After big misses, kickers must move on
To all the college kickers out there who botched a boot — and this season, there have been quite a few — there is life after all the threats, hate mail and Twitter vitriol.
At the moment, that may not comfort Stanford’s Jordan Williamson, the redshirt freshman who missed three kicks, including one at the end of regulation and another in overtime, in Monday’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
Ditto for Virginia Tech’s Justin Myer, who before the Sugar Bowl, had attempted just two field goals. Even though he made four last night, his lone miss, in overtime, opened the door for Michigan’s 23-20 win.
It might not even comfort Blair Walsh, Cade Foster or Jeremy Shelley, kickers who cost their teams big games.
And in a moment of deja vu, Boise State watched as Dan Goodale missed a field goal against TCU for its only loss.
But if Boise State alumnus Kyle Brotzman can move on, so can Williamson and his fellow kickers.
The ex-Bronco will forever be linked to his two misses against Nevada in 2010 that cost the program an unbeaten season and the chance at a BCS bowl.
"[Williamson] has three more years and the chance to write a different story for his career," Brotzman told The Daily. "I’d tell him to keep his head up, to surround himself with family and friends that will help you get through it. Things will get better."
Brotzman, who said he’s going to reach out to Williamson, is the ideal person to talk about getting through the pain. He spent last year kicking for the Arena Football League’s Utah Blaze, with the goal of making an NFL roster someday.
Dan Mowrey’s wide right against Miami in 1992 ended Florida State’s national title hopes, but he took away positives.
"Missing wide right was probably one the greatest things that happened to me," said Mowrey, now a lawyer in Florida. "It made me realize that things in life aren’t cheap. They don’t come easy."
Only kickers can truly understand the kind of pressure they face in every game.
Brotzman echoed Mowrey’s comments, describing the feeling as like being on "your own island."
"You have to want that glory and you have to understand that you’re going to be the goat," Mowrey said. "If you don’t relish that pressure and opportunity, find another thing to do."
Scott Bentley, Mowrey’s successor at Florida State, thinks life on an island can actually help heal a miss.
"Everyone says it’s a team game, but kickers need to be selfish. When they’re selfish, they’ll help the team succeed," the ex-Seminole said. "You’ve got to form a chip on your shoulder."
Bentley spent the beginning of the 1993 season struggling to hit extra points, leading then-head coach Bobby Bowden to remind him that there was another kicker on the roster if he couldn’t do his job.
So Bentley changed his routine by limiting his reps in practice and the way he aimed. Eventually, he booted the game-winner in the Orange Bowl for the 1993 national champions and went on to a brief career in the NFL.
Walsh missed two field goals in overtime in Georgia’s 33-30 loss in the Outback Bowl, while Alabama’s Foster and Shelley combined to miss four kicks in Alabama’s 9-6 loss to LSU earlier this season.
The suffering kickers can also take a page out of Quinn Sharp’s book. The Oklahoma State kicker missed one late in a game against Iowa State that eventually ended the Cowboys’ undefeated season, but he hit the game-winner on Monday.
Ultimately, they can lean on a brotherhood that can sympathize and help them through the pain. These days, Brotzman can live in Boise without a problem. But he still knows the results of a mistake come with the territory.
"Everyone’s spotlight is on your kick," he said. "It sucks, but that’s what we’ve signed up for."