MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sometimes stories are worth repeating, especially the really good ones.
Consider the case of West Virginia’s Casey Legg, whose collegiate kicking career was born out of a midweek kicking session at Charleston’s Laidley Field one October afternoon in 2017.
Prior to that, Casey was strictly a soccer player.
“I loved soccer,” he recalled recently.
But one day, either a parent or a grandparent of one of the players on the opposing team Casey was facing (he doesn’t remember) approached his mother and asked her if her son had ever kicked footballs. She said no, but she did mention it to Casey afterward.
Thus, a seed was planted, so he went over to the local Dick’s Sporting Goods store and bought a couple of footballs and one of those cheap, metal, all-purpose kicking tees and headed over to Laidley Field, which sits directly below Interstate 64.
And he kicked and kicked and kicked.
For those of you living in Charleston traveling on I-64 that afternoon, the blur that you saw below was actually the birth of a college football career, which is really not all that unusual for college kickers.
There are actually some great kicker stories. My favorite is Dirk Kryt, a skinny, 130-pound soccer player from Holland who once exposed some discrepancies in Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty’s team policies. Kryt kicked four field goals in the Spartans’ 19-12 upset victory over fifth-ranked Ohio State in 1972, and afterward he walked into the media area where Daugherty was holding court with some sportswriters following the big victory.
Kryt, smoking a cigarette, asked his coach if he wanted to go out afterward and drink beer and chase some girls. One of the reporters asked, “What the hell kind of training rules do you have at Michigan State, Duffy?” The coach replied, “New ones, now, for the guys who kick four field goals to beat Ohio State!”
Paul Woodside, still the most prolific field goal kicker in WVU history, once told me his desire to kick during his youth was dangerously close to being an addiction.
“I’m sure some psychologist would have put me on something,” Woodside joked. “I went through countless windshields and bent car antennas … and everyone in the neighborhood knew who it was. After a while, I had to fess up because it was so obvious.”
Woodside said he went up to his high school football coach one day and asked him for some footballs and then had to convince him that he was only going to kick them – not steal them.
“He was looking at me like this is weird,” Woodside said.
Woodside said he knew next to nothing about college football recruiting, which is why he took a bus from Falls Church, Virginia, down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and showed up for the school’s orientation in the fall of 1981. That didn’t work out too well since Alabama didn’t know anything about him, so he called up West Virginia because assistant coach Gary Tranquill had once visited his high school and Woodside had remembered talking to him. Paul told someone in the football office that he was coming to school and would like to try out for the football team.
The West Virginia coaches didn’t know what to expect, but when Woodside showed up and started kicking, coach Don Nehlen told recruiting coordinator Donnie Young that they just had a great recruiting year. Woodside ended up making four field goals in WVU’s 26-6 upset victory over Florida in the 1981 Peach Bowl.
Warwood’s Bill McKenzie was discovered during an emergency midseason walk-on tryout session in 1974 when Bobby Bowden was up in arms about his team’s kicking situation. Assistant head coach Chuck Klausing, who was running the tryout, asked McKenzie if he had ever kicked before in high school.
“Mostly squib kicks on kickoffs,” McKenzie told him.
A year later, this was the guy who beat Pitt on the game’s final play!
Ravenswood’s Frank Nester once kicked six field goals in a single game against Villanova in 1972, yet had such poor eyesight that he used to paint an arrow on his kicking tee just to get him lined up with the goal posts.
And unlike Dirk Kryt, West Virginia’s Ken Juskowich neither smoked nor a drank, but he took a similar path to the collegiate gridiron. A former soccer player from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, who was good enough to play for the United States in the Guatemalan Games, a broken leg prematurely ended Juskowich’s Mountaineer soccer career.
Coach Jim Carlen was searching for kickers to replace Chuck Kinder and WVU soccer coach Greg Myers suggested Juskowich try out for the football team.
“I remember going out there at the end of practice and I started kicking and it wasn’t 20 or 25 minutes later when coach Carlen came over to me and said, ‘Son, I want you to get your stuff wherever you are living on campus because you are going to move into the dormitory and you are going to be on scholarship.’ To make a decision like that for somebody who had never played a game or kicked a football in front of people … decisions are just not made like that anymore,” Juskowich once recalled in 2011.
That is, of course, unless you are really desperate to find a kicker, which was the predicament ex-coach Dana Holgorsen found himself in 2018. Former WVU punter Mike Molinari was helping on Holgorsen’s staff at the time, knew about Legg, and invited him to come up to training camp and try out for the team.
Casey did well enough to earn a spot on the roster and eventually found himself on the field kicking against Baylor when Neal Brown took over the program in 2019. Legg vividly remembers his first college field goal attempt, admitting he nearly blacked out before kicking it.
“I had a couple of extra points and really just babied those in to make sure I made them,” he said. “I kind of remember jogging out on the field and then kicking it.”
Three years later, he’s on the Lou Groza Award watch list after making 19 of his 23 field goal attempts and all 35 extra point attempts in 2021. The Charleston resident has now converted 26 of 34 for his career, including a long field goal of 51 yards against Kansas State during his sophomore season.
Many kickers in college football today are the product of kicking academies with kicking Svengalis to help them with their fundamentals. That’s not Casey’s deal, and he admits he is still playing catch-up when it comes to his kicking form.
“Ever since I got here, it’s almost always been about making kicks, and I felt that pressure my true freshman year, and I feel that pressure today,” he said. “I’m here to make kicks, so whatever form I have to use to make kicks I’m going to use that form.
“When you change your form, there is a process of getting worse before you get better, and I don’t feel like I’ve had time to do that since I’ve been here,” he added. “That’s maybe the negative side to where I didn’t have a coach early in high school to have that time to build up your form, almost like you would a golf swing.”
On the other hand, his mind is not cluttered with all of the complicating thoughts that can sometimes hinder performance. His approach to kicking field goals is pretty simple – kick the ball between the two posts – which worked out pretty well for guys like Frank Nester and Bill McKenzie.
“Absolutely, people can over-complicate it and definitely in team settings and game settings, I just try and kick it between the two posts and not think about anything else,” he explained. “That’s something that I’ve learned is you make a lot more kicks not thinking about your form than when you are thinking about every little detail.
“I think the simplicity of it is cool,” he continued, “but there are absolutely ways to get better. I think the mental side is something I’ve grown a lot. The sports psychology is maybe the growth I’ve seen in myself and is something that can continue to grow.”
Working with special teams coordinator Jeff Koonz and special teams analyst Tommy Thompson, Casey has developed a simple three-step approach to his kicking – stand tall, stay smooth and swing to the target.
“That’s all I do. When I’m kicking well, those are the things that I’m doing,” he said.
As the team inches closer toward its season opener against Pitt next Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Legg is one of the few players on the team who actually has memories of the Backyard Brawl.
He attended the 2007 Pitt game in Morgantown as a seven-year-old and one memory still sticks out, “I remember leaving that game with my family and people were throwing rocks at our car. I remember how emotional people were.”
Perhaps Legg will play a role in the outcome of this year’s Backyard Brawl, just as Bill McKenzie once did in 1975 or Tyler Bitancurt in 2009.
Now wouldn’t that be something?
This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here