coaches have guys picked out that they are going to look at. If you are not one of those guys, most likely they are not going to pay attention to you, unless you are kicking 80 yard kickoffs and 60 yard field goals. Pick places to go where you have had contact with the coaches and you know they are going to look at you.
Bryan Holmes
  1. You will find a home and go where you feel at home.
  2. Make connections with everyone, not just the places you think you want to go. It's impossible to have too many connections.
Miles Bergner, South Dakota
  1. There's always going to be a wait, and that patience is key. 
  2. You have to call the schools that you want to go to, not just send them film. You have to be proactive.
Grant Warren
  1. Always stay on top of things. The player usually has to initiate the communicating and you've got to just call them. The worst they can say is no. 
  2. If I could go back I would have started kicking off the ground the day my junior season ended because college coaches want you to kick off of the ground at their camps. And you must go to every camp you possibly can go to and kick off of the ground to compete.
Jake Thompson, Utah State
  1. Just getting yourself out there. I had phenomenal coaches. Coach Husted and coach Aguiar are a huge part of my success! And knowing that, don't be afraid to contact several coaches! And certain camps and the right camps to go to. To get your name on the radar!
  2. It's a long process. Patience. And to trust it mainly. The rough thing for me was I tore my ACL game three of my senior season.. So that set me back, but had two full ride scholarships at that time. USU and Weber State and was soon to find out that I was selected for the U.S army all American game and my senior year was 2-2 field goals (44,50) and was on pace to break career records but everything happens for a reason.
Ryan Santoso, Minnesota
  1. Don't pick a school by where your friends want and where it is close to your friends, because you never know who will leave your life. Also, go to a school where you feel comfortable enough that if sports weren't an option you would still go there.
  2. It's not all fun when getting recruited. It really hit me hard when i was trying to decide a school. It is a business to the schools and some places just treat you like property they want.
Stephen Brauchle, Louisiana Lafayette

  1. The most beneficial advice for me during the recruiting process was to be PATIENT. I knew I was a D1 kicker, I went to a JUCO for a year to prove myself on the field and it payed off for me.
  2. Coaches don't always come to you. You have to be your own agent and sell yourself to these coaches through emails and phone calls.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Brief History of the Evolution of Specialization

When American football developed in the latter part of the 19th century, there was no separate kicker position. Kicking tasks were handled by players who also had full time roles on both offense and defense. Needless to say, the players spent little to no time studying, practicing, and perfecting kicking.

Injury played a key role in the stories of two of the first kicking specialists. Ben "The Toeless Wonder" Agajanian lost four toes from his kicking foot in work accident during college. Despite that, he went on to kick for numerous pro teams in the AAFC, NFL, and AFL during a creer that spanned over two decades. The Cleveland Browns’ Lou "The Toe" Groza was a Pro Bowl offensive lineman and kicker. A back injury in 1960 ended his ability to play on the line, but he continued to kick until 1967. The idea of having a player dedicated solely to kicking quickly caught on.

It was also not until recent decades, that professional football players, and especially kickers, made enough money to make a living playing football. Previously players had to work other jobs during the off-season and in many cases also during the football season. Now that the position of kicker actually exists and can afford to work on kicking year round, they are able to focus on studying, practicing, and perfecting kicking.

Specialization of others has also helped to improve kicking. While the kicker is the one who puts his foot on the ball in the end, the long snapper and holder are vital members of the placekicking process. While holding is still handled as a secondary task by someone with another job, long snapping became a specialized role back in the 1970’s. It was not until 2005 that long snapping was recognized for a Pro Bowl spot. In some instances, teams also divide placekicking and kickoffs into two separate jobs. Although roster limitations make this a rarity in the NFL, it occurs more often at the college level.

The creation of specialized roles also spread to the coaching ranks. In 1969, The Los Angeles Rams hired Dick Vermeil as their special teams coordinator – a position that had never previously existing in the NFL. More recently, some teams have also included a separate kicking coach or consultant. Steve Hoffman, currently the special teams coordinator for the Raiders, is one of the most notable examples. Kickers John Carney and Chris Boniol have recently dabbled in a consulting role.

