Ask a 'Dore: Bryant Hahnfeldt's Answers
Nov. 8, 2007
What does it take to kick at the collegiate level? "The biggest thing is to be consistent in every aspect. Consistency starts with the form. As long as you can stay consistent with form throughout high school leading up to college, you're going to be successful."
How much does training and practice go into being successful on gamedays? "It goes into it a lot because if you're training all the time and doing what's necessary, then you're going to stay consistent in game situations."
What training routines do you do to prepare for the season to make yourself a better kicker? "I do the same lifting and conditioning as the rest of the team, but then I also do other things like hopping stadium steps on one leg to get my left leg stronger. I get more explosive and flexible by doing extra hip work. Throughout the off-season, I don't want to get tight. I want to build extra strength primarily in my hips."
What is your aiming point for when you kick a field goal? "I pick out a spot to aim for. I back up straight usually towards the middle of the goalpost. However, if there's a wind, like a crosswind, I might back up and aim more towards the right upright to play the wind. On extra points at the open end of our stadium, I get back and aim to kick the ball between the `T' at the end of Vanderbilt and the `C' at the beginning of Commodores. It's a high target, and I know if I follow through, then the ball's going to go straight where I'm aiming. Once I take my steps over, I look at my target beyond the goalposts for a second time (I only started doing this step this year). When the ball is snapped, I follow a regular sequence. I move when the holder's hand leaves the ground. When his hand hits the ground, I'm at the ball. I'm not getting to the ball too fast or too slow. Once the ball is set down, I focus on the sweet spot of the ball which is below the middle of the ball. I burn my eyes into that spot."
What else goes into a field goal kicking play aside from the kicker's routine? "First, there's the snap. The snap has to be good or at least in the vicinity of the holder. The linemen have to have good blocks. Our line and snappers have done a great job this season. Then comes the hold. Mackenzi Adams and I have worked for a year and a half now with it. If he doesn't hit the spot and he's three inches off either way, then that can throw me off because I take my steps from the spot where he puts his hand down. Then there's the lean of the ball and where the laces are, little things like that. Those are things that can greatly affect whether or not a field goal is good or not. If Mackenzi gets the ball down, and I can see it clearly, then I can make any necessary adjustments."
Where is your desired position to kick from on the field? "I don't really have a preference. It would be nice to kick from the middle all the time or maybe offset a little bit to the right, but this isn't a perfect world. I probably have kicked only a handful of kicks from the middle of the field. Most field goals I have kicked have come from the hash marks. I feel comfortable from any position on the field."
So, do you prefer to kick towards the closed end of Vanderbilt Stadium? "It doesn't matter. It depends on what the wind is doing. If the wind if blowing towards the open end, I'd rather kick at that end. It is nice to kick an opening kickoff towards the closed end of the field because that's where our fans are. I can see everyone and it gets me pumped up. It's really cool."
Do you like to make tackles on kickoffs, or would you rather shy away from hitting? "I love to hit. I miss it a lot because I played another position aside from kicker in high school. I always played another position aside from kicker before I got to college. It's nice to get a hit every now and then because it reminds me I'm still playing football. Honestly, I'd rather not have to do that because by the time the kick returner gets to me, that means he's gained quite a few yards. It would be great if I never had to make a tackle because that means our coverage teams are doing a fantastic job, which they have been doing all season because I've only had to make one or two tackles this season, but if I have to come up and make a tackle, then it's fine by me."
Do you get a rush from making a tackle? "I do. It's get me pumped up, and it kind of gets the team pumped if I lay a nice little hit on a guy. They get pumped about it because they don't expect me to hit or to try and hit anybody."
What is the thought process of having to prepare for a game winning field goal attempt? "When I'm on the sideline, I know the situation. I prepare for that situation more during the week than I do on gameday. As long as I've been kicking, I've been preparing for those types of situations so that when I am called on, I'm not shocked or freaked out. I simply go out on the field and do my job. My job is no different than anyone else's, except for the fact that mine might decide the game. It's cool to be put into that type of a game altering situation."
