As you can see in the picture (above) my first suggestion to Clayton was to get some new shoes but I had to settle for letting him borrow some of my tape!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
As you can see in the picture (above) my first suggestion to Clayton was to get some new shoes but I had to settle for letting him borrow some of my tape!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Every specialist has a path and sometimes there are opportunities that present themselves, but it is every specialist’s job to seize it when one comes their way.
This story gives hope to all walk on kicking specialists hoping for a chance to play for their “dream school”.
This is Devin Mathis On ‘A Specialists Path’.
For Devin soccer had always been a passion for him but as he was closing out his high school career at Baylor High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee he decided he would use his expertise for kicking a ball to play another sport.
“Kicking was a very natural transition for me as I spent the better part of the first sixteen years of my life playing soccer,” Devin said.
“As I outgrew soccer and needed a sport in my life, football became the obvious choice. I missed the competitive atmosphere of athletics and found that I was still able to compete as a kicker, and so this became my new focus.”
Devin worked hard to be a kicker and found that his natural ability to strike a ball came in handy on the football team. One of the major perks of playing football was the friendships he forged with his teammates.
“I realized that I wanted to be a kicker because I missed the team environment once I quit playing club soccer,” Devin said. “I missed the relationships with teammates, the travel and the competition.
As high school came to an end Devin decided to attend the University of Tennessee as a regular student, but found that he missed the team environment that athletics brought to his life.
“I actually came to the University of Tennessee with no intention of ever playing organized athletics, and thought that I would pass through college faster without doing so,” Devin said.
“However, one day in the spring of my freshman year, I came to the realization that I still wanted to compete. I went to the all the games that fall and would watch the players, thinking that I knew that I had the potential to play at the collegiate level. One day, I decided that I had had enough wondering and decided to try to walk on.”
In 2006 Devin decided to come out for the football team and Coach Fulmer really took an interest in the young walk on kicker from Chattanooga.
“Coach Fulmer showed me the scope of the game,” Devin said. “Walking off the field one day early in my first season with the team, Coach Fulmer pulled me aside and said that I wasn’t unlike another walk-on kicker named Alex Walls from earlier in the decade.”
“The fact that he noticed me blew me away; I was surprised he knew my name. He said that if I applied myself that I could work my way up the roster and eventually get in the game just like Walls did. He showed me the importance of walk-ons in the grand scheme of things as I dressed for every home game, as well as the bowl game, that fall.”
Devin competed with Daniel Lincoln for the starting kicker job in 2007 but Lincoln was able to hold on to the job and went on to garner All American honors that season. Devin accepted his role as the reserve kicker but always hoped that he would be given an opportunity to compete for the starting job.
After finishing out the 2008 season with the team, Coach Fulmer was fired and Lane Kiffin was hired as the new head coach. Devin was lost in the shuffle with the staff change and decided that he should focus on his academics and be a regular student again.
“In January of 2009, I left the team for the entire spring of my junior year to study abroad and finish my second major,” Devin said.
“That summer I came back from my semester abroad, looking forward to being a regular student again in the fall. I really enjoyed watching the games from the stands with my friends, but couldn’t help but wonder if I could improve on the performance of our kicking game at the time.”
Tennessee had struggled with their field goal kicking during the season and had numerous field goals blocked because of low trajectory by the kicker.
Devin just so happened to be rooming with two of Tennessee’s best players and they started to try and convince him to give kicking one more shot.
“After jabs and comments from my roommates at the time, Jonathan Crompton and Wes Brown, and after a particularly questionable performance, I decided that I would give it another try,” Devin said. “I decided that I would walk on again to see if I could prove to myself that I can perform at that level.”
Coach Eddie Gran allowed Devin to come to practice after a few days he was out on the practice field getting reps with the second team.
He continued to prove that he had great height on his kicks and he was even starting to open the eyes of the head coach.
After getting another kick blocked in the Ole Miss game the staff was looking at all their options and Devin impressed in practice.