As a result of all these developments, people can now spend their time devoted to primarily one thing – kicking.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Best Place-kicking Performance Ever?

"I believe that Frank Hudson [of Carlisle] was the greatest drop kicker ever - I think he was better than [Charley] Brickley of Harvard. The best place-kicking performance I ever saw was in 1901 when Mike Balenti [of Carlisle] kicked four field goals from field against Navy, two of them from near the 40 yard line. What made the performance all the greater was the fact that Balenti was a substitute playing in his first game." 

Heading into the game, both teams were unbeaten and once-tied - the Carlisle Indian School at 5-0-1 and the U.S. Naval Academy at 7-0-1. Kicking made the scoring difference, as noted in the game write-up in the the Special to The New York Times; Sunday November 1, 1908; sporting news section:
The Naval contingent is disheartened tonight over the first defeat of the season. It was inflicted by the Indians from the Carlisle School, and the score was 16 to 6.
Every one of the sixteen points was made by Balenti, the little Indian quarterback, who established a record by lifting four field goals from placement, accepting every opportunity he received. All the kicks were from the line-up, and in each instance the ball was sent squarely between the post and over the bar. Two of the kicks were from bad angles and the high wind made all of them difficult. His comrades were delighted at each successive kick and congratulated him warmly each time.
Astute readers will have noticed that the Indians' four field goals added up to sixteen points. Originally valued at five points, field goals were reduced to four points in 1904. The year after Balenti's big game, field goals were reduced to their current value of three points.

It should also be noted that field goal accuracy and expectations were significantly lower back in the day. When a player attempted four kicks one hundred years ago, missing all of them was disappointing yet not overly alarming. Making one was decent, making two was good, making three was excellent, and making all four was the stuff of legend. By comparison, if a current NFL kicker misses four field goals in game, he will definitely be unemployed by Tuesday. If he makes only one he will likely be unemployed. If he makes two, he will be on the proverbial hot seat at worst. making three is okay, unless the miss is a chip shot or in a critical game situation, in which case it is also hot seat time. Making all four is good. About the only way to even potentially be considered for legendary status now is to kick a game winning field goal in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter or in overtime of a championship game.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Straight On To The End

On September 13, 1987, Steve Cox made a 40 yard field goal. It was slightly unusual, in that Cox was primarily a punter. On occasion however, he would handle longer field goal attempts - 15 throughout his 8 year career. But that is not why we remember that particular kick.

Throughout history, humankind has demonstrated the ability to learn, adapt, and change. But change is not always easy - especially fundamental shifts. Some individuals will cling to the old ways, despite the inevitable change sweeping passed them. Some will complain until the bitter end.

Ed Agner recollects on the personal impact of one such fundamental change in the kicking game:
"It happened every time. I knew the routine and the dialogue by heart. I could even see it coming most of the time too. The kicker would line up, I'd get a queasy feeling in my stomach and think of ways to steal the remote and change the channel before the side-winding kicker sent a ball sailing wide right or left and Dad launched into his diatribe about the evils of soccer-style kickers. It didn't matter how many times the advantages of kicking soccer-style was explained, my Dad hated soccer-style kickers with a passion usually reserved for hippies, lawyers, politicians, the IRS and door-to-door salesmen. Dad wanted (and still wants, actually) a world where ALL kickers looked like mechanics or shady used-car salesmen, kicked straight-on and played a REAL position too. Or two out of three of those at least - with kicking straight-on being mandatory. In the NFL after George Blanda, Don Cockroft, Tom Dempsey and Jim Turner were put out to pasture, Mark Moseley was the closest thing to a King to my Dad - which was odd given Dad's Cowboy fandom but..."
Criticism of the new soccer style kickers was certainly not limited to fans. The soon-to-be-extinct straight ahead kickers had less than favorable things to say. The aforementioned Don Cockroft commented:
"They were flaky kickers. They were weird. I'm sorry, but I always considered myself an athlete and these guys were, like, funny.... I kept asking myself, ‘What are these weird, wimpy dudes doing kicking the ball?' They didn't even know what football was. They were coming to the ball from the side. They were strange. They were just these little guys."
The straight ahead kickers came to the brink of extinction in 1986, when Mark Moseley retired. He was the last full-time straight-on kicker in the league. The honors for the final straight kick however belonged to a part-timer. In the latter years of Moseley's career, the Washington Redskins began letting the strong-legged punter handle long field goal attempts. Steve Cox's 40 yarder is now a trivia question answer. Of course he could lose that distinction if there is ever a straight-ahead revival, something that ten years ago Moseley suggested is within the realm of possibility:
"There's no reason a straight-ahead kicker, if he kicked that way, and put the time in as these other guys, couldn't do it. My son kicked straight ahead in high school, and was very good. He could have kicked in college. He decided not to, but there's no reason he couldn't have gone on.... It's a sign of the times. I was the last one so there's nobody else out there for kids to see kick that way. Now, the coach goes over to the soccer team, and recruits his placekicker. Then they go and get coached in that style, and that's how it's done....

