How Seahawks kicker Hauschka stays calm under pressureDecember 17, 2013 @ 2:23 am (Updated: 10:20 am - 1/20/14 )
It's the position everybody wants during the week, but nobody wants on Sunday.
"Kickers produce points. They score. They don't get appreciated for the successes that they have and how good they are," says ESPN football analyst John Clayton.
He might be right about other placekickers in the NFL, but the 12th Man appreciates the Seahawks number 4, Steven Hauschka.
"There's the kick by Hauschka; it's plenty long enough and it's right through," says Steve Raible, play-by-play guy for Seahawks broadcasts on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. "Hauschka is money again."
"There's no panic. I've done it so many times that I just trust it," Hauschka tells me. "You just have to shut off your brain in that moment."
Hauschka is a brainy guy who didn't set out to be an NFL field-goal kicker. He could have easily become Dr. Hauschka. He was taking pre-med courses in college and intended on going to dental or medical school.
Seahawks fans should be thankful that some of Hauschka's roommates in college were football players. He had played soccer and lacrosse, but not football until his sophomore year of college. He was a walk-on player who thought, "How difficult could it be to kick a football?"
"It was cool. It was kind of a natural thing for me," he says. "It took me a few months to adjust to the different shape of the ball."
This sports career path seems to be working out for him.
"I try not to look at my stats or anything like that. I'd rather not know," says Hauschka. "It's almost like a golfer who would rather not know their score throughout the course or the rounds. Our round goes most of the season."
He's had three field goals that were over 50-yard kicks.
In week 4 of the 2013 season, Hauschka kicked a 45-yard field goal to give the Seahawks a come-from-behind overtime victory against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium. The final score was 23-20 thanks to Hauschka's game-winning kick.
"Even though they may look the same on the film, you never truly feel like you hit the perfect one. It's not a game of perfect," he says.
He's also learned placekickers weren't built for tackling. In week 6, Hauschka was hurt trying to stop the Titans' Darius Reynaud at home on a kickoff. Reynaud lowered his shoulder into Hauschka, knocking him backward and onto the CenturyLink Field turf.
He'll stick to kicking, and how does he do that so well? Hauschka says he approaches the field the same way for every kick.
"I get into a routine where I'm jogging out to the field from the 50-yard line so that as I'm running toward the uprights they seem to get bigger and bigger, as opposed to running out from wherever the offense is on the field and then having to back up to the kick," he explains.
"Once I get to the ball and take my steps, I just try to think about one thing. Generally it's 'skip down field' or 'get my hips through.' Just something that's going to ground me in the moment. Usually, when I execute that, then everything else works out."
While a number of the players on the team have a purely physical job, the kicker's role takes mental discipline, too.
"Mindset is key to kicking a football because you really only get a few opportunities," says Hauschka.
"If you put those opportunities up on a pedestal and only value those, then everything else you do the rest of the year is meaningless. That's a slippery slope because if you aren't as fortunate in the games, then your confidence can tank pretty quickly."
Hauschka treats every kick - whether it's in practice, early in a game, or on the field getting ready for a game-winning field-goal attempt - the same way.
Something he does to get ready for his job might be helpful for your work, too. He meditates.
"The act of breathing really calms your mind down," Hauschka says. "A lot of people live their lives with their brain just spinning, thought after thought, and never really learn how to control those thoughts and just let go. Breathing and meditation are huge, especially the more stressful job you have."
At the age of 28, the 6'4" kicker believes we haven't seen the best from him yet.
By LINDA THOMAS
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