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Ingredients: a decent leg, hard work, discipline, motivation, focus, concentration and perseverance.

My career: I started kicking when I was a senior at De La Salle high school. I had been a soccer player my entire life. I had always been told I had a really strong and accurate leg - I was the guy who always took the free kicks and penalty kicks - and that I should try kicking a football. So I decided to try-out in the summer after my junior year.

At my try-out the football coach asked me to kick a PAT. So, I chipped it through the uprights. My kick only had about 10 yards to spare, so the coach asked me if that was as far as I could kick a ball. I told him no, that he had just told me to kick it through, so I did. He then asked me to kick the ball as far as I could. So I did. The ball went through the uprights and over the score board, which was probably the equivalent of about a 55-yard field goal. Apparently no had ever done that before. The coach told me ecstatically that I had the job if I wanted it.

In high school I played for a really good team, so we hardly ever kicked field goals. I usually kicked about 6 - 8 PATs a game, but ended the year - if my memory serves me correctly - 3 of 5 with a long of 28 yards: not exactly scholarship material. However, one of the field goals I missed was from 53 yards and it was just barely wide left and I kicked almost all of my kickoffs into the end zone. My kicking distance got the attention of a couple of colleges: Santa Clara, Davis, and Cal. I was considering playing soccer and football and Santa Clara and Davis since they were Division II. Cal wanted me to walk on and learn from All-American Robbie Keen. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to go to Berkeley for the education - both academically and from Robbie. I had only kicked one year and I was really not ready to kick in college. I knew learning from the best would go a long ways.

In college I learned a ton from Robbie. I redshirted my first year and then was the back-up to Robbie my redshirt freshman year. My special teams coach was Steve Mariucci (former 49ers head coach) and he was always telling me that he thought I could be good when Robbie graduated. So, I was patient and continued to learn as I sat on the bench.

In 1991 I finally got my chance. During spring ball, I was "the man." It was my job to loose. Unfortunately, loose my job is pretty much what I did. I kicked great - except for when we did team field goal. I simply choked. Apparently I was not ready for the pressure of kicking in the Pac-10. After spring ball I remember being devastated. I had worked so hard for this job and now the head coach was going to give a high school kid a scholarship to compete with me. Considering I was still a walk-on, I figured I was in big trouble.

That summer I worked my butt off. I had never trained harder. In camp, I kicked great. I easily beat out my competition and won both the kicking and kick-off job (I had to beat out the punter for the kick-off job). In my first game I kicked a school record 10 PATs. In my third game (Arizona) I kicked a 33-yarder at the buzzer to thrust our team into the top twenty. In the fourth game (UCLA) I kicked a 47-yarder with a minute left to win the game. I only ended up kicking 22 - 31 but I made enough big kicks to earn All-Pac 10 and a full-ride scholarship.

Before my junior year I started to fly down to San Diego (every off-season) to get private lessons from Gary Zauner (now NFL special teams coach). He really helped me with my technique and consistency. In my junior year I went 16 - 18 and in my senior year I went 18 - 21. I ended my college career 56 - 70, which was a school record for accuracy, most field goals and most points. But most importantly I kicked 80% for my career, which got me drafted in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers.

I have played in the NFL for eight years so far. Some of the years have been good and some not so good. I was fortunate to win a Super Bowl in my rookie season with the 49ers. But then I was released after 6 games in my second year. Fortunately, I had impressed the Saints because they signed me two weeks later. I played in New Orleans for six seasons. I improved dramatically during that period. I attribute my increased accuracy to my working with a mental coach. My mental coach, Joel Kirsch, got me on a program, which required me to spend an hour each morning meditating and doing various concentration drills. This practice increased my ability to focus on the field dramatically. I went from kicking 75% my rookie year and 66% my second year to 84%, 86% 91%, 83%, 81% and 83% last season. I have stayed with my mental program throughout my career and it has paid huge dividends.

Why I love to kick: I have always been fascinated with kicking. When I was a kid I used to spend hours pounding soccer balls into a goal. I just loved to hit the ball with my foot. For this reason, kicking a field goal came very naturally to me. Today I am more intrigued with the mental challenges associated with kicking. Kicking a field goal in the NFL - with all of the pressure and expectations - is very difficult. I get a lot of satisfaction from doing my job well.

My strengths and weaknesses: I believe my greatest strength is my ability to focus. I pride my myself on being a consistent kicker and consistency comes down to be able to be totally focused on every kick throughout an entire season. I also think my focus has made me a good long-distance field goal kicker. I do not have the strongest leg in the league by any stretch of the imagination; however, I can 53 and 54 yarders as consistently as I make kicks in the forty-yard range - and not many kickers can say that.

My weakness is probably my kick-offs. I used to be in the top half of the league in kick-offs, but ever since I hurt my back in 1999, I haven't been able to kick-off as well. It seems like since 1999 I have had some injuries that have prevented me from training as hard as I used to. However, this off-season (2002) I am finally totally healthy. I am excited to see what I can do next season with a full off-season of training.

Most important aspect of my training: I firmly believe the part of my training that pays off the most is my mental training. I do feel like I benefit from physical training, but not nearly as much as I do with my meditation and concentration drills.

Advise I would I give an aspiring kicker: I always tell parents that I would have my child grow up playing soccer. I think soccer teaches a lot of skills, but for a kicker - besides obviously learning how to kick - soccer teaches "touch." Because of all of the years I played soccer I can pretty much tell what I did wrong on a given kick by my sense of touch. I just have this innate ability to feel the ball come off my foot and know where it is going. I think this quality helps me a lot. I would advise a young kicker to take martial arts. I think it helps for flexibility and coordination. I think it also is great for developing some concentration skills. Perhaps, most importantly - get good coaching at a young age. I spent my fist several years learning to kick the wrong way. It wasn't until I got some really good coaching from Gary Zauner that I learned to have good technique. If I could have learned good technique at an early age, it would expedited my learning process.

The most important thing I do to increase my leg strength: is a combination of everything I do. I believe lifting weights, running (especially hills or stadiums) and using the Power Kicker are all important. When I do all of those things diligently during the off-season, I notice it the following season.

The secret to my success: is hard work and motivation. I truly believe that I work harder than any kicker out there. Between waking up at 6:30 every morning and doing concentration drills, taking martial arts, and spending around 3 hours on my physical training, I am busy. I also pride myself on my consistency. I hardly ever miss a workout. If I go on a trip, I find a gym. If I need to kick on a trip, I bring my balls. I believe off-season training is very important, so I take it very seriously.



The 'right art' cried the Master, is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.
-- Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

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