Soccer player

COLUMN: How to convert a football player into a Power Five football kicker | WVU Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — The journey from the football fields of Cross Lanes Christian School in Charleston to become West Virginia University’s placekicker in the Backyard Brawl has been an unlikely one for the Mountaineers’ aptly named Casey Legg.

He never played football in high school. Never attempted a field goal, an extra point, a kickoff. I never even thought of that, so…

“I loved football; played football in high school,” the senior WVU graduate said in interviews Thursday, two weeks before the Brawl’s 105th renewal. “One day a parent or grandparent from an opposing team asked my mum if I had ever played football. She said, ‘No, he never kicked footballs.’

A few days later, his mother told him about the brief conversation.

Legg says he had a few days off and thought “I might as well give it a try.”

And that’s how it all started. He headed to Laidley Field to try and admits: “I don’t think I would have ever tried it if that relative hadn’t said anything.”

“I remember it very well. I think it was a Wednesday in October 2017. Before going out I had to go to Dick’s and buy a soccer ball. I had one of those old orange tees – not the kick off tee but the orange, almost metal field goal tee.

“I took it to Laidley Field. I remember kicking and I loved it. I kicked well…and it was probably complete beginner’s luck, because I had no idea what I was doing. I just looked at the ball and kicked it.

But kicking with a buddy alone in an empty Laidley Field in Charleston is very different from kicking in the Backyard Brawl as a kicker on the All-Big 12 preseason team.

He came to West Virginia in 2018 and came out for the team and showed promise. They let him start his freshman year once.

“My only career tackle came on that first kick-off, and I’d like to see that continue,” he said.

Why keep it like this? He was returned 53 yards before he shot down the returner.

Then, in 2019 against Texas Tech, he got a chance to kick.

“I almost fainted,” he said, speaking of his first field goal attempt, which by the way was good from 30 yards out.

He had a few extra points before trying a field goal and said, “I coddled them.”

But now he was over there in front of scoring a basket.

“I remember…just about,” he said. “It was almost a blackout moment where you don’t remember much. I remember talking on the pitch and then kicking.

He knows he was pretty raw as he went through the motions, never having played football in high school and literally going to kick a lark.

“If I could go back, I would,” he said. “I think it would relieve some of the form issues I had and some of the transition issues. It would have been easier if I even started in grade 9, but I guess there’s a reason I don’t. I didn’t. I’m grateful for how it worked out, but looking back, even in 9th grade, I wish I’d said, ‘I’m going to kick some footballs and see where it might go.’

And really, he didn’t worry too much about form. Just clear your head and kick through the uprights last season, making 19 of 23 field goal tries for .826 percentage while going for 49 yards. He also scored his 35 extra points.

“I see the simple side of it. You just hit it through the posts, and I like that,” Legg said. “I think the simplicity of this one is really cool.”

Mechanics are important, but the mental side of kicking and dealing with the pressure of the moment and the long wait on the sidelines to get into play to kick is something else entirely.

“The mental side is something I grew up in a lot,” Legg said. “As far as form or what you do with your body, there are limits to that.”

What there are no limits to is the psychology of kicking.

He has worked with the team’s sports psychologist (Adrian Ferrera) and understands “that’s probably the most important aspect of goals on the pitch”.

“There’s real pressure,” Legg said. “Games are won and lost by kicking and that’s the pressure. I take care of it by my faith and my prayer.

He says it’s all in your preparation.

“That’s the hardest part, making sure you’re ready for the kicking pressure. Dealing with pressure and trusting whatever your process is mental preparation,” he said. “I try to ignore the result of the kick, but I’ve really struggled with it and ever since I started kicking.”

What he does is remember the three main imperatives for him to kick well:

“Stand up straight, stay fluid, and swing towards the target.”

He understands that there is nothing to do once the ball touches his foot.

“If it fits, great. But that’s what I do with every kick,” he said.

He also reads books on the subject, at the moment he is in a book called “Mind Gym”.

“I’ve read it since middle school and it’s one of my all-time favorite books,” he said.

No, it’s not that he’s a slow reader. He just reads it every year before the season to refresh his memory.

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