Kickin with Ficken
By BILL ALBRIGHT
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State placekicker Sam Ficken will be the first to admit that his start to the 2012 season was a nightmare.
However, after getting off to the sluggish start, Ficken ironed out his problems and became a consistent kicker for the Lions over the final eight games.
Maybe more than any other position, kicking can be as much or more mental than physical and Ficken related as to what he has been doing since then so that history doesn’t repeat itself.
For Ficken, his approach to moving forward is a simple one. Learn from the nightmare, put 2012 behind him and move on to 2013.
“I tried to focus on what was ahead for me and not behind me,” said Ficken. “I thought I was a good kicker and that I just had a bad day, but that happens. I think every kicker goes through one of those times, and unfortunately for us, it was one of those times when we only needed a few points to win the game.”
Although he had to wade through the tough 17-16 loss to Virginia with a 1-for-5 effort in field attempts, Ficken feels that game propelled him into being a better kicker for the rest of the season.
“It made me grow as a kicker, it made me a better kicker as well as a better person,” Ficken said. “I had to focus on what was inside Lasch (football) building with the team and what they wanted. I reached out to Robbie Gould (Former Central Mountain and Chicago Bears kicker) and he helped me a lot. After the season was over, I changed my steps from two-and-a-half to just two steps and I gained a lot of accuracy from that. I do every workout that every other football player here does and that added strength has also helped me a lot because I can feel a little more ‘pop’ in my leg.”
As for how he increased his leg strength, Ficken said it was just a matter of working hard while doing every thing the linemen do.
“I squat, I bench, and I do all of the other lifts that they do,” he said. “I also do some band work to try and get the hip flexors as strong as possible and we also do quite a bit of core. A lot of people think it is all about your quad muscles, but it is a lot of your abs, hips and groins. Right now, I feel a lot stronger than I did last season.”
Any kicker will tell you that the relationship between the kicker and holder is huge if you are to be successful.
“It is very key to have a good relationship with your holder,” Ficken said. “I get (Ryan) Keiser back this year so I am really excited about that and we also have Anthony Alosi snapping so that is a change from last year. As a group we are a lot more confident this year than we were last season so we are really looking forward to what is to come this year.”
So while the linemen, backs and receivers are busy doing their respective things during practice, Ficken and the other kickers also have their daily routines.
“All the specialists come our early just like we do before a game,” Ficken explained. “I’ll warm up by doing no-step kicks just swinging my leg and then I’ll do one-step kicks to kind of get that motion going before I do full steps. After that, we’ll have a specialist period where the whole unit gets together and after that, we’ll do either kickoff or punt drills. After that we go with the entire squad before doing kickoffs and punts followed by kickoff returns and punt returns.”
As for anticipating the season opener with Syracuse at the Meadowlands, Ficken said, “I am absolutely excited about it. I can hardly wait until it gets here.”
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