I always wanted to have a chance to kick a game winning field goal. It's every kicker's dream. The same way a baseball player hopes to hit a walk-off home run, or a basketball player make a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Deep down I always had a feeling I would get my shot, but heading into my last collegiate game at Boise State it had yet to occur.
I had been training with West Coast Kicking Academy since the summer in between my 7th and 8th grade year. Due to my size, I knew I could not kick with all the bombers and had to place a premium on accuracy. Training with Brad and Alan Bohn gave me confidence. They were teaching me the same technique that Brad had used to become an All-American at Utah State, and kick a game winner in a NFL game with the Detroit Lions. I looked up to Brad because of his size; if he could do it, then so could I.
Fast forward 9 years. December 22, 2012. Maaco Bowl Las Vegas. Sam Boyd Stadium vs the University of Washington. My last collegiate game, and since I had no intentions of playing professional football, the last football game of my career. We got out to a big lead but I knew Washington would make it interesting. They came back to eventually take a one point lead with just over 2 minutes left. I knew this was going to come down to me. A big kick return set us up with good field position and I immediately went to my kicking net to start practicing. The ball was on the same side of the field as my net so I had to deal with my teammates crowding around me, television cameras in my face; they too were anticipating a game winning attempt.
When one of our coaches came up to me and asked me where I wanted the ball, I told him I wanted it on the right hash. It was the hash we always practiced on during our "clutch" period in practice. It was where I felt most comfortable. I knew they were setting me up to do my thing.
We ran the ball three times to the right hash and our Special Teams coach called out, "Blue Money, Blue Money," signaling the field goal team on to the field.
Washington called time out. They were icing me. I began my visualization techniques that I had developed over the years.
I trotted out on to the field, the crowd was buzzing. Half cheering for me, the other half jeering against me. This is what I wanted. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. Who wouldn't be? But once I marked my spot on the turf and my holder did the same, everything got quiet. The noise lessened. The goal posts became more clear. I was in my zone. So many times before at training sessions on Sundays with WCKA or at practices in Boise, I had gone through this routine. The situation didn't change anything. I had to trust my technique. Brad and Alan had reiterated this to me growing up and it was fitting that it all came to fruition at this moment.
I took my steps. Three back, two over. Eyed my spot on the turf. Eyed my target, then eyed my spot again. I took a deep breath, shook out the tension in my shoulders and nodded to my holder.
Snap. Hold. Kick.
Right when I hit it I knew I made it. I kept my eyes back, followed through, and looked up just as the ball hit its peak. I didn't even see the split the uprights. I immediately put my fist in the air and turned to my holder. He stuck his hand out and gave me a high five.
Then the mayhem ensued. The linemen swarmed me. My holder head-butted me. Then I jogged off to the sideline to see my teammates in a frenzy.
The game ended and my teammates picked me up on their shoulders and chanted my name.
The fans came out onto the field and I was able to see my family and friends. My parents and sister were crying. It was so surreal, and a moment and feeling I will never forget.
Training with WCKA prepared me for this moment like no other kicking coach, or institution could. There's a reason they have the word 'Academy' in their name. They teach young men about the art of kicking, and all that goes with it. Brad, Alan and staff are one of a kind. I wouldn't have developed into the kicker I became without them.