He was able to dress out for the Vanderbilt game the next week and about 4 hours before the game he found out he was going to be the starting kicker!
“I only had time to call my mom and a few of my friends to tell them to watch the game,” Devin said.
Devin kicked in the game and was the starting kicker for the final three games of the season including hitting all his extra points and nailing two field goals.
“Kicking in Neyland Stadium was the most incredible thing that I have ever experienced,” Devin said. “I had been on the sidelines for games before, but I had never run through the “T” knowing that I would be in the game.
“I will never forget the way the stadium looks during an SEC home game in one of the biggest, most exciting stadiums in the country. I found that Neyland can be a tricky place to kick. I also found that I loved the rush that you feel on the field with over 100,000 people and camera flashes cheering you on, and the adrenaline that you feel once you’re back on the sidelines.”
Devin felt the adrenaline rush of kicking in front of 100,000 people and he is not ready to give up that feeling just yet as he is planning to compete for the job after finishing up an internship this past spring.
His story gives hope to all those former soccer players in the stands that say “I think I can kick better than that guy”. Sometimes those guys are actually right!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Next up is Germantown kicker/punter Ryan Hanisco.
Jeff Sexton graduated last year from Christian Brothers High School and is now the starting kicker at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). His head coach at VMI, Sparky Woods, is the father of my holder at Tennessee Casey Woods. Funny how it is such a small world sometimes.
I did a follow up lesson with kicker Logan Cooke, who is entering his Freshman year in high school in Mississippi.
Phillip Houston is the starting kicker at Harding Academy in Memphis and he has done quite a few kicking lessons with me over the past year.
Drew Hopkins (Brighton High School) is looking to replace Dylan Burnett, who was one of the top kickers in the state of Tennessee last year.
Gary Wunderlich is entering his freshman year at Memphis University School and has a great chance to be the starting this kicker this year and replace Mr. Football finalist, Christian Kauffman.
I worked with Corey Acosta on his field goals and kickoffs. This might be the last time I work with him in Tennessee for a while as he will be reporting to Southern Miss this weekend.
Finally there is Austin Benoy.
Monday, June 21, 2010
I learned at a young age that Sport Psychology or the "Mental Side of the Game" can be vital to the success of a kicking specialist.
I left the University of Tennessee with an undergraduate degree in Communications and Masters in Sport Psychology. I always thought that I was getting the Sport Psychology degree for my own benefit. What I have learned now though is that it is one of my greatest assets as a kicking coach.
Kicking specialists across the country will be running and lifting weights this Summer to get stronger but I wonder how many kicking specialists are working on the mental game?
Some specialists believe that working on the mental game is a sign of weakness but that is not the case. I was the number one ranked kicker in the country coming out of high school and before I ever kicked in a game I was working with Dr. Craig Wrisberg on Sport Psychology.
Dr. Wrisberg and I worked on all types of situations like what it is like to kick in my first practice to preparing for my first game in The Swamp against Florida.
That hard work culminated in me becoming a Freshman All American and kicking a 51 yard field goal in my first road trip, which happen to be against Florida!
Across the country this Fall, kicking specialists will be taking their steps back to kick a field goal or lining up directly behind the center to punt a football. The success of those kicks and punts will be determined by plenty of things you can't control.
My high school kicking coach, Russ Plummer, use to always say "control what you have control over" and he is absolutely right. The question I pose to kicking specialists is are you doing all you can to prepare for your season?
The book "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect" by Bob Rotella is a wonderful book for kicking specialists to read. Golf and kicking are both sports where it is just you and the ball and the mind can be a major determining factor in your success.
So as kicking specialists go out to kick this Summer, I hope they are visualizing what it is like to be on the field against their biggest rival with the game on the line.
The techniques in Sport Psychology can increase confidence and help someone perform during the times it matters most like when you are trailing Florida by 2 points with 13 seconds left and need a 50 yard field goal...
