Recently, former Iowa/current San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding gave me a call. He said he got a taste last year of what life after playing football will be like when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the 2011 NFL season.
Among the things he would like to try in his post-football life is writing. He asked me if he could submit some essays for publication here. Knowing Nate is smart, articulate and inquisitive, I didn’t have to weigh any pros and cons. I said yes on the spot.
So here is Nate’s introductory piece, in which he has a request of you good readers.
I’m a one-trick pony. I’ve devoted the entirety of my adolescent and adult life to kicking balls between poles in an attempt to help my Trojans, Hawkeyes and Chargers win football games. The game has given me everything.
But let’s be real. Being a kicker is beat-your-head-against-the-wall boring.
I warm up. I wait. I worry. And then, for a few seconds each week, I execute. The monotony, even more than the pressure, has been the undoing of many a kicker.
My biggest complaint is my job’s lack of creativity. In fact, thinking much at all usually results in a shanked kick, boos from the fans, and silence from my teammates.
While running backs or outside linebackers continually engage their minds in game-planning and making split-second decisions on the field, I’m simply see-ball; kick-ball. No imagination. No intellectual exercise. Quarterbacks can be artists; shifting formations, changing plays, commanding 90-yard, no-huddle, game-winning drives.
Kickers must be machines. Like your dishwasher or lawnmower, I’m all about repeatability. When you push the start button, yank the pull-rope, or trot me onto the field, all that matters is achieving the intended result. Clean the grease off the fry pan, circulate the mower blade, score the three points. While my teammates use their brains to out-game their opponents, I’ve learned to turn my mind off so as not to out-think myself.
But, now, off the field, in my countless hours of down time, I want to turn my mind back on. Sooner or later football will give up on me and I’ll need to use my brain, not my foot, to make a meaningful life for myself.
So let’s start now. With the help of my friend Mike Hlas, this fall I’m going to start thinking again. I’ll be providing some commentary and insight from an athlete’s perspective on the Iowa sporting world. I’ve ridden on the old rickety yellow school busses to Dubuque from Iowa City on a Friday night as a local high school athlete, run out of the tunnel in the swarm at Kinnick Stadium, and I sit shoulder to shoulder in NFL locker rooms with some of the greatest athletes in the world.
I know a thing or two about winning and success. I’m intimately acquainted with failure and adversity. I haven’t seen it all, but I have seen enough to know that there is still a disconnect between the understanding of the average sports fan and the experience of the sportsperson. I aim to enhance your understanding of the feelings, emotions, struggles, and lives of the athletes and sports that interest us Iowans.
My brain needs your help! Remember, I’m new at this. Email or tweet (hashtag #kaeding) Mike (@Hlas) questions or story ideas for me or put them in the comments box here.
I forgot to mention kickers are accustomed to criticism. Your feedback and critique are welcome. I am sufficiently calloused enough to handle anything, so no sugarcoating. I’ve learned during my time as a ball-kicker that failure is the greatest teacher. I’m sure I’ll be learning some new tricks.
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