You probably watched the worst moment of Blair Walsh’s career this January when the Pro Bowl kicker shanked a 27-yard field goal attempt that would have won his Minnesota Vikings their first playoff game in six years. Hamilton Tiger-Cats kicker Justin Medlock was in Florida, watching on TV, and immediately texted Jeff Locke, his old college teammate and Walsh’s holder.
“I was like, ‘Tell Blair it’s just part of our business,’” Medlock says. “Sometimes we make ’em, sometimes we miss ’em.”
Executing a game-winning field goal in front of thousands of people is an incredibly difficult, mettle-testing task. Here’s how Medlock, who’s kicked for nine years combined in the NFL and CFL, approaches it.
During the drive
“You’re playing the scenarios through your head. If it’s going to be a 50-yarder, I’m treating my warm-up kick like it’s a 50-yarder. I’m swinging hard. Once they get past the yardage point where I feel comfortable, I back off. I probably get in way more kicks on the sidelines than other people. I look at [Saskatchewan Roughriders kicker] Paul McCallum and he’s so laid-back—he takes like one kick on the drive and then just goes out there. Sometimes I wish I had that mentality.”
On the walk out
“Some guys, like McCallum or [Indianapolis Colts kicker] Adam Vinatieri, might like to walk out and be more relaxed. But I run out there; I’m ready to knock this in and win the game. You do want to slow everything down and focus, but you have to be ready for the moment. You want a little bit of that competitiveness; you want your blood going. Then it’s all about focusing on your technique. Right before the snap, I tell myself that over and over.”
On the inevitable wait
“Teams will try to ice you with a time out, but I don’t mind it. If you’re saying, ‘Let’s just get this over with,’ that shows that you’re scared. That shows you’re nervous. It’s impossible, but you try to not think about the score. There’s something to the theory that kickers do worse when they’re down by one compared to when they’re tied. They know, ‘Hey, I can miss it and we’re still in the game.’ There’s no fear. But that’s such a bad attitude.”
This story originally appeared as part of the How-To package in the March issue of Sportsnet magazine.