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The group of specialists at Cookeville are very talented as they are returning their starting punter James Francis (pictured above), but they are having to replace starting kicker Nick Mittell.
The clinics are a great opportunity for team building and I am excited to work with Coach Joslin and his kicking specialists throughout the year.
After the clinic at Cookeville High School, I went to Tennessee Tech to do kicking lessons with punter Nick Campbell. I was very impressed with the universities' campus and the football facilities were top notch.
After the lesson was over Nick and I went to dinner over at Bobby Q's in Cookeville. I have to say that the food was great but the waitresses were the highlight of the evening. Nick even said that the girls at the restaurant were the prettiest he had seen since he has been on campus.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Before the lessons with Benjamin I got to talk some Tennessee football with Alan and then it was time to start the lesson. I worked with Benjamin on quite a few things on his mechanics but I could see that he had a lot of talent.
Conar Roberts is a junior punter and kicker at McMinn Country High School. He was the starting punter last year and will take over the kicking duties this year.
Next up is Austin Rice from Oliver Springs. Last year when I worked with Austin we were basically starting from scratch. He took that basic coaching I gave him last year and hit almost every extra point during the season.
I worked with George Bullock (West High School) for the second time this year and he has made some dramatic improvements. I told him that he had a problem with kicking the ball too hard so I recommended that he read a Sport Psychology book that I really enjoyed when I got my Master's at the University of Tennessee.
The final lesson was Brad Smith. Brad was the kicker at William Blount a few years ago and was looking to walk on at Tennessee this year.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Carlos Lopez is entering his junior season as the starting kicker for Division II powerhouse Carson Newman College. He came to me last year to help him take his kicking to the next level. After two days of kicking lessons with him, he completely inspired me with his work ethic and desire to succeed.
Desire and work ethic are important aspects to a successful athlete, but talent is also vital to success. Fortunately for Carlos he possesses all three of those qualities; and this gives him unlimited possibilities.
This is Carlos Lopez On A Specialist’s Path.
Carlos had spent most of his youth in Venezuela. But due to the political unrest in that country, his mother decided to move their family to the United States.
While looking for a place to call home, Carlos' mother, Arly, fell in love with Carlos' stepfather, Tony, and they decided to settle near the Smoky Mountains in Seymour, Tennessee.
Carlos had to make many new adjustments to his surroundings but he was able to find comfort in being on the athletic field. Not surprisingly, his specialty was soccer.
Like most high school football coaches (not that you’ve ever heard me say this before), the head coach was in need of a kicker. And of course he looked to the nearest soccer field to find his answer.
“I first got started when I was practicing for a soccer match and the head coach for the team asked if I wanted to try out because they needed a kicker,” Carlos said. “So the next day I went out there and he told me what I needed to do to kick the ball. I gave it try and from then on I became the starting kicker for Seymour High School.”
“Many of my friends thought it was great I was a kicker, because they were on the football team and they really needed a kicker,” Carlos said. “But the rest of my friends, the ones that were not on the team, always told me that I was playing the “non-athletic” position. They always made fun of the fact in practice all I did was kick 12-20 balls and went home.”
Carlos kept playing soccer in high school, and also continued to play the “non-athletic” kicker position on the football team. He finished his senior year in high school as a very successful dual sport star in both soccer and football.
His success however caused some personnel conflict for Carlos. Now that he had graduated, he had to decide whether he wanted a partial scholarship at a major soccer program, or if he wanted to pursue additional financial aid as a kicker.
“My dream was to first make it somewhere for soccer,” Carlos said. “After getting offers from Clemson University, UAB, and University of Mobile Alabama for soccer, I thought that I was going in the right path. Unfortunately, my limited English skills resulted in my not performing well on the ACT.”
Carlos did not let a low ACT score deter him from going to college. After polishing up his English skills and taking some ACT prep courses, he was able to raise his score to a college level.
