DOUG BRIEN - RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
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.