the study of the kicking components within sports

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Definitive Preview Guide to Super Bowl XLVII

With Super Bowl XLVII almost here, the media blitz has been in full force. For those that don't have the time to read, listen to, and watch the vast array of available information, Kickology provides you with the following essential pre-game information. Once you've read this, you will be fully prepared to enjoy the game.

Baltimore Ravens

Long snapper: Morgan Cox
  • In the beginning: "Morgan got his start as a snapper in the 5th grade when his youth football coach called all the players on his team and had an open tryout to find a long snapper. They ask those interested to snap one at a time. When it was Morgan’s turn, he did not perform well. His father, Wright, happened to be attending his practice that day and offered him a few tips. Morgan, being the competitive person he is, went back to the coach a few minutes later and asked for an additional tryout. The coach, impressed with Morgan’s determination, let him have another shot at it. This time –with his father’s tips in hand- he did so well the coach was impressed enough to make him the starting snapper."
  • The big game: "It certainly has been a surreal experience. There is often times where you can’t even dream that big. This is one of those times. As a kid, certainly you’d be watching the Super Bowl but to an extent you’re not sure you could ever make it there. But then once you get here it is like, ‘How could have I ever dreamed this?’ It has been such a special experience."
  • Beyond football: "I think it’s fair to say that [Cornhole, a.k.a. Bags] has been a secret to our success.... Sam [Koch] took it to another level. He raised the bar for everybody else."
Punter & holder: Sam Koch
  • In the beginning: "Koch forged his own style after getting the basics from his father, then shunned summer kicking camps to make sure nobody messed with what already worked for him. Since high school, he's always considered punting to be a big deal, and people have always been encouraging. 'A lot of people back in high school would say, 'I've never seen anybody punt like that,' Koch said. 'Friends always thought it was awesome to see me kick like that. Ever since high school, I've just always wanted to go somewhere to punt.' By 'going somewhere', Koch meant NCAA Division I-A. So the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder turned down Division II offers to play some tight end and linebacker. At Nebraska, Koch started off with a redshirt year before his two seasons behind Kyle Larson."
  • The big game: "Growing up, my lifelong dream was to make it to the Super Bowl. Well, I guess it was first getting to the NFL. I made it to the NFL and now it's getting to that Super Bowl and hoisting that Lombardi. We fell short so many times. We've been in the playoffs six out of my seven years here, and we've been striving and working diligently to get where we are today, and it's very rewarding that we're going to be going down to New Orleans and have a chance at hoisting that Lombardi."
  • Beyond football: "Coming from Nebraska, and it being the Cornhusker State, you automatically think cornhole.... When you pick up a bag and start playing, you have an instant reason to talk to guys and build relationships."
Kicker: Justin Tucker
  • In the beginning: "Tucker's NFL odyssey began here, in the foothills of sparsely populated southwest Virginia, on a small college campus beset on one side by stomach-churning mountain roads and on the other by a scenic interstate. The future Baltimore Ravens kicker was a 15-year old soccer and football player in football-rich Austin, Texas, when his father read a Sports Illustrated article that mentioned Doug Blevins, a man with cerebral palsy who tutored kickers, including Adam Vinatieri. The Tuckers flew the wheelchair-confined Blevins from Virginia to Texas and later sent their son to work with Blevins at Emory and Henry College and near the teacher's home in Abingdon, Va. Justin went on to earn a scholarship to Texas."
  • The big game: "Just thinking about it now, you almost get goose bumps thinking about it. I can tell you, every day when I would go out to the practice fields at Westlake High School with my dad, we always ended on a game-winning field goal. I always end my warm up routine on gamedays with a 48-yarder from the right hash. That's the kick (Adam) Vinatieri made in the Superdome in 2001 I believe. This place right here is where he cemented himself as a Hall of Fame-caliber kicker, which is really a hard thing to do."
  • Beyond football: "He also wanted to pursue a career in music. He dabbles with making beats, and has an affinity for Italian arias. So when it came time to declare a major at the University of Texas, it was a no brainer. He studied recording technology, a degree that requires students to take voice lessons for two years. But the singing didn't stop when he left the classroom. Tucker regularly serenaded his Longhorns teammates with Russian ballads in the showers. 'I guess he loves to hear his voice echo in there or something weird,' said Trey Wier, one of Tucker's long snappers at Texas. 'If he was singing, he was just being loud. Not going to lie, though, it sounded pretty good.' Tucker also forayed into rap on occasion while with the Longhorns. A couple years ago, when Texas' freshmen were hesitant to perform their freshmen skits — an annual team tradition — Tucker hopped on stage and freestyled a few verses. He even recorded a couple tracks with former Longhorns linebacker and current Ravens teammate Sergio Kindle in a makeshift studio he built in a dorm room closet."
San Francisco 49ers

Long snapper: Brian Jennings
  • In the beginning: "Jennings was a tight end in college at Arizona State, but he got into snapping while recovering from an injury. Bored and just goofing around one day at practice, he hiked a few balls. Turns out, he had a knack for it, delivering the ball with surprising speed. 'A couple of my teammates said, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good at that. Why don’t you do that?’ he recalled. 'So I started practicing snapping so I could help my team.' He did it so well that he was picked in the seventh round of the 2000 draft by the 49ers."
  • The big game: "Every rep, you’re trying to be one-for-one. I can do anything once. Now, I don’t know if I have 10,000 snaps left in my career, or 1,000 or 500 or 50. But I don’t know if I could do 100 in a row. That seems like a lot. That seems daunting. But the next one? I can nail the next one."
  • Beyond football: "During the off season, I usually try to come up with projects to occupy my time. This year [2009] I am working out, practicing yoga, instructing yoga, playing golf, and taking a Chemistry class at Scottsdale Community College. On Thursdays I have the Lab section of this class. The Chemistry lecture is pretty serious and I am working on finding a tutor that will help figure this stuff out. Today I discovered that the lady who walks my dog while I'm at school, has been feding my dog some snacks that upset her stomach... if you happened to hang out with my dog please do not feed her anything. Thanks I'm off to the movies with a classy lady."
Punter & holder: Andy Lee
  • In the beginning: "Lee once pictured himself flinging fastballs, not launching punts. Lee was a standout pitcher and center fielder at West-Oak High in Westminster, S.C. - a major-league scout once clocked his fastball at 91 mph - and hoped to play baseball in college. Then, as his punts soared farther and higher, he imagined a two-sport career at the University of Pittsburgh. That vision ended when he entered the all-consuming world of Division I football. He misses baseball, but not enough to bemoan the path he chose. 'I don't think I could have a better job than I have right now,' Lee said."
  • The big game: "If playing in a Super Bowl wasn’t enough, he said, doing it in a domed stadium is. 'It’s a wonderful place,' Lee said. 'It’s a dome. There’s no wind, there’s no weather. For it be in the Super Bowl, it’s even better'."
  • Beyond football: "Lee remains close to family and friends in Westminster [South Carolina]. 'Of course, there will be a lot of activity after the Super Bowl for his team, but we hope to see him home here maybe in mid-February,' said [his father] Chester Lee. 'We are also very proud of Andy in the aspect of his spiritual leadership on the team,' he said. 'After the Atlanta game, I received several Facebook messages commenting that at the end of the game, Andy was the first player to go to midfield and led the team in prayer.' The buzz has started around Westminster that an 'Andy Lee Day' should be held following the Super Bowl, regardless of the outcome. 'He is an outstanding young man, one of our own, sets an example for young and old alike, and we need to honor him,' said local civic leader Sam Dickson who has followed Lee's career since high school."
Kicker: David Akers
  • In the beginning: "I was a soccer player and we were playing school-yard football. We were at the high school field and one of the coach's sons was out there playing with us. I hit a 45-yarder," Akers said. The coach's son went home and told his father. The recruitment was in motion. "The special-teams coach came and talked to me," Akers said. "They taught me a basic keep-your-head-down-and-follow-through technique and I started kicking that next season." Akers' football career started as a junior, but his soccer career did not immediately end. "I played both sports my junior year and they were during the same season," Akers said. The soccer games were on Tuesday and Saturday. Football games were on Friday night. Practice? "We'd have to run two miles to soccer practice and two miles back," Akers said. "When I was finished, I'd go and finish up with the football team. On Thursday there was a study hall for soccer, but I had a good enough GPA that I was able to skip it and go to football practice instead."
  • The big game: "I think any kicker, and any player, will truly say, [he'd] love to have an absolute blowout, because then it's fun the whole time, you just relax. But if it comes down to where you have to make a kick, obviously I'm going to go out and give it the best shot I have and hope that it comes out on the positive side for us. I've never been a guy to guarantee anything. So that's what I'm going to do -- give it the best effort I have."
  • Beyond football: "This is what I do. I enjoy it, I have a lot of pride, I want to have success. I've been doing it for quite a while. But it's not exactly who I am, either. I look at my family, the health we have, the people I have in my life, and we love each other. I look at that and think that my job is great, it's a wonderful experience, but it doesn't necessarily define you as a person."

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