September 16, 2009

Lifestyles: Lacrosse People in Unique Places

Lacrosse Magazine's "Lifestyles" series features people of prominence and human interest who possess ties to the nation's fastest growing sport. These are their stories, as told to Clare Lochary.

Middlebury lacrosse alum Steve Hauschka kicks for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens.
© Baltimore Ravens

Steve Hauschka never played football before his sophomore year at Middlebury, where he also played a season of soccer and two years of lacrosse. He’s made up for lost time, though. Hauschka deferred dental school to spend a year kicking for NC State, where he caught the eye of NFL scouts and ultimately landed on the Baltimore Ravens’ roster. Hauschka recently kicked it with LM, sharing details about his winding career path from dentistry to smashmouth football.

Which have you been playing longer — football or lacrosse?
I played soccer and lacrosse in high school, but I didn’t start kicking a football until sophomore year of college. My freshman year roommates were football players. They needed a kicker for the team and they convinced me to try out.

You were on your way to dental school when you took a detour to the NFL. How did that happen?
I had my deposit in at UCLA dental school and Tufts dental school. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted. My mom’s a dentist and coming out of Middlebury, I thought it was something I wanted. But when people from the NFL start calling you, it’s a tough thing to veer away from. As soon as NC State finished, I worked with my kicking coach to get ready for NFL training camps.

How did you end up with an extra year of eligibility to use at NC State?
I didn’t start kicking a football until sophomore year of college, and you’re allowed to play four years of each sport in a five-year window. I was thinking about doing a fifth year at Middlebury, but I found a great opportunity at NC State.

What was a bigger jump — going from D-III athletics to D-I athletics, or going from D-I athletics to the NFL?
It was definitely going from D-I to the NFL, just because you’re still in a college atmosphere at D-I. You’ve got all your friends, and you’re doing things that people do in college. In the NFL, it’s a full-time job and there are grown men in the locker room and it’s a whole different story.

What lacrosse position did you play?
Attack. I was pretty big (6’2”/185) compared to most of the other players, and I had a way of getting the ball in the net. I just had a knack for that.

Do you think the comparison between FOGOs and kickers is apt?
I faced off a little in high school [at Needham (Mass.)]. There’s definitely a similarity. They’re both clutch positions, and you’ve got everyone watching you. But there’s something completely different about kicking. There are so many things going on with kicking. Faceoffs are more athleticism. Kicks are really technical, and there’s a lot of mental stuff going on too.

What was your first collegiate kick — the first one that really counted — like?
I just remember there was so much going on I was almost overwhelmed that the only thing I could concentrate on was the kick. I made it, though.

What was your first NFL kick like?
There was a lot going on. I didn’t really have time to settle into it. It was pretty long — 54 yards. I didn’t know my first one was going to have so much pressure on it.

How do you feel when you see the ball go through the uprights?
It depends on the yardage. Sometimes you’re happy. On some other yardage, you might be relieved.

What do you do to stay calm as a solitary kicker?
A lot of it’s about staying focused on your kick. The only thing that matters is your kick. There’s so many other things going on — fans, distractions, the snap and the hold. You don’t really want to react to any of that. No matter how the ball comes to you, you’re still going to do the same thing. Do the same thing every time and be relaxed and be focused on the kick. There are all sorts of things that you can do to improve your focus. It’s such a mental thing because you know a lot of people get nervous. Just stay in the present moment.

Do you spend much time in Baltimore? Have you gotten to see much lacrosse?
I live in Fell’s Point [a downtown Baltimore neighborhood]. I like the city a lot. I need to get out to [some lacrosse games], but I’ve been pretty busy with work-outs. I was going to go to that game at M&T Bank [Day of Rivals on April 11] but I was home for Easter.
I’m also related to [Loyola head coach] Charlie Toomey, so I’ve been meaning to catch up with him and get to some of his games. I went to his camp at Loyola when I was in high school.

Did playing soccer and lacrosse help you to become a better kicker?
No question. Definitely. Soccer obviously is really similar. You have to play other sports and give your body room to develop and give your nervous system new ways to increase your coordination. I have no doubt that if I started kicking when I was young and never got to play soccer and lacrosse, I don’t know if I’d be the athlete that I am now.

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