“The coaches at Carson-Newman College took notice of my kicking talent and they always believed I could get into college,” Carlos said. “So once I got a qualifying score they offered me a scholarship to play football. Now my dreams have changed; I’m working hard into becoming a professional football kicker someday.”
Carlos was ecstatic to have a scholarship to college but the next step was to perform at a college level. His freshman year was full of ups and downs and his head coach, Ken Sparks, didn’t give Carlos very many opportunities to kick field goals. He finished his freshman year just 1 for 4 on field goals and had some tough memories from that year.
“The worst moment I have had to face being a kicker happened to me my freshmen year,” Carlos said. “We were playing against Newberry College when I had the chance to hit two field goals and missed both; we ended up losing that game by 6 points. At the moment I felt horrible, but with the support from fellow teammates and family, I got over it and moved on.”
Carlos was determined to improve his kicking going into his second year of college and looked to work with me to improve his technique.
“Before last year I never really had been taught the proper way to kick a football,” Carlos said. “I just looked at videos online and just practiced a lot. That all changed once I had the opportunity to train with James Wilhoit.”
Carlos worked extremely hard over the two days of kicking lessons he took with me. I could see a dramatic difference in his accuracy, and height on the ball, from the first day to the end of the second day.
After a great deal of practicing proper technique, Carlos had a banner year as he hit 11 of 12 field goals this last year and was able to get revenge for his tough game the previous year against Newberry College.
“The next year it was Newberry’s turn to come to our home and play us,” Carlos said. “It was the opener of the Conference games. All I could think of was how I missed the two field goals the past year.”
The past season his head coach, Coach Sparks, was reluctant to try field goals, but this year Jose had proven that he was more than capable to handle the job. After nailing a 32 yarder earlier in the game, Carlos was called upon to make his first big kick under pressure. It wasn’t just any normal kick though, as he was about to kick in a driving rain storm. Thereby adding pressure to an already pressure filled kick.
“Knowing that this game was under a huge rain storm, I got called again for the tying field goal from 30 yards out,” Carlos said. Adding, “It sailed through.”
Not only did Carlos nail the game tying kick but he also got an opportunity for complete redemption from last year’s loss to Newberry.
“Finally with 14 seconds left we had a chance to kick a 37 yard field goal to win the game. I hit it and we won 23-20. The whole crowed and team loved me after the game. It was great to come overcome my struggles from last year and make those kicks.”
This coming year, Carlos is looking to build on his successes. First, he would like to help his college team for the next two years, and secondly, he’d also like to get a chance to make an NFL team in the 2012 draft class.
And those aren’t bad goals at all for a soccer player who decided to play the “non athlete” position on his high school football team.
Follow me on www.twitter.com
Friday, June 11, 2010
Jose was very pleased with the kicking lessons last year but was looking to take his game to another level by working with me again this year.
I started by working with Robby on his field goal steps. I also coached him on his leg swing and follow through into the ball. He is a very intelligent guy and I was able to give him plenty of golf analogies to help him understand how to kick a football.
Robby doesn't like to be considered a "kicker" but if he takes a hard look in the mirror he will see that he has tons of potential as a kicker.
Ross Bustin was the backup to two of the most talented kicking specialists in the state of Tennessee this year in Maryville's Zach Sharp and Greg Colquitt. If Ross had been almost anywhere else in the state he would have been an extremely valuable specialist to a high school team.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Next up was Caden Holt (Savannah High School). Caden worked with me in Memphis a few months ago on his kicking and now wanted to try his hand in punting.
Finally, Corey Acosta (Southern Miss) came to Nashville for some adjustments on his kickoffs. Corey does a great job on kickoffs, but I told him that I thought there were some things I would like to sharpen in his technique before he reports to college July 1st.
Monday, June 7, 2010
I met Will two years ago when I was Coach Zauner’s assistant. And I have been fortunate to have forged a close relationship with him as he, and his teammate Kenny Spencer, have been chasing their dreams of making it to the NFL.
