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January 3, 2012

Army Bowl kickers feel for others in fraternity

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SAN ANTONIO - Oklahoma State fans were ecstatic when Stanford's Jordan Williamson missed not one but two late-game field-goal attempts to open the door for their school to win Monday night's Fiesta Bowl.

Stanford fans were angry. Those misses helped send the school to 41-38 overtime loss, the school's second-straight BCS defeat.

Meanwhile, miles away in a hotel deep in the heart of Texas, Nick Jordan and Brooks Abbott were empathetic.

While the average fan saw a kicker hook his attempts wide and seemingly choke under pressure, Jordan and Brooks - the kickers at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl - saw a member of their small fraternity suffer through a moment they all know eventually will come their way.

It's a feeling they know the average fan will never understand.

"I feel bad for guys when they mess up," Jordan, of Coppell (Texas) High, said. "It is hard not to."

Abbott, of Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles, said he almost wanted to turn away by the time it came for Williamson's overtime attempt - his third miss of the game.

"It's hard to watch because you know what they are going through," he said.

Both kickers, however, had their eyes on the screen. And they saw things only a kicker would notice: the snap, the hold, the plant foot, the follow through.

"It looked like he pulled up on the last one," Abbott said.

Both agreed misses should come only from technique, not the time of the game.

"We all kick a thousand field goals a week in practice so you know you can do it," Jordan said. "If you let the situation get bigger than it is, it can affect you."

And it's for that reason that both said "icing" the kicker should never have an impact. In fact, they felt it usually helps.

"It usually gives me a chance to relax," Brooks said.

Relax? A kicker? C'mon.

The role of the kicker has long been the most unappreciated on the football field. All kicks are supposed to be made - and made by players who only take a few snaps a game and usually are not big enough to play a "real" position on the field.

And from Charlie Brown to Ray Finkle, kickers have long been the butt of jokes in popular culture.

At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Abbott should never be looked down upon. But he understands the kicker's life.

"It's difficult, but that's what you sign up for," he said. "You just have to keep going and forget about it. Remember the good ones forget about the bad ones."

Even if you're always blamed for the bad ones.

"Everyone just sees the end result of a miss and thinks that is it always the kicker's fault," Jordan said. "There are a lot of things that can go wrong before we take our first approach at the ball."

That's what Jordan and Abbott watch whenever a kicker gets ready to go. While the average fan looks at the goal posts, they look at everything else.

And, no matter who is kicking, they always hope for a successful kick.

OK, maybe not always.

"I always root for the kicker," Abbott said, "except if they're playing my Jaguars."

Turns out kickers can be fans, too.



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