The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

June 29, 2014

McAfee, now a punter in NFL, wants to kick field goals

MORGANTOWN — Former West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee never was one to shy away from a challenge.

Punt? Sure. Placekick? Sure. Kickoff? Certainly.

At West Virginia, he averaged 43.7 yards per punt, scored 364 career points kicking and even proved a force on kickoff coverage with nine tackles.

He even played a key role in what well may have been the greatest victory of the Rich Rodriguez era, his onside kick being recovered by WVU, allowing the Mountaineers to tie in regulation on a 1-yard Steve Slaton run what would be a 46-44 victory over Louisville in triple overtime, the game in which quarterback Pat White first displayed his greatness.

A seventh-round draft pick at Indianapolis, McAfee went on to become one of the best punters in the NFL, while also proving himself to be a star personality with a radio talk show and active in area charities.

And he’s still at it, for he told the Indianapolis Star recently that he has been making 60-plus yard field goals in practice and that he wants to replace Adam Vinatieri as placekicker as well as punting when Vinatieri calls it a career.

“If I keep making 66-yard field goals in practice every day that’ll help out a lot,” McAfee said. “I think it’s going to get to the point it’s going to be very hard for them to say ‘No,’ whenever that time comes, whenever Vinny leaves.”

The newspaper reported that McAfee even made a 72-yard, wind-aided field goal.

“I think we could legitimately go from 75 yards. Not even a question about it,” McAfee said. “I think in warmups I’d be able to hit from 80, like full strain. Probably try it a couple of times.”

In current WVU news, Clint Trickett is convinced no one saw the real quarterback he can be a year ago due to his late arrival after transferring from Florida State and then injuring his shoulder.

Now, he says, he has something to prove.

“This offense produces a lot of good quarterbacks. I obviously wasn’t one of them last year. I’d like to be one of them this year … numbers-wise, wins-wise,” he said.

Holgorsen’s offense has always seen quarterbacks flourish, from Geno Smith at West Virginia to Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State to Case Keenum at Houston to Graham Harrell and Cody Hodges at Texas Tech.

West Virginia is counting also on a lot of things to lead to an improved defense.

It begins with Tony Gibson being elevated to coordinator. The addition of the veteran Tom Bradley, who had 33 years with Joe Paterno, gives the first-year coordinator the depth of experience to call on.

But mostly it is the players.

Not necessarily better athletes, just older, more experienced players than a year ago.

“Can you compare our roster to Texas and Oklahoma right now? I don’t know,” Gibson said. “But from where we were a year ago at this time, I like what I see. I like the way we matured. I like that their bodies have gotten bigger and stronger and faster. It’s another year of experience.”

Experience is the one thing a coach can’t teach. To get it, you have to be out there playing, see how opponents come at you, experience the tricks of the trade and learn to overcome them … Bigger, stronger, faster and smarter can make a huge difference and the Mountaineers are counting on that.

West Virginia is counting on another aspect that you can’t coach to improve itself as a team.

Running back coach JaJuan Seider, a former WVU quarterback before transferring to Florida A&M where he was national Player of the Year and an NFL draft choice, explains it best.

“You talk about the brotherhood, being close as a team,” he said. “Since I’ve been back, this is as close as I’ve seen them. They are making each other accountable both on the field and off the field. That’s when you know you have growth in the team. It’s an ‘I’m not going to let you down and you’re not going to let me down.’ They believe it’s their team now.”

A team has to take possession of itself, something that never happened last season as they tried to get by for the first time without Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey.

“They were out there playing with no leaders and they don’t know if they are playing week to week to be a leader. They don’t understand their role because they are still learning the offense,” Seider said. “It’s like junior college kids. You get them for two years, but you really only have them for one year because it takes a year to get going.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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