Athens – Freshman Blair Walsh lines up for a 52-yard field goal on Georgia’s practice field and makes it with ease, unnoticed.
There’s no applause, no cheering, no teammates carrying him off the field. But in his mind, he just lifted the Bulldogs to a win over defending national champion LSU at Tiger Stadium.
“[You] psyche yourself up … kind of test yourself so you get ready for the situation when it actually happens,” he said, though he has yet to see one second of playing time.
As the only scholarship kicker on the roster, Walsh not only must replace the most prolific kicker in the program, he must do it as a freshman on a national championship contending team. His right foot could be the difference between a title and second place.
“There’s always pressure, especially with how good this team is and how much talent there is on the team and potential,” Walsh said. “It’s pressure, but I think I’m handling it well.”
Of all the concerns heading into camp, coach Mark Richt said he is most interested about Georgia’s kicking situation. When asked Tuesday if he had seen Walsh kick, the coach’s eyes lit up.
“We have a filming [machine] right down the middle of the goal posts, up high. First kick, he stuck it in the basket,” Richt said. “Drilled it right in the basket. So watch out for that.”
Walsh was rated the No. 1 place kicker in the nation by Rivals.com after he hit 14-of-20 field goals, including two from 59 yards, as a senior at Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He made 30 of 31 extra points.
So, Walsh seemingly has a clear advantage over the walk-ons to replace graduated Brandon Coutu, who was the most accurate kicker in Georgia history with a career field goal percentage of 80.3.
“I have big shoes to fill when it comes to him,” Walsh said. “If I could just be as half a good a kicker as he was, that’d be fine with me.”
As he tries to make fans, coaches and teammates relax, Walsh will use some different strategies: golf and yoga.
He said he frequently talks to his sister, an avid golfer, about motion and technique for following through on a swing.
“If you’re not balanced and you’re out of control, you’re not going to hit the ball well. So that’s the advice she’s given me,” he said, “and I help her a little bit.”
Walsh picked up yoga during his sophomore year of high school. He said he has grown to love it and has found it helps his game mentally and physically.
“You just have to get in that mindset of putting yourself in game situations where it’s tough, and that’s what relaxes you and helps you focus on what’s at hand, and not what else is going on in the game,” he said. “It lets you be your own person.”
He uses yoga stretches, like the praying mantis, during his pregame warm-up to stay loose.
“I know people still look and go, how is he that flexible?” he said. “But besides that, no real weird looks [from teammates], honestly.”
Walsh said he has been working hard throughout the summer in the weight room and on the field. With a little more of that hard work, he feels he will claim the position outright.
“I don’t think they scholarshiped me for no reason,” Walsh said. “I think they brought me in here because they think I can be a kicker. And in my mind, I will be.”
– Courtesy of AJC.com