Most NC State fans probably think of Russell Wilson when they think about the current trend of college football teams getting a player from another school to transfer in and play for only one year. They probably recall how the storied Wolfpack quarterback took his final year of eligibility to the Wisconsin Badgers and led them to a Big 10 title last season.
But what fans may not remember is that State also benefited from the rule allowing such transfers when a kicker named Steven Hauschka came to Raleigh in 2007.
The Wolfpack scored 220 points during the 2007 season. The team’s leading scorer, accounting for 33 percent of the total points scored, was Hauschka.
Originally from Needham, Mass., Hauschka didn’t started kicking for a football team until his sophomore year at Middlebury College in Vermont. “My roommates were football players and they needed a kicker, ” says Hauschka, who studied neuroscience at Middlebury. “I won the job and did the punting and kicking there for the next three years.”
Hauschka had one year of eligibility left when he graduated, and the NCAA allows a student to transfer without having to sit out a year if the athlete’s new college offers a graduate program not offered by the original school.
Such was the case, and Hauschka’s one season with the Wolfpack began. He went 16-18 that year in field goals and 25-25 in extra points, leading the ACC in kicking and being named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. Upon leaving NC State, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minesota Vikings in 2008.
After four years of bouncing around from five different NFL teams, Hauschka found his leg with the Seattle Seahawks last season. He made at least one field goal in 12 straight games, tying the longest streak in Seahawks’ history, and connected on five field goals in a November 2011 game against the Baltimore Ravens, one of his old teams. He has continued his success this year, going 19-22 in field goal attempts. “I was just developing as a kicker,” he says. “I just needed another opportunity. I was fortunate to get an opportunity here.”
Hauschka says the most important facet of being a kicker in the NFL is the mental component. That’s just the nature of the game when so much of what a kicker does is put under a microscope. “It’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?'” he says. “You only get a few attempts a game, and you’re only as good as your last kick.”
But, he says, once a kicker accepts that, the worry and anxiety go out the door. “The more you do, the more you get used to it,” he says. “It’s not a really big deal in my life at this point.”
The key for Hauschka avoiding stress comes with him working on his breathing techniques and the support of his teammates, some of whom are old Wolfpack buddies.
Russell Wilson and J.R. Sweezy also play for Seattle and came to State with their kicking counterpart in 2007. Hauschka says they all lived on the same hall at NC State and have stayed close friends since their Wolfpack days.
Add to that a rational view of the big picture, and you’ve got a mentally stable professional kicker.
“You don’t think about it as a kicker,” Hauschka says of a missed field goal. “As a kicker, you have to think about all the good stuff you’ve done for the team. The sky’s the limit when you think positively.”