Brindza backs it up

Confidence is key in the kicking game, and Notre Dame senior kicker (and punter, and kickoff specialist) Kyle Brindza has it in spades.

At this point last spring, questions lingered regarding placekicker Kyle Brindza's ability to punt the football. And if he proved capable of doing so, would it impact his field goal work or impact his overall leg strength as a kickoff specialist over the four month grind of 2013.

The question today for the senior triple-threat? Could he be the best in the nation -- at each duty?

"National championship, (Lou) Groza, Ray Guy," said Brindza, ticking off first the collective team goal then his personal mission to win both the top kicker and punter award nationally at season's end.

As the saying goes, it's not bragging if you can back it up.

Brindza has been perfect in close and late situations hitting each of his 12 fourