the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, January 30, 2015

Definitive Preview Guide to Super Bowl XLIX

With Super Bowl XLIX 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.

New England Patriots

Long snapper: Danny Aiken
  • In the beginning: "There once was a time in Aiken’s football career when he was the guy taking the snap, not making it. He was a quarterback in high school for Cave Spring, in Roanoke, Va. One day, his coach decided to have a 'skills competition.' One of those skills was trying to snap a ball into a bag 10 to 15 yards away. 'I didn’t know what I was doing,' Aiken said. But he hit the target and, although he didn’t know it then, he had found his ticket to the NFL. Aiken spent  a year after high school at Fork Union Military Academy, where he played tight end and began to work seriously on becoming a deep snapper. He quickly became so proficient at it that, when he went to the University of Virginia, he won the job as a freshman and was the deep snapper in all 49 games the Cavaliers played in his four years in Charlottesville."
  • The big game: "Aiken hardly ever is asked to talk with the media in the locker room, but found himself answering questions for a pair of Seattle Seahawks cheerleaders. 'I don't know what that was all about,' Aiken said with a laugh. 'I guess they say you have to make yourself available, right. They didn't get anything from me other than some dance moves'.... The Patriots seemed to really embrace Media Day this year, perhaps a good omen in advance of Sunday's super showdown. 'It's packed tight and a little hot, but it is what it is,' Aiken said. 'Everyone has their job to do and we're coming in here and doing the same thing. Then we'll focus on what we need to do'."
  • Beyond football: "The Puppy Bowl is a highlight on Super Bowl day, just about as much as watching the real game itself, for kids, animal lovers and softies at heart. But, the New England Patriots got in on the 'cute' action when they teamed with Animal Planet in 2014 as a part of the 'Road to the Puppy Bowl.' Players such as Danny Aiken and Stephen Gostkowski, helped Animal Planet spread the message about adoption, not only in the local Massachusetts area, but also throughout the country."
Punter & holder: Ryan Allen
  • In the beginning: "Allen focused on playing shooting guard for the basketball team at West Salem High School in Oregon, and didn’t play football until his friends nudged him into trying it his junior year. 'It’s crazy. I was playing basketball and a bunch of my friends were playing football and they didn’t have a kicker, so I figured I could pick it up easily,' said Allen.'The rest is history. It’s crazy how it unfolds. I’m blessed.' Allen played soccer until high school and said that background helped him transition to punting."
  • The big game: "University of Phoenix Stadium will provide a controlled environment for Allen, who says the pristine conditions provide 'a little extra room for error.' Super Bowls are known for wild proposition bets – from predicting the coin toss to what player scores the first touchdown of the game. If you're considering taking a flier on Allen, don't. Allen has gifted feet, but they are for kicking, not running. An earth-shattering fake punt or fake field goal from No. 6 seems unlikely. 'I have cankles, so I don't have 4.4 speed,' he said, 'We're ready for everything; we practice certain situations. But I'm not the double-reverse type of guy. I don't think I'm their guy for that'."
  • Beyond football: "Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever been? 'I love Balboa Island, in southern California, right by Orange County. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times. And Palm Springs'. Do you have a list of places you’d like to visit? 'Yeah, I’d like to see the Colorado area more. I’ve visited Telluride. I’m a big mountain guy. I love the snow, being in the mountains. Whistler is another place I’d like to go back to [in Vancouver]. Honestly, come to think of it, that’s probably my favorite place."
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
  • In the beginning: "Gostkowski has a soccer background and used that to his advantage when he started kicking for the football team in high school. Even still, he went to Memphis on a partial baseball scholarship and walked on to the football team, which eventually rewarded him with a full scholarship. Because of his unique road to the NFL, Gostkowski understands one missed field goal isn’t the end of the world, and the low points can be much, much lower than this. 'I’ve missed plenty of kicks in my career, going back to the first day I ever started it,' Gostkowski said. 'I missed like 10 field goals my senior year of high school and didn’t get any scholarship offers'."
  • The big game: "Gostkowski is still searching for that big game-winning field goal in the Super Bowl, but he said he isn’t overthinking this weekend’s championship. 'What we’ve done so far has been good enough to get us here and I’m keeping with that same approach,' Gostkowski said. 'For me personally, mentally, just being ready to go for this game is what I’m concentrating on. … I’m not going to let a game, just because it’s a bigger game, change what I do. I’ve been practicing at this my whole life. Sunday will be Gostkowski’s third Super Bowl with the Patriots. He said his goal is simple: 'I just want to go out there and give good kickoffs for my team and give the kickoff team a chance to make a big play and try to split the uprights every time I go out there'."
  • Beyond football: "Gostkowski is visiting patients at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence. Gostkowski will meet with patients and their families, and sign autographs as part of his 'Kick 4 Kids Challenge' to benefit the hospital. Through December 31, Gostkowski will match any and all donations to Hasbro Children's Hospital, up to $10,000. Donors who contribute $100, $500 or $1,000 will receive a gift from Gostkowski."
Seattle Seahawks

Long snapper: Clint Gresham
  • In the beginning: "As a high schooler, Gresham wanted to play college football. His father had played at the University of Texas. Football was in his blood. His only problem was that he hadn’t figured out a way to compete at the next level. 'I was kind of a jack of all trades,' says Gresham, who acted as a bit of a Swiss Army Knife for W.B. Ray High School in Corpus Christi, TX. 'I played quarterback, tight end, tackle, guard, defensive end.'... Becoming a long snapper wasn’t necessarily something Gresham knew he’d stay with long-term. Really, how could he have possibly known? What 16-year-old star of his high school team wakes up one day and says, 'You know what, guys? Today, I am going to become a long snapper'? 'I was really just looking for a way to beef up my résumé,' he explains. 'I ordered this VHS tape and I just taught myself how to [snap] in the backyard'.”
  • The big game: "Are you serious?!  Honestly, I know I wasn’t the only one who cried, laughed, threw up and lay on the ground in utter shock at the conclusion of the NFC Championship game. That game had more shocking and unimaginable plays than you would see in an entire season. I heard somewhere that the odds of us winning that game was under 1 percent. Whoa! That game will go down as the most exciting game I have ever been a part of. This past week I saw pictures of people who left the game early and were trying to get back in. I have come to the conclusion that Seattle will never have a problem of fans leaving a game early again (ha ha). So that leaves me here. Sitting at the Arizona Grand in sunny Phoenix. Still pinching myself over this opportunity."
  • Beyond football: "Gresham heard about a Brazilian soccer player at the World Cup who passed around a DVD with his Christian testimony. Gresham spoke to Dr. Karl Payne about doing something similar "to use the platform God's given us to share our faith" and 'The Making of a Champion' resulted. Gresham and Wilson are joined in the video by fellow players Russell Okung, who plays tackle, and Chris Maragos, a free safety, as well as Rocky Seto, defensive passing game coordinator, and Sherman Smith, the running backs coach."
Punter & holder: Jon Ryan
  • In the beginning: "Ryan has come a long way from kicking a football around in Regina parks, but one thing hasn’t changed, his family will be there to cheer him on in Sunday’s Super Bowl. Barb Ryan said even when her son was little he tackled everything with a unique intensity and focus. Going back to when he was seven years old she still remembers how many hours he would spend at the park even after all the other kids went home. 'It was just Jon, the guy who never gets tired of what he’s interested in and he was just out there with a football so he’d kick it and kick it,' she laughed. 'He would kick it and try to catch his own punts so he got quite fast too'.”
  • The big game: "This season, he also threw a touchdown pass to rookie tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal for the Seahawks’ first touchdown in the NFC Championship game against his former team and ran for a first down on another fake field goal in a 'Monday Night Football' game against the Washington Redskins in Week 5. Now, he’s preparing to punt in his second consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday against the New England Patriots. 'This week is kind of a pinch-myself moment,' he said. 'But any game I get to play in the NFL, I never take it for granted. Because where I come from there’s a lot guys that would trade places with me in a heartbeat. I played with thousands of guys in Regina, where there’s a strong minor football organization. Tons of kids play, and I’m fortunate enough to be the only kid to come out of there to make it to the NFL. So I’ll never forget that, and never forget where I came from'.''
  • Beyond football: "Jon Ryan, his brother Steve (a University of Regina Rams 2007 graduate), and their family have created a scholarship in their father's name. The Bob Ryan Scholarship has been created to not only help alleviate the financial pressure of student athletes playing for the University of Regina Rams Football Club, but to also help those in need of support of cancer care and treatment at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre."
Kicker: Steven Hauschka
  • In the beginning:  "I always remember being a good soccer player. I started playing soccer when I was two or three. We had those soccer nets, like the hockey goals were soccer nets. I remember being the goalkeeper and being able to shoot at the other goal from my goal. I kicked the ball pretty well from a young age.... "I kicked a couple footballs in eighth grade, just messing around once with my friends, but that was just one day only. I played soccer in high school and in my freshman year at college. Then I started kicking footballs, to try to win a position on the football team, the summer between my freshman and sophomore years."
  • The big game: "He was inspired by watching Adam Vinatieri kick through slush and snow in the Snow Bowl against the Oakland Raiders, and commemorated the game with a poster in the bedroom of his Needham home.... You think Sunday’s game means a little bit to talented Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka? 'I figured because they’re so good that we’d be facing them at some point,' Hauschka said. 'It’s a dream come true, really. Winning the Super Bowl last year was incredible and now getting back here against the Patriots is special for me and my family.' A family of Patriots fans. His parents — Barbara is a dentist, Peter is a retired scientist — will be rooting for their son. Hauschka’s childood friends will be rooting for him, but not for the Seahawks. And that Vinatieri poster? It is signed by Vinatieri."
  • Beyond football: "Steve and I [wife Lindsey] love being involved in any charitable work we can. We are fortunate in this stage of our life that we have so much time to help others.  I am on the leadership board of the Seahawks Women’s Association and I co-chaired Football 101 for the past few years. Steve and I are also involved with Medical Teams International and are co-chairing their Field of Dreams Auction this June with two other couples.  I also work with Mary’s Place to help them open a new shelter this winter as part of the No Child Sleeps Outside Campaign.  Steve is involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and loves meeting Make-a-Wish kids who come into the team’s facility."

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