Steigerwald looks to kick in doors to recordbookWritten by Dave Woolford | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Coaches sometimes use the self-explanatory phrase “Can’t miss” in regard to a future prospect, such as he or she is a “can’t miss.”
Alex Steigerwald, the University of Toledo’s placekicker, is a “can’t miss.”
But we’re not talking about glowing adjectives in regard to the junior from Cleveland.
If Steigerwald is to become the all-time NCAA field-goal percentage placekicker, he virtually can’t miss.
Here’s the scoop.
The NCAA lists two different all-time leaders in placekicking percentage. The all-time leader is John Lee (UCLA, 1982-85), who made 79-of-92 attempts (85.9 percent). The minimum required attempts is 55. For kickers with between 45 to 54 attempts, the all-time leader is Bobby Raymond (Florida, 1983-84), who made 43-of-49 attempts (87.8 percent).
Steigerwald has a field-goal percentage of 95.2 percent (20-of-21). To qualify for the latter record, he needs a minimum of 24 more field goal attempts. He would need at least 34 attempts to qualify for the all-time record. The fewer attempts he gets, the more he has to make.
It sounds like a big deal, and Steigerwald is aware of the records, but his interest is mainly just for kicks.
His goal is to kick the ball between the goalposts starting Sept. 6 in the Rockets’ season opener at Arizona. His second most important goal is doing the same thing in UT’s second game at Eastern Michigan on Sept. 13, and so on down the schedule.
“I know the field-goal percentage record is 95 something, but I don’t look at it as being a huge thing,” Steigerwald said earlier this week after kicking a 60-yard field goal during practice with a 10- to 12-mph wind at his back. “I want to get a championship ring and play in a bowl game. That’s my goal.”
Placekickers are usually anonymous at practice. They toil in obscurity, constantly peering at a pair of uprights as they attempt to become uppermost at their specialty.
But maybe obscurity was pushed to the brink recently for Steigerwald when the Lou Groza Award Watch List was released. Not listed among the 30 candidates was Alex Steigerwald. Toledo Assistant AD/Sports Media Relations Director Paul Helgren is looking into the matter, and with good reason.
Steigerwald made 13-of-13 field goal attempts last season and 44-of-47 extra-point attempts. He was the only kicker in the nation last season with at least 10 made field goals to have a perfect mark. Yes, 13 attempts is not very many, but there are four placekickers on the Watch List for the national placekicking award who had 13 or fewer attempts. Steigerwald connected on 7-of-8 field goal attempts as a freshman and missed just one of 31 extra point attempts. The only missed field goal in his UT career was a 36-yard attempt against Ball State in 2006.
“My mom called me a couple of weeks ago and said she saw the Groza Watch List on the Internet and that I was on it,” Steigerwald said. After being told Mom was mistaken, Alex said, “I’m just here to kick. Whatever happens happens. I didn’t have a lot of real far field goals. A lot of them were short. Maybe that’s why I’m not on the list.”
His longest field goal was a 44-yarder against Purdue last season. He made a 39-yarder as a freshman.
With two seasons remaining, Steigerwald should reach the 45 minimum field goal attempts. He needs to average at least 12 attempts each of the next two years to reach that number, but there’s a slight problem.
UT head coach Tom Amstutz has shown a reluctance in some instances to turn to his field-goal kicker when it seemed the situation was appropriate. Amstutz has a reputation for gambling on fourth down, whether that’s because he’s a risk-taker by nature or doesn’t have total confidence in his placekicker.
Does Steigerwald kick up his heels to some extent when not called upon?
“Yeah,” he admitted. “I show in pregame practice that I can kick the long ones and make them. I’ve only missed one field goal, so he’s got to have faith in me, but that’s his mentality and I never go against the coach. I never question the way coaches coach. At times it bothers me, but you can’t hold a grudge.”
Especially against Amstutz in Steigerwald’s case as Toledo was the only school to offer him a scholarship despite the fact that he made 19-of-21 field goal attempts in two seasons at Cleveland Benedictine High School, including 7-of-7 as a senior. His longest field goal in high school was 47 yards. Other schools were interested in Steigerwald, but wanted to recruit him as a walk-on with the promise of a scholarship if he materialized into a quality kicker. Most college coaches don’t like to “waste” a full scholarship on a placekicker.
Note to Amstutz: Your placekicker says his range is 52 to 55 yards now that he has increased his leg strength, and he’s ready to be the kickoff man, something else that has yet to be entrusted to him.
“Fifty-two yards is a solid distance for me,” Steigerwald added. “Fifty-five yards might be pushing it. I hit a 58-yarder in pregame practice at Kansas last year.”
Footnote to Amstutz: Your placekicker said, “It’s good to be left on your own during practice. It makes you better. The fewer people around you, the better.” He didn’t say it’s good to be left alone during crucial times in games when a field-goal attempt seems the best course of action.
Response from Amstutz: “Alex has the leg strength to kick 50-yard field goals. He has demonstrated that in practice. His opportunities to kick field goals will definitely increase this year.”
It would seem as though no one has anything left to kick about.