Having been a kicker at the University of Tennessee, I had strong feelings about this issue and wanted to make people aware of it. I thought if enough attention was generated, perhaps the University would consider changing the balls they use for kicking.
After writing the blog, I was interviewed by Knoxville radio hosts Terry Fair and Dave Hooker. During the interview, Terry Fair questioned whether one ball was superior to another and asked me to come to Knoxville, get on a field and prove my theory.
So the next week I went to Knoxville to put my foot where my mouth was (or in my mouth if I was wrong). After finishing the workout with Terry and Dave I walked away with my opinion about the footballs confirmed; I still believed the balls Tennessee was using for kicking were not as good as other footballs on the market.
Something else I walked away with caught me more by surprise. And that was I realized after this workout I still had the ability to be very good kicker. And in fact, one of the radio hosts asked me why I wasn’t playing professional football!
Two years earlier I had decided to give up on my dream of being a PRO kicker. I was signed by the Ravens, but didn’t make the cut. I always thought I had the ability to be in the NFL, but I felt that I was never coached up to my ability. After having such a great college career, I was pretty discouraged that an NFL career might not be in my future.
After giving up on my dream of playing PRO football, I decided to spend all my time and energy on becoming the best kicking coach I could. My thought was, even though my chance of playing professional may have slipped through my grasp, I could help other specialist’s pursue their dreams of playing PRO football by giving them the coaching I never received.
Gary Zauner (pictured above), a former 13 year NFL Special Teams Coach who coached, or worked with, over 20 Pro Bowlers.
During that time I not only observed Coach Zauner as he worked with some of the top kicking specialists in the NFL, but I also conducted my own kicking lessons each summer in Tennessee and did plenty of independent study on the proper way to kick and punt.
Unbeknownst to me, all of this had the effect of making me a better kicker than I was when I first left Tennessee and tried out for the Ravens.
So then, after testing out the footballs in Knoxville, and realizing my kicking was actually better than it was in previous years, I decided to see what my true kicking potential could be. The truth be known, at that moment, my passion and desire to play PRO football was alive in me again. And I wanted to pursue it.
By this time I was no longer working with Coach Zauner, however ironically, I had the good fortune in meeting Coach Bill Renner. Coach Renner is recognized as one of the most accomplished kicking coaches in the country. And after speaking with him on the phone, I was quite impressed with his approach to teaching specialists and knew if I was going to pursue my NFL dream, he’s the one I wanted coaching me.
Coach Renner had just introduced a Training Program for kickers and punters. I was interested in learning his program and he suggested that the best way to learn the program would be to go through it myself. This was perfect, not only would this be a great way for me to train to compete for an NFL spot, but it would also help me as a kicking coach as well. His program is something I knew would be very beneficial to my kicking clients.
So there I was, a coach who hadn’t kicked professionally in three years ending up with stats to compete with some of the top free agents at the entire camp. My performance at this Free Agent Combine helped me secure one of the top sports agents in the NFL, who represents eight current NFL kicking specialists.
Talk about ‘A Specialist’s Path’ (which of course I write about) my Specialist’s Path took me from talking about the University of Tennessee’s footballs to being in contention for a PRO football spot, all in the matter of nine months. That is just amazing!
However, as fate would have it, there was just one thing left to bring me full circle. And it truly came as a surprise to me.
After finishing Aguiar and Husted’s Free Agent Camp, I went back to Tennessee to give some kicking lessons to specialists I have been working with over the last few years.
In the ten days I was home, I was able to reflect on all that I had accomplished in the nine months since I tested out the footballs in Knoxville, and all the new possibilities that were in my future.
I have rediscovered my passion for being a PRO kicker, I am working with someone I consider to be the best kicking coach in the country, I have acquired one of the top sports agents in the NFL and I have also bettered myself as a kicking coach.
But finally, to bring the story full circle (and perhaps the true ‘icing’ on the cake), I recently read the University of Tennessee has decided to try out new footballs for Spring Practice.
Who would have guessed that! It’s just like in the stories you read in books!!!
And now, a new chapter in my book is just beginning. I am continuing my kicking lessons in Tennessee and special teams clinics as I continue training for my opportunity in PRO football. I am excited to see what the future holds on my “Specialists’ Path”.