The problem is you can't find a square-toed shoe anymore. No one makes a square-toed shoe."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Degree of Difficulty

What's harder?

Placekicking or punting?
"Punting for sure. You can be a real, real effective kicker if you have great technique. Leg strength doesn’t help and make up for some flaws. I’ve seen a lot of guys with not-superior legs that have been excellent kickers. As a punter, I think you have to be very athletic. You’re really trying to hit a moving target. When you drop that ball in the middle of the air when you’re in the second half of your last stride, not only are you moving as you go to plant, but the ball is moving – which is being affected by not only gravity, but maybe the wind, the height you drop it, and what kind of influences you put on the ball when you drop it. Then you’ve got to meet at this three dimensional point - your foot to the ball. Whereas in field goal kicking that ball theoretically, if the holder is doing his job, should be sitting in the same spot, looking the same way every time. I do think punting is more difficult. I think it takes a little more athleticism. Not to say that kickers aren’t good athletes, because they are, but if they swing the same every time they should hit good balls. As a punter, there’s a lot more that goes into the equation." - Travis Dorsch

Punting or triathalon?
"[laughs] it depends how you want to define “hard”, my friend! I think you need to be more focused, in the moment, as a punter. You get out there and your job is going to take you anywhere from 2.0 to 2.2 seconds to perform. From that snap, until you catch it, until you punt it you’ve got to be on – everything has to be perfect. When I go on an Ironman there’s a little more freedom to float, if you will, eventually. But you have to be ready to be in pain for ten or eleven hours. It’s a different kind of hard, but there both difficult." - Travis Dorsch

Lacrosse, soccer, or football?
There’s no sport that puts in more practice time than football. I think if you compare the amount of hours you put into football to any other sport it’s just so much more. I think that’s why it’s a great result too. Then obviously there is a different flow to lacrosse and soccer games. Football is so complicated; it is a difficult sport for a lot of people to pick up." - Steven Hauschka

Football or neuroscience?
"Good question. I guess kicking a football comes easier to me than a lot of things. It’s one of those things that you’ve got to keep simple. You can make it as complicated as you want. In neuroscience you’re constantly analyzing things at the smallest levels of detail. When it comes to kicking you can’t really analyze things at that same level of detail or else you’ll go crazy. At some point you’ve got to be an athlete. I guess I have to go with neuroscience is harder."  - Steven Hauschka

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Divisive Sunday of Kicking is Here

NFL Divisional playoffs...

Two games...

Four kickers...

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
Seahawks new kicker Ryan Longwell
"I told all my teammates in Minnesota when we played here in the preseason last year that the highlight of my day was having Chip Hanauer raising the 12th Man flag. I grew up here watching the hydroplanes, watching the Seahawks, the Mariners and the Sonics back then.... It's kind of an honor to put on the helmet that you grew up watching....
I just kind of had a feeling even though I hadn't played this year that something was going to happen. I didn't know where, but for it to happen in this way and in this place is pretty special."
Falcons kicker Matt Bryant
"Enjoy watching us in January."
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Texans kicker Shayne Graham
"I am getting a lot of field-goal attempts, and any time you can change the scoreboard you feel good about it. I know, everybody wants touchdowns, but the offense has been putting me in a position to score, so that's a good thing. It's not like I'm doing anything out of the ordinary....
I'm zero-for-zero again. That's the way it is for kickers. The past is the past, and even the future doesn't matter. It's just the present, the process you go every time you kick. When [kickers] get opportunities, we need to make the best of them, whether it's the regular season or the playoffs....