The result of a field goal can give a kicker an immeasurable high or low. How do you prepare yourself from week to week following either feeling? "It's a real off and on position. I might miss a kick but then have to come back and attempt a game winner. When we were at Ole Miss last season, I missed two kicks. After the first one, I was shocked because I hit the ball well, but it went left. After the second one, I just hit the ball wrong. I got over them both because I had to kick a third field goal to keep us in the game. The next week, I came back and made a game winner at Georgia. Kickers stand on the sideline a lot. I'm trying to pay attention to the game. I have to be able to turn myself off and on in a short amount of time because there's a lot of downtime within a game being a kicker. Nothing else matters except for the kick in the present."
Does icing a kicker work? "I honestly don't notice if the other team has any timeouts to call. It's funny to me to see other teams call timeouts like that. It's something the other coach has to do, and I understand it, but it's more so funny to me because if I let something like that get to me, then I don't need to be kicking. There have been quite times in the NFL this season where the approach has worked, but it didn't work for Florida in the Auburn game. The Auburn kicker made both kicks, so it's really not that big of a deal for most kickers because I'm in a different zone."
You and former Vanderbilt kicking great John Markham both went to the same high school: Montgomery Bell Academy. Who is the better kicker? "Of course I am. Seriously though, John was a great kicker. I'm approaching his point's record, and that should just tell you something about him. He made a lot of field goals. I don't know what his exact records are, but he was a great kicker. It was fun to work with him in the past. We had the same kicking coach. We have a good relationship and hang out quite a bit.
Do you feel any pressure playing in your hometown? "I don't feel like there's any extra pressure. I kind of felt pressure at first because people had expectations for me, but I felt like I proved myself during my freshman year. Also, it's a lot of fun because my mom has a nice tailgating setup. A bunch of family and friends come to the games. It's cooler to see how much fun my family is having with it then it is for me. Every time friends come into town, they always want to come to games.
What's your favorite meal that your mom makes for you? "She makes a lot of good things. I love her hash brown casserole. It is unbelievable. It's so good. Every Thanksgiving, she makes a French toast dish in the mornings along with the casserole in the afternoon. Thanksgiving is always a great day."
During the spring, you and other football players are regulars at Vanderbilt baseball games. What do you enjoy most about going to those games? "I really like baseball in general. It's a fun sport. David Whittington, Bryant Anderson, and I try to go to every game. We were talking the other day about how much we can't wait until baseball season starts. We know the Vanderbilt baseball guys, we hang out with them, and they're a great team. It's fun to watch them and watch them win."
What has been your favorite moment to date as a Commodore? "The Georgia game winning field goal is something I will never forget. Beating Tennessee is also at the top of the list. Outside of football, David Whittington and I sat at a baseball game one time last season when the team was down to Boston College by one run in the bottom of the ninth. There were two outs with a man on second, and Ryan Flaherty blasted a home run over the right field fence. He just destroyed the ball over the wall and onto the road. At the same time, our basketball team was playing Kentucky. A guy was sitting next to us listening to the game on his radio. He told us that there were only thirty seconds left and it was a close game. We were going crazy after seeing the home run, then all of us looked at each other and said, `let's go to the basketball game,' so we took off to Memorial Gym, ran inside, and caught the end of the Commodores' win over the Wildcats. That was a cool day. It was so exciting. We had two big wins in dramatic fashion within minutes of each other. I was glad to be a part of that day. That had to be the coolest two minutes I've been a part of all time."
It sounds like you enjoy seeing your peers succeed. "I love to see other people succeed. It makes me want to do better. I think it makes the football team want to perform at a higher level. We get excited at other Vanderbilt team's games when they're winning like that; they're probably doing the same thing at our games. It makes Vanderbilt more enjoyable for everyone to have great success. It makes everyone's day better. I'm sure people get upset when we lose, and people will feel down, but when we win, people will feel better, have a great day, and a great week. It's great to see people do well at Vanderbilt."