1) Nate Kaeding (2000-03)
This one was easy.
Here’s a story from 2003, going into Kaeding’s regular-season finale at Wisconsin:
MADISON, Wis. – The notebook landed on his desk last spring. Chris Doyle opened it and found out why Nate Kaeding is college football’s best kicker.
The reason the kicker was in the strength and conditioning coach’s office last spring was for fine tuning. Kaeding wanted a fresh leg heading into fall camp in August and figured Doyle could help. Doyle wanted to know what Kaeding did during the offseason.
Kaeding brought out the notebook.
“It went back a long ways. He probably has a ton of them,” said Doyle, who’s in his fifth season as Iowa’s strength coach. “He charted every kick, practice,
games, in and out of season.
“He is just so meticulous and detailed. I think the story there is that this is no accident.”
Kaeding the kicker is no accident.
Kaeding is among three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. He won the award last year. Kaeding is Iowa’s career scoring leader with 351 points. He is third in Big Ten history with 345 career kicking points. He has virtually every kicking record at Iowa, including a streak of 22
straight field goals.
Last week, Kaeding equaled career highs with four field goals, 16 points and a 55-yard boot at the end of the first half. The senior earned his second weekly Big Ten special teams player of the week honor this season and the fifth of his career. He has been honored at least once in all four of his seasons at Iowa.
He’s made 15 of 16 field goal attempts going into today’s regular-season finale at Wisconsin.
None of this has been by accident.
“You can’t really envision anything like this,” Kaeding said. “It’s almost exceeded expectations.”
In the middle of this thought, when Kaeding could go into a full-on “Kaeding for Groza” stump speech, he veered to the team, which is so Kaeding and which is why Kaeding the kicker is universally respected, from coaches to managers to linebackers.
“The way the coaching staff approached it was that we would come in and bust our butts every day,” Kaeding said. “We’d focus on doing the right things – going to class, being on time, tucking your shirts in.
“Eventually, you build that solid foundation on what’s right and you’re going to end up having a program like this, something that’s going to last.”
Kaeding knows about building solid foundations.
Before he was on teams that won state titles in football, basketball and soccer at Iowa City West, Kaeding was a junior high defensive back/receiver who eventually gravitated toward kicking. He honed his skills going to the Midwest Kicking Camps his junior and senior years at West. The Kaedings didn’t take out a second mortgage. It was more nurturing a passion.
Larry Kaeding, Nates’ dad, never saw the notebook, but certainly saw the effort, detail and dedication.
“It means a lot to him,” Larry Kaeding said. “He’s put a lot of time into it. He’s still having fun out there.”
Kaeding’s notebook is full of the landmark kicks. The 50-yarder when he was a senior at West. The Alamo Bowl game-winner, a 47-yarder with 44 seconds left, is probably highlighted. The last two road trips to Penn State – an overtime game-winner in ’00 and a 55-yarder last season – are written in pen. Last week, of course. The Iowa State game in September, in which he broke Iowa’s scoring record.
But given Kaeding’s grinder nature, you know the wide rights and lefts, the bounces off the uprights and the plain flubs are in there, too. Giving Kaeding’s grinder nature, they’re probably the ones in magic marker.
“He’s so detailed. He’s so thorough, so conscientious,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And it all starts because he’s got tremendous pride. We don’t have a
guy who has more pride, and we’ve got a lot of guys who have pride, don’t get me wrong.
“He’s a guy who adds so much. And he’s added so much to our football team. A lot more than just what he does when he kicks the football.”
What landed the kicker in the strength coach’s office was Kaeding’s dogged dedication. He didn’t know when to say when.
“He would kick until he was satisfied,” Doyle said. “That could be 20 balls or 100 balls. Knowing Nate, that always was closer to 100.”
Said Kaeding, “I’m the kind of guy who sees some little tweak and then goes and kicks 50 balls and try to make up for it.”
Doyle cycled Kaeding’s workouts, ensuring that Kaeding’s leg strength would be at its height going into the season. Instead of 50 or 100 balls until he felt right, Kaeding would concentrate on 20 or 50, with more at the beginning of game week and fewer as game day approached.