It doesn't matter who's on the other side of the ball. What matters are the goal posts.... We're in the same situation here, and I think guys remember what happened [between the Patriots and the Jets] without me making a big deal out of it. That's why we play. This is a different game. It doesn't matter what happened up there the last time."
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski
"There’s pressure on every game, so [the playoffs are] another game, with just a lot more consequences. I think it helps you intensify your focus a little bit, so you try to use that to your advantage. You never want to worry about consequences, just doing your job, and control what you can control. That’s just how I approach things....
Nobody puts more pressure on themselves than I do myself, so anything that anyone says or does doesn’t affect me as much as my own standards and goals. Just like every other player on this team, I want to win. You want to do well, you work hard to make sure that you can come through for the team whenever you get a chance to play....

No season’s the same, anything can happen. I just show up and play. These opportunities don’t come all the time, and we’ve been spoiled if you’ve played here for a while. You just want to take advantage of the situation, because you never know when it’s going to be your last playoff game, so you want to do well."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Divisive Saturday of Kicking is Here

NFL Divisional playoffs...

Two games...

Five kickers...

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker
“There’s a number of things we think about each week depending on where we’re playing. When we’re at home we have the artificial turf. That’s a constant surface. When we go on the road somewhere with a grass field, like Denver, that’s one of the things we’ll think about. We’ll practice outside as much as we can....

[regarding altitude] Yeah, the main priority is hitting the ball straight. However far it carries is however far it carries. That goes back to hitting a straight ball, first and foremost.... [when paying against the University of Colorado in college] We didn't have the same conditions we'll have this week, which is 15 to 20 degrees and some precipitation. We've got our resident meteorologist, [kicking coach] Randy Brown, on the case. We'll be preparing and focusing on hitting a straight ball."
Broncos kicker Matt Prater
[from this past summer after signing a new contract] "It feels amazing. It's something I've worked for since I was a little kid. As far as the process, it's kind of tough, especially when the practices started because I wanted to be there. But in the end I knew it was going to get done. I'm excited to be back.... I'm pretty confident in what I can do. I'm excited to get back to work and being around everybody....

Maybe I'll just have to kick extra points this year."
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Packers kicker Mason Crosby
"I feel like fundamentally, some of the games I was 2 for 3, I'd hit two good balls and then one that just wasn't what I wanted," Crosby said Thursday. "There's a lot of positives with that, that I'm hitting the ball pretty well. Just unfortunately, there were a couple that jumped out in games that I obviously want to make and need to make. For me, it's really just fine-tuning that, and I feel like I've done that the last few weeks here. I've been consistent and that's my job - be consistent....

“For me, it’s about finishing everything. I finished the regular season strong, and now it’s finishing these playoffs and every opportunity I have. I’m thankful to be here. Consistency is the name of the game, and these last few weeks I’ve felt good with that, and it’s the playoffs now. I have to be consistent, be solid and take advantage here.”
 49ers kicker David Akers, who got the starting nod over Billy Cundiff
"People talk about my demeanor being down. Listen, I take my job seriously. I feel when I miss kicks, I let the team, the organization, the fans down. I take it personal. I guess sometimes I care too much about it. It seemed like I could never get the consistency where we wanted it to kind of get the snowball in a good direction." - Akers last week

"We feel confident in David giving us the best chance to win. [Billy Cundiff] has done a nice job. David's done a better job and is more prepared to give us the best chance to win." - Head coach Jim Harbaugh this Thursday

Thursday, January 10, 2013

American Football Kicking Hall of Fame 2013 Inductees Announced

The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame 2013 inductees are Fred Mitchell, Dr. Stephen O’Neal and Reggie Roby. They will be honored during the All-Area Football Banquet presented by the Augusta Sports Council and The Augusta Chronicle, on January 17, 2013 at 7:00 pm in Augusta, Georgia.

