John F. Russell: A matter of seconds

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— It’s fourth down, time is about to expire and the game is on the line.

Ever stop and wonder what it would be like to be a kicker for a professional, college or even high school football team? Ever wonder why anyone would want that job?

In a matter of seconds, the kicker can be elevated to the role of superhero. But if he fails to get the job done, well, let’s just say there are no rocks to hide under in the middle of a football field.

One thing is for sure, kickers have to have tough skin.

One-point losses often can be traced back to missed field goals or extra points. Nobody ever remembers the third-and-2 when the lineman missed a block and a guy who weighs as much as a small car stuffed the running back at the line of scrimmage.

But miss an extra point and every football fan on your team’s side of the field will not only know the kicker’s name, but will be able to combine it with a well-placed explicative that reflects their feelings about him.

Former Steamboat Springs Sailor Ben DeLine, who was part of the Class of 2008, is one of those guys who knows what it’s like to be place-kicker. He’s in his junior year at Colorado State University and is off to a great season. While the Rams have been less than impressive, DeLine has scored 13 of the Rams’ 19 points through their first three games, including a field goal and an extra point in Saturday’s 31-10 loss to Miami (Ohio). Saturday’s performance means DeLine is 4-for-5 in field goals this season, and 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards out in his collegiate career. Not bad for a kicker who learned his trade on the frozen fields of Northwestern Colorado.

Like most athletes, De­Line isn’t happy simply reaching his own personal goals. For him, the success is in the end result, and it comes from helping his team win the game. Hopefully, that will come.

There isn’t a Saturday when a college game somewhere doesn’t come down to an extra point or a last-minute field goal. I’m sure DeLine understands that and looks forward to his opportunity. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be a place-kicker.

Being a place-kicker means dealing with the pressure of knowing that a single kick stands between winning and losing that big game. Being a kicker means that when your team is down by three points, the coach and your teammates will turn to you and expect a successful conversion as the final seconds of the game tick off the clock.

Forget the dropped passes, the failed third-down conversions and anything that happened prior to the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

With time running out it’s the kicker who most teams turn to. Maybe it’s that feeling that drives guys such as DeLine to the football field and should remind us all to cheer for them, even when they miss.

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