Football Player Going Back To The Basics

A returning starter for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers says he isn't satisified with what many thought was a very good 2001 season.

Auburn, Ala.--Heading into the 2002 season, one of last year's Lou Groza Award finalists as the nation's top kicker says that he is still trying to improve both his field goal kicking and his punting. Damon Duval's plan for accomplishing that goal seems to be very simple.

"I am just going back to the basics," the Auburn redshirt senior says. "I am starting over from scratch making sure everything from my routine to my follow through is right. One of my big goals going into this season is to be more consistent on my form from beginning to end. I want to kick field goals my last game like I am kicking them my first game and just keep that mentality up."

Damon Duval was named to the Playboy preseason All-America team as a kicker.

With almost a week of preseason drills in the book, Duval is off to a good start. He has made 15-16 of his field goals under live conditions in his kicking competition with sophomore Philip Yost. Yost has been kicking well, too, but not at Duval's torrid pace.

If Duval improves his consistency on field goal attempts, his job won't be complete. He is intent on improving himself as a punter, too, to help the Tigers win the battle of field position on game days.

"On punting I'm working on hang-time, working on pinning our opponents inside their 20," he tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "I tried improving on that every year and it has gotten a little better every year and that is just something that I am going to keep working on."

Following his junior season in which Duval was 16-26 on field goal attempts, with three of them being game winners while averaging 44 yards per punt, there was speculation that the All-American might bolt for the NFL. However, that was never a serious consideration, the Chattanooga, Tenn., native says.

"I knew the whole time I was coming back," Duval says. "I know there are so many things that I need to do to prepare myself for the next level from maturity on and off the field to coming out and being more consistent with field goals and more consistent with punts. After those three game winning field goals a lot of people said, ‘Hey, you'll have a chance to leave this year.' I didn't because there are still so many things that I know I need to work on and improve to give myself that best chance and opportunity after this year to go out and hopefully be successful."

If anybody is wondering what it feels like to walk onto the field and look toward the uprights with the game on the line, Duval says there is only one way that it should feel. "To me that was just another kick. You know I'd love to go out and make every kick and make every fan happy, but realistically that's not going to happen so for me it just going out every kick and doing the same thing every kick. The Florida kick wasn't any different than my first kick of the season and I have to approach every kick like that. I get in trouble when I don't do that and start worrying and start questioning myself. That is when I put myself in a predicament that causes me to get in those little slumps and stuff like that."

Damon Duval was named to the Walter Camp and American Football Coaches Association All-America teams last season.

Fans may wonder if in situations where it is borderline if a field goal should be tried if coaches come to their kickers and ask them if they can make the kick. Duval says, "It's kind of a week to week. A lot of it is judged by pre-game when we go out and warm up we will go back and kind of find out going this direction we are about right here and going this direction we are about right here. It gives him (Coach Tommy Tuberville) a good judgement. It's really not a question during the game. We know what our ranges are before the game even starts."

With Tuberville leading the charge, borderline situations can lead to very interesting play calls. Duval says since he knows that is the case and he is definitely paying attention to other parts of his game than just kicking and punting. "I've made a conscious effort this summer to try and throw some more and work on it in case the situations come up," he says. "I can maybe actually hit the wide open guy this time," the former Punt, Pass and Kick champion says with a smile. "Everybody knows how coach Tuberville is--he's a gambling man and it's kind of an expectation for me going into the season to understand that and just expect everything."

Duval says that even though things may not always go as planned, the players enjoy Tuberville's aggressiveness. "It's something that makes it more fun for not only us, but for the team. With the little wrinkles, they don't all work, but when they do that can be a big turnaround and a big boost in the morale for our team."

Along with being more fun, Duval also says that the gambling style can really help in crucial situations. "On special teams it helps us out a lot because it is always going to keep our opponents on their toes," he notes. "If they start rushing hard every time then you throw a little fake at them, then they have to back up and say, ‘OK, what are they going to do this time?' It makes teams have to back off because they have to respect the fact that we will do that and we are not afraid to do that."

Heading into the 2002 season, Duval says that he thinks how the Tigers play on the road will be a major factor in determining Auburn's success. "The first trip is going to be a tough one. USC is a good team and it is going to be a long road trip for a lot of these guys who haven't been out of the South. Hopefully, we can improve. We didn't play very well on the road last year. I think that has got to be a big key for us to make those trips on the road and play well and come out with victories."

As to how effective the Tigers can be this season, Duval says he would love for them to meet their goal, but there is only one formula that they can follow to get there. "As far as the team goes, I would love for us to go to the SEC championship and win it," Duval says. "The big key for us is we have a lot of young guys playing, but we have a lot of guys back, too."

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