The American Football Kicking Hall of Fame was created in 2008 to recognize the individuals who excelled as kickers, to educate the public on the historic contributions of the kicking game, promote the advancement of kickers as strategic playmakers, and provide an arena to honor the players who put the “special” in special teams. The Hall of Fame features two categories – athletes and contributors. Contributors can be a coach or any other individual who has greatly contributed to the success of kicking in American football.

Fred Mitchell
A published author, Chicago Tribune sports columnist, philanthropist, inventor, and namesake of the Fred Mitchell Award are just a handful of accomplishments to describe the range of Fred Mitchell’s contribution to the world of writing and sports. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Mitchell grew up in Gary, Indiana.  While attending Tolleston High School he earned letters in baseball, track and football and graduated with honors at the age of 16.  From there he attended Wittenberg University in Ohio where he became the nation’s top collegiate place-kicker.  At Wittenberg University, Mitchell lettered in football and track and was named to the Lutheran College All-America team in 1968 after setting the NCAA College Division record for career kick scoring. He was inducted into Wittenberg’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.

After college, Mitchell coached and taught English at Grove City High School and also played semi-pro football in Columbus and Chicago Heights.  Mitchell joined the Chicago Tribune in 1974 as a beat writer covering the Cubs, Bulls and Bears, becoming the only reporter in Tribune history to handle the three major sports as a main assignment. Named in his honor, “The Fred Mitchell Award” is an annual national award that is given to an outstanding kicker during the National Football Foundation ceremony. The award recognizes excellence on the football field, as well as community service. Mitchell lives in Chicago with his wife, Kim, and son, Cameron.

Dr. Stephen O’Neal
In 1966 Stephen O’Neal accepted a track scholarship to Texas A&M, only to discover that he also had a talent for punting a football.  During college he lettered in both football and track, and became a first-team All-American as a punter. After college he was drafted by the 1969 New York Jets where he ended up making NFL history.  During his second ever professional game, O’Neal lined up deep in his own end zone and made the longest possible punt in football, 98 yards, a record that still stands today. O’Neal played for the Jets for a total of four years and later played for New Orleans. During his 6th year in the NFL, his career ended due to a tore cartilage in his knee.  Needing only ten weeks to graduate from dental school, O’Neal decided to continue his education and graduated from the University of Tennessee Dental School 1974. Today, Dr. O’Neal is a fulltime dentist in Bryan, Texas and a lifelong Aggie.  He and Judy, his wife of 37 years, have two daughters.

Reggie Roby
Reginald “Reggie” Roby (1961-2005) excelled in both football and baseball while growing up in Waterloo, Iowa.  He played both sports while attending Waterloo East High School and was later drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as a pitcher but instead he chose to attend the University of Iowa and play football where he would later become an All-American punter.  In 1981, Roby set a record for average punting distance with 49.8 yards, helping lead Iowa to its first winning season in 20 years, and a share of the Big Ten Championship. After college, Roby was a sixth-round pick in 1983 by the Miami Dolphins, where he played until 1992. During the 1980’s he was selected as punter for the NFL’s All-Decade Team and attended 3 Pro Bowls. After playing for the Miami Dolphins, Roby continued his career with the Washington Redskins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was with the Oilers for their final season in Houston and their first in Tennessee, and then wrapped up his career in 1999 in San Francisco. Before his death in 2005, Roby was the marketing development director for Backfield in Motion, a non-profit organization that combines athletics and academics to inspire inner-city boys to reach their maximum potential and become significant contributors to society.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Big Bowl Kicks 2012-13

A review of notable kicking from this year's college bowl games:

Last year at this time senior kicker Jeremy Shelley was kicking lots of field goals. This year it was extra points... six of them, as Alabama defeated Notre Dame 42-14 to win the National Championship. 

Junior punter Cody Mandell was also a factor, averaging 49.3 yards on four punts, with a long of 55 yards and placing two of them inside the twenty yard line.