“He kind of put on something like you see pitchers in the major leagues are on, a pitch count,” Kaeding said. “How many reps? How often? How much intensity?
“It was kind of different. I’ve always prided myself in, outworking and outpreparing the guy next to me. It’s not like you have to run more sprints than this guy or kick more balls than this guy, but you’ve got to be more prepared in the sense that you know your strengths and weaknesses.”
Kaeding’s kicking season won’t end with today’s game against Wisconsin and Iowa’s bowl game. He’s going to the Senior Bowl in January. Then there will be
the NFL combine and numerous individual workouts for NFL teams thinking about drafting a kicker in April.
He’ll juggle the NFL circuit while he finishes his history/secondary education major as a student teacher in Wilton.
Given the tenuous life of kickers in the NFL, Kaeding is going into the NFL meat market with an open mind.
“It’s a matter of what these teams need and what the circumstances are,” he said. “I just put out my best effort. If a team really likes me, then I’ll be happy getting drafted by whoever that may be.”
Open mind, open notebook.
Kaeding is Iowa’s all-time everything in kicking. He’s incredibly community-minded. Make sure you vote for him when he runs for your mayor, Iowa City.
2) Kyle Schlicher (2003-06)
Schlicher is No. 4 on Iowa’s career scoring list with 260 points.
He lived under the shadow of Kaeding and he was OK with it:
MINNEAPOLIS – Nate Kaeding has the pizza in his name, the Lou Groza Award and the NFL. But Kaeding owns a little less of the Iowa record book.
Kicker Kyle Schlicher set records with five field goals and 17 points in the No.-19 Hawkeyes’ 29-27 victory Saturday over Minnesota at the Metrodome.
Schlicher made field goals of 36, 22, 20, 38 and 49 yards. The 49-yarder was a career-long for the sophomore from Ankeny. It came with 9:11 left in the game and gave the Hawkeyes their winning margin.
Kaeding’s San Diego Chargers are idle this week. He stopped by the Iowa football complex Friday and visited Schlicher. Saturday, Schlicher took two of Kaeding’s records. (Kaeding now holds only 11 Iowa kicking records, by the way.)
You can bet that Schlicher reminded him of that when the two met up last night in Iowa City.
“Someone else will bring it up, probably,” said Schlicher, who’s made 17 of 23 field goals this season. “We have a friendly competition. And that’s good. That
pushes me. He knows I’m sneaking up on him.”
After Saturday, there’s no more sneaking.
On third-and-9 at Minnesota’s 18, Minnesota defensive tackle Keith Lipka sacked quarterback Drew Tate for a 14-yard loss back to Minnesota’s 32. This raised the degree of difficulty for Schlicher, but it didn’t matter. He squeezed the 49-yarder just inside the left upright for a 29-20 lead with 9:11 left.
“I thought we screwed that one up for him,” Tate said. “That was my fault for not throwing the ball away. Schlicher did a great job picking us up and getting that one in there.”
Schlicher was there when Iowa’s offense twice stalled after first-and-goals inside Minnesota’s 10.
“My guess is that Nate’s really proud of what Kyle did today,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “What a great role model he was for Kyle.”
There might be some friendly competition, but Schlicher readily admits he owes a lot to Kaeding. He spent two years as Kaeding’s understudy and took notes the whole time.
“Every aspect,” Schlicher said. “Having the chance to watch him for two years, from the mental aspect to the technical part of it, every little thing you can think of, was great for me.
“I don’t think he knew that I was stalking him. OK, I wasn’t really stalking him, but whenever we were at the football complex, I watched every little move he made.”
3) Daniel Murray (2007-10)
Honorable mention: Tim Douglas (1998-99). OK, I’m not sure he even lasted Ferentz’s first season, but during Hayden Fry’s last year in ’98, Douglas booted an Iowa record 58-yard field goal. Also, he led the Hawkeyes in scoring during Ferentz’s first year in ’99. He had 37 points.