From Soccer Star to SEC Football Starter

Early in his athletic career, Mississippi State junior kicker Adam Carlson was usually busy kicking a ball around. But it was not a football, mind you. Instead, it was a soccer ball, a sport that Carlson would earn five letters at Gulfport High School.

In fact, Carlson tried to stay away from football at first. But that didn't last very long once he received his first taste of the gridiron.

"In middle school, the coach always tried to get me to come out and play," said Carlson. "But I always avoided him and never went out. Then at the end of my sophomore year, a friend of mine finally got me to come out for spring practice. I met the coach and just went from there. I always had the desire to play football and always thought it was a great sport. So I just decided to go out for that spring practice and the next thing I knew I was playing."

Carlson's first taste of college football was also somewhat of a surprise.

Nearing the end of the 2005 campaign, Carlson was a redshirt freshman kicker. The role of kicking field goals and kickoffs belonged to Keith Andrews at the time.

However, Andrews pulled a hamstring at the beginning of the Houston contest.

Carlson's leg was quickly put to use, and he made his long field goal attempt (20 yards) against Houston in his first collegiate action.

It was an opportunity that Carlson didn't expect that quickly. According to Carlson, not expecting to play was probably a good thing at the time.

"I knew it was a long shot playing (as a redshirt freshmen)," said Carlson. "But I knew if there was a small chance I could play then I had to be prepared. That first day I kicked, there were really no nerves because I never thought I would play that particular day.

"And it all happened real quick when Keith (Andrews) went down. I guess it was for best that I didn't have that time to think about it or get nervous. I just had to get out there and kick."

Before his junior season got underway, Carlson and the Bulldogs' special teams had to overcome yet another injury.

Much-heralded kicker Eric Richards of Vicksburg had his punt blocked during a pre-season scrimmage. The end result was a broken foot for Richards and a medical redshirt season.

Yes, Richards was just a true freshman at Mississippi State. But his strong leg was counted on to handle kickoff duties in 2007, and possibly long field-goal attempts.

Suddenly, all the kicking responsibilities fell on Carlson's shoulders. Blake McAdams was still the starting punter but Carlson was also his back-up.

"I know that (Eric) Richards really pushed me," admitted Carlson, who punted for the first time in a pooch-punt situation against Tennessee two weeks ago. "But when he went down, there was more pressure on me. The coaches were counting on him to be the kickoff guy and back me up on field goals and be the backup punter.

"I knew I had to do everything and step into that role."

And Carlson has handled those roles with much success this season.

He has improved his kickoffs by almost 10 yards, which was much needed after the new rule pushed kickoffs back to the 30-yard line. And after making 50 percent (8-of-16) of his field goals in his first two seasons, Carlson has improved that percentage by knocking down 5-of-8 attempts and nailing a career-best two field goals in the 19-14 win at Auburn.

For Carlson, he acknowledges the improvement has been more mental than physical.

"I would say it was just getting confidence in myself," said Carlson. "I knew I could do it but had to prove to myself I could do it. I didn't have that many kicks in high school but I knew the ability was there. I just had to get more confident in my kicks. There is obviously more pressure kicking in college than high school but confidence was the top thing."

During Carlson's career, his opportunities have been limited in part to a struggling Bulldogs' offense. State has rotated quarterbacks at a rapid pace due to injuries.

"You look around college football and the SEC and see a lot of points being scored," noted Carlson. "And everybody knows our offense has been struggling the past couple of seasons. But we can see it getting a lot better.

"This is the first season that I've been able to knock down two field goals in one game. This is the first season I have been put in that position."

And with his chances far and few between, Carlson admits there is more pressure to drill field goals.

"We know the offense will keep improving but I also know there is more pressure for me to produce," said Carlson, who has made 54-of-55 career extra points. "My opportunities may be limited and there may not be many chances. So I have to make sure I execute and get the job done when my name is called."

With four games left on the schedule, Carlson is hoping for that moment all kickers dream of everyday.

The Bulldogs need two more wins to become bowl-eligible and Carlson believes the last four games will come down to the wire. And he would love nothing more than to kick the game-winner with no time left on the clock.

"As a kicker, you always want that chance (for a game-winning field goal)," said Carlson. "I believe every game we have left will be tight because that is just the way the SEC is. But it's an opportunity that I look forward to.

"I haven't really had those type of game-winning chances. Last year in the Egg Bowl (51-yard attempt) was the only one I've experienced and I came close to making that one. You look at the Auburn kicker and he's gotten two or three game-winners already in his career.

"I know our games might come down to two or three points and I always prepare to kick that game-winner and want that opportunity."

Paul Jones is a writer for the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website. He can be reached by email at

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