Junior kicker Chandler Catanzaro hit a 37 yard field goal as time expired to give Clemson a 25-24 win over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"I was hoping that I'd get a chance. It's a great feeling to win a game like this. It was unbelievable. I have to thank the team for setting me up. It seemed like that last drive was meant to be."
Kicking on less than ideal field conditions, junior Ross Krautman contributed ten points (two FGs and four PATs) to Syracuse's 38-14 win over West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Senior kicker Dan Conroy's 47 yard field goal with 1:01 remaining gave Michigan State a 17-16 win over TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
"With so many close games and losing like we did during the season, to have one go our way was definitely sweet."
Sophomore kicker Ryan Bustin hit a 28 yard field goal as time expired to lift Texas Tech to a 34-31 win over Minnesota in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.
“It was an up and down game the whole night, and I was just glad I could put it through the uprights for these seniors.”
Junior kicker Cody Journell's 22 yard field goal in overtime gave Virginia Tech a 13-10 win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Both freshman Blue Devil specialists set Belk Bowl records during Dukes' 48-34 loss to Cincinnati. Punter Will Monday's 79 yarder is now the longest punt and kicker Ross Martin's 52 yarder is now the longest field goal.
“I was completely focused for that kick. I’ve done it a hundred times before."
Several Little Caesars Bowl kicking records were broken or tied in this year's game which Central Michigan won 24-21 over Western Kentucky. Hilltoppers junior punter Hendrix Brakefield hit a record long 74 yard punt, only to see that broken on the next possession when Chippewas junior punter Richie Hogan launched an 82 yarder. Chippewas senior kicker David Harman tied the bowl record for longest field goal with a 50 yarder. He now shares that record with Stephen Gostkowski (Memphis, 2005).

Senior kicker Michael Frisina hit a 27 yard field goal with 1:16 remaining to lift Boise State to a 28-26 win over Washington in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
“I’ve seen a lot of my friends growing up through the years that I’ve known from kicking get game-winning opportunities. Man, I wonder what that would be like? That must be awesome. It’s every kicker’s dream to hit a game-winning field goal....
Are there butterflies? Sure. If there’s not, then there’s something wrong with you....
[walking toward the spot] That way when you look at the goal posts it’s almost like they’re getting bigger even though they’re not. You’ve got to do little things like that to make the kick easier for yourself....

Read more here:
I knew I made it right when I hit it. I don’t know where it ended up. I just knew it went through the goalposts — that’s all that matters. The only way I think it would have been better is if there was no time on the clock.”

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:
Senior kicker Brett Baer made field goals of 50, 25 & 40 yards in Louisiana-Lafayette's 43-34 win over East Carolina in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

Senior punter Riley Stephenson placed six punts inside the 20 yard line, including four inside the five-yard-line and two at the one-yard-line, in BYU's 23-6 win over San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl.
"A lot of times when you are inside the 50, you can’t just get ahold of it and boom it. You just gotta drop it in the corner and hopefully it stays inside the 10. So it is not much of a kick, but look what it did tonight."

Monday, January 7, 2013

And the winners are... Abby Wambach & Lionel Messi

Zurich was the setting for this year's FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala. It culminated with the winners of the 2012 FIFA player awards...

Women’s World Player of Year: Abby Wambach
"I really didn’t expect this. Thanks to FIFA and President Blatter for having us. Pia (Sundhage), coaching staff and the medical staff as well, thank you.

Most importantly, winning any individual award is a total product of the team that you play for. I’ve never scored a goal without receiving a pass from somebody else. Thanks to all the fans out there who continue to inspire me and the rest of the team to win as many games as we can."

Ballon d'Or: Lionel Messi
"To tell you the truth, this is really quite unbelievable. The fourth award that I have had is just too great for words. I would like to recognise my other colleagues from Barcelona; Andres it has been great to train and play alongside you. I would also like to recognise all of my friends in the Argentinian national team, everyone that has worked with me, coaches and staff and my family and my friends. Also my wife and my son. Thank you."

Championship Preview - Kyle Brindza, Jeremy Shelley & Cade Foster

8:00 pm ET tonight.

National Championship game.

Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

Jeremy Shelley, Crimson Tide short-range kicker
Shelley made five field goals to open the scoring in last year's national championship game, which Alabama won 21-0 over LSU.
"Even after I hit four (field goals), it was just two touchdowns and they could still win. It was never really out of hand.... For the team's sake, hopefully my role won't be quite as (big), but going back to last year and thinking about it, it was a lot of fun. It breeds a lot of confidence, and I feel extremely ready for this game."
For this year's game, he's already assessing the environmental conditions:
“Whatever they say, it’s always different in the stadium. I always look at the weather and the wind and check the flight of the ball during warmups, then make any adjustments.... Looking at the field now, it looks immaculate. It’s not slippery. Some fields are looser than others. [Sun Life Stadium] is enclosed, so wind won’t be a big factor. ”
Kyle Brindza, Fighting Irish kicker
For Brindza, he's exactly where he always wanted to be:
“My biggest dream growing up went beyond, say, kicking in the Super Bowl or the national championship. My biggest dream was kicking in the national championship for Notre Dame — being able to run out of the tunnel and onto the field in that gold helmet. The kicker’s dream is being able to go out there and kick in a game like this.... As a kid, it’s always your dream to play in the national championship and, for me, to be able to kick a field goal in the national championship. When you’re under pressure, you have to go out there and make it. It forces you to make the correct decisions on your approach and your fundamentals.”
If he looks nervous during the game itself, he's probably not:
“I’m a pacer, I wouldn’t say a nervous pacer … we’re all football players, wanting to know what’s going in the game every second, even when on sidelines trying to listen to what’s going on, what the coach is saying to the players on the sidelines. I’m always analyzing myself, always getting mental reps. Everything is on you. I love it when people put odds against me. I’m one of those kids who invites pressure because you have to make it.... There’s also a sense of sit down, relax … it’s not a situation where you get five plays to go out there to make a kick. You get one chance. You truly have to sit back and relax.” 
Cade Foster, Crimson Tide long-range kicker
Like both other kickers, Foster is ready:
“I really like [the Sun Life Stadium field]. It’s solid. It’s like the green on a golf course. It’s not slippery, either. That’s good for planting (your foot)....

 We know it could come down to us, but we’re not putting pressure on ourselves. If it does come down to us, we’ll be ready.”

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wild Weekend of Kicking Looms

One wild card weekend...

Four games...

Eight kickers...

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Bengals kicker Josh Brown
"The postseason is about staying healthy and finding ways to win. Get your body ready to go, because once sixth gear kicks in, you better be ready. It’s a battle. It’s one and done. You’ve got to win four in a row to make it to victory lane. That’s the goal....

I’ve gained something by the opportunity of being here, but I haven’t got where I want to be yet,” Brown said. “I don’t have a contract. I don’t have a full-season run. And that’s what I want next year. So I’ve still got personal goals to achieve, and I’ve got to help the team out by achieving those goals."
Texans kicker Shayne Graham returns to the city where he played the majority of his NFL career. As a Bengal from 2003 to 2009, Graham made 177 of 204 (86.8%) field goals and 248 of 251 extra points.

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Vikings kicker Blair Walsh
"I want to go in there and have a good showing. I remember leaving that stadium dejected from the fact that we lost [23-14 on December 2nd], and the fact that I missed my only attempt. So I’m definitely motivated to go back in there and have a successful game this time.... 

You’ve just got to prepare to know that you’re going to be cold and you’re going to be uncomfortable, and then put it out of your mind once the game starts. You can’t be sitting there thinking about how cold it is and how miserable your body feels. You’ve got to make sure you’re staying warm, staying loose and ready to go at any point."
Packers kicker Mason Crosby
"I have plenty of motivation. This is what I do for a living. This is what I love to do. I look at my teammates every day. I didn’t have to look at another kicker to say I want to make kicks, I want to get my job done. I look at the guys in this locker room and the group of guys that I get to come to work with very day, and that was enough motivation for me....

[37-34 loss to Vikings last week] hurt us. We wanted to win last week. We put a lot into it, a lot of heart into that game. For us, it’s a quick move on. We get another crack at it here, at home, at Lambeau, and you can feel it from the guys here that we’re ready to make a run."
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens
Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri
"I remember then [during 15-6 playoff win over Ravens in 2006], just as now, they have a really good defense and we had a tough time getting it into the end zone that game. Fortunately, we made more field goals and had more attempts than they did. It turned out pretty good that day....

In playoff games, you always have a lot of good teams playing. Games become a little tighter. Each individual play maybe means a little bit more and so every opportunity that you get, you have to make the best of it...

