The kickers on a football team are similar to the ‘One of these things is not like the other’ game on Sesame Street.
They do all the conditioning drills with all the players, they do a weight training program and practice for the same amount of time with the rest of the team. However, they aren’t of the same mentality as the other 101 players on the preseason roster and they fully admit that.
MSU senior kicker Sean Brauchle knows people wonder exactly what he and Pasquale do during practice, but assures them they aren't just standing around and taking it easy.
“Last season practice was so tense but we feel like this year we have to make sure when we’re out there to chill out and not worry about so much," Brauchle said.
Invariably the comparison to the job a Mississippi State kicker will have to execute in front of a sell-out crowd might be most similar to a professional golfer trying to make a birdie on the 72nd hole to win a major tournament.
“You essentially have to keep your mind out of the game and everything around it in order to stay relaxed when it’s your time out there,” MSU kicker Derek DePasquale said. “You almost have to feel out of it mentally and I’ve learned it’s so different than playing linebacker or quarterback.”
The battle for the opportunity to split the uprights on a game-winning field goal at Davis-Wade Stadium looks to be a season-long battle once again between DePasquale and Brauchle.
Brauchle, the senior from Biloxi, won the job last fall but was forced to watch the final half of the season with a crippling leg injury while DePasquale made 10 of 12 field goal attempts including a 48-yarder in the season finale against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl.
“It’s pretty close,” MSU head coach Dan Mullen said during the spring. “I would say today I wouldn’t know who the starter would be. We’re dead even at both positions right now and that will lead to improvement. It’s going to be a long battle and we may not know until right before that first game.”
This duo has embraced the more Zen aspect of their job compared to the rest of their team where their mindset is much more of a full-time adrenaline experience.
“It’s different especially during pre-game where everybody is a little tense and focused,” DePasquale said. “We’re just trying to stay loose and have fun throughout.”
The only guarantee is the contest for starting kicker will be much more friendly between the two teammates than it was at the beginning of last year when they both admitted this spring they couldn’t stand each other.
“It was pretty heated last fall and last summer and got to the point where we wanted to ring each other’s neck quite honestly,” Brauchle said.
The solution by Mullen and the rest of the MSU coaching staff – make the two kickers room together because if they have to travel together they’ll either fight or learn to get along somehow. Luckily for the Bulldogs squad, Brauchle and DePasquale did the latter of the two options.
“I don’t know just along with the way we just bonded,” Brauchle said. “We started getting along and it’s actually helped our game to the point that we’re our best coaches out there on the practice field.”
Knowing that one swing of the leg late in the game could decide a win from a loss in the second-year of his tenure at Mississippi State, Mullen might have to decide which player to hand that responsibility to throughout the 2010 season.
“We do have own strengths and weaknesses but I can’t imagine Dan Mullen being any happier to know he’s got two elite forces in the special teams game to turn to,” Brauchle said. “You’d think he’s got to be happy with that situation.”