This is a story that should be of particular interest for high school kicking specialists looking to make it to college; or for college kicking specialists that are aspiring to the NFL.
This is Will Batson’s ‘On A Specialist’s Path’.
As I have learned from writing ‘On A Specialist’s Path’ most kickers or punters don’t grow up dreaming of being NFL kicking specialists; they are usually soccer players that a football coach borrows -or steals- from the soccer team.
This was no different at Brooks High School in Killen, Alabama where Will attended High School.
“Going into my junior year in high school, the head football coach had heard that I used to play soccer” Will said. “They had recently lost their kicker so he asked me to go out and kick a few balls for him. Afterwards he said to me, "looks like you're going to kick for us this year."
Will was both flattered and intrigued, and so he embarked on his ‘Specialist’s Path’ of being a kicker, and looked to perfect his new craft.
“After a few spring practices and a few good punts and field goals, I realized that this would be a fun challenge for me to tackle,” he said. “And I decided it was something that I would do my best to perfect.”
Will hadn’t learned to kick the ‘perfect punt’ by the time he was ready to be recruited for college, but with his big 6’3 215 pound frame, he certainly had the ‘size’ and enough ‘talent’ to play college football.
But talent is not always the determining factor when it comes to College Football recruiting for kickers and punters.
“I only attended kicking camps at Auburn and Alabama,” Will said. “If I had to do it over again I would have gone to more of these One Day Showcases at these different schools.”
However, even without going to more of the bigger camps around the country, Will was driven to succeed and found success in his efforts to be recruited by sending out a highlight tape to prospective schools.
“I got walk on offers from UAB, Southern Miss, and Vanderbilt from sending out my highlight tape,” Will said.
Will was also a great baseball player. And with a 92 MPH fastball he was looking for the option to do both sports. Although not common, this is not unheard of. Stephen Gostkowski (pictured below), New England Patriots kicker, played on the baseball team at the University of Memphis.
“My sophomore year I had a slap lesion,” Will said. “this slowed my velocity from 92 MPH to more around mid 80’s.”
Now, with his focus totally on kicking, Will started to see the possibility that playing professional football might be in his future.
“During my senior season, I felt like I had the leg to play college ball, and I would always envision myself making a big time kick/play at the collegiate level,” Will said. “As I improved my skills, the greater my dreams became. During my junior year of college I felt like I could play professional ball.”
Will worked very hard and spent a great deal of time taking his skills to the level necessary to play in the NFL. And after garnering Division II All American honors, he realized the next step was to be ‘seen’ by NFL teams. And for this, he enlisted the help from some well connected kicking consultants.
He and teammate Kenny Spencer went to Scottsdale, Arizona in February to train with Coach Zauner, and immediately afterwards went to College Senior Combines with both Zauner (Pictured below) in Arizona and Louie Aguiar in Las Vegas.
Will has decided long ago he was not going to make the same mistake in trying to be signed with an NFL team that he made in trying to get recruited for college. He realizes it takes talent AND ‘exposure’ to get an opportunity to play professional football.
“Will constantly had been telling me about these combines and showcases,” his teammate Kenny Spencer said. “He has been so prepared for this process and his determination has really helped me with the whole thing.”
Will performed very well at both Zauner and Aguiar’s combines and was invited for a tryout with the Chicago Bears. He is hedging his NFL bet by also trying to sign with one of the UFL teams. He says he is prepared for the long haul in his efforts to play professional football.
“I’ve spent countless hours practicing, and I'm still learning how to master punting the football,” he said. “I worked with my kicking coach at UNA (Mike King), and I've been working with other kicking instructors across the country including Coach Zauner and Coach Aguiar.”
Will says he will continue to ‘work’ until he achieves his goals. And if I know Will, that’s exactly what he’ll do.
So I expect that one day, perhaps in the ‘not too distant future’ we might just see Will Batson playing for an NFL team, kicking the ‘perfect’ punt.
And why not? It is Will Batson’s Specialist’s Path!