I think a lot of people outside of this building were surprised at where we’re at right now. I don’t think anybody in this room had any anticipations other than where we’re at right now. There’s been some ups and downs and some crazy things that have happened this year. Chuck [Pagano] battling through the cancer thing and [Bruce Arians] stepping in. It’s been an interesting year but it’s been ever rewarding for us all. I think the book is not done being written yet."
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker
"The words [Ray Lewis] shared with us today were all about loyalty, winning this, starting with game one, starting inside-out from this locker room. Anything he has to say, you're going to listen to and take to heart. I think that's what everybody did today."
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka
"I knew I was good enough to do it. I just needed some time to develop. I had all the skills but it’s hard going out there as a rookie or a second-year guy. Baltimore didn’t really give me the time to develop that I thought they should have. It was a playoff team, so they weren’t thinking that they’d want me to deal with that. But I’m glad that I had that experience because now it’s all that much better being here with the Seahawks and being comfortable and having good success here....

If it was up to me, I’d love to stay here. I’ve got a great snapper in Clint Gresham and holder with Jon Ryan. Being able to work with them every single day is a real treat and Coach [Brian] Schneider, our special teams coach, has also been a huge help to me. I like Seattle a lot. I like the organization and all the players on the team. It’s a great group of guys so I’d love to stay here."
Redskins kicker Kai Forbath
"I wasn’t awake [after late flight and arriving earlier in the morning for job tryout back in October] . But when you get out there and that’s about to happen, that wakes you up.... I’m probably the underdog here. I got nothing to lose. I might as well go out and not let nerves or anything get in the way. I’m just going to kick it....

You can’t take any kick too easy. You got to stay focused. Because guys are out there making the majority of their kicks. There’s guys that are waiting for that opportunity when you mess up. I know. Because I was one of them waiting."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kicking in the Snow

It's January which means it's time to take a look back at several memorable football games, all three of which prominently featured snow and kicking.

1950 Michigan vs. Ohio State
“It was like a nightmare.  My hands were numb (and blue).  I had no feeling in them and I don’t know how I hung onto the ball.  It was terrible.  You knew what you wanted to do, but you couldn’t do it.” 
 - Vic Janowicz, Ohio State HB/K/P

2007 Cleveland vs. Buffalo

"When this organization set out nine years ago, it kind of envisioned this is what Cleveland Browns football is all about," Dawson said. "A game late in the year, at home, with a chance to go to the playoffs in just horrible weather and the Browns coming out on top." 
- Browns kicker Phil Dawson

2001 New England vs. Oakland

"I kind of line-drived it, but when I looked up I knew it was going to be straight enough. I had to wait to see if it would be long enough. It was time to be happy after that." 
- Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

NFL Week 17: Assorted Kicking Tidbits & Milestones

Saints punter Thomas Morstead set the New Orleans franchise season record with a 50.1 yard punt average, only the sixth time in NFL history a punter has averaged over 50 yards. Sammy Baugh holds the record of 51.4 yards set in 1940.

With his 54 yarder against Green Bay, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh extended his NFL record for most 50+ yard field goals in a season to ten.

Titans punter Brett Kern set the franchise season records in gross punting average (47.6) and net punting average (40.4).

Lions kicker Jason Hanson set the Detroit season scoring record with 134 points this season, surpassing the previous record of 132 points set by himself in 1995.

Jaguars punter Bryan Anger set NFL rookie records for gross punting average (47.8) and net average (40.8) this season.

Bengals kicker Josh Brown scored 11 points against the Ravens, raising his career scoring total to 1003 points.
"I did not know that. Cool. That means I'm about 1,600 away from the all-time leader. That's a guesstimate right there. I think it's Morten Andersen. I'm 33. He retired at 48. I've got a ways to go. It's great to be able to do it and do it here and help this team going.... A lot of things have contributed. The consistency I'm building, the opportunities I'm getting, the coaching from Darrin (Simmons) has been really beneficial to me and I wouldn't give a lot of special teams coaches that credit, quite honestly. I've got a great holder, a great snapper."
Brown is currently 50th on the all-time scoring list, trailing 49th place Jeff Jaeger by five points. Morten Andersen is indeed atop the list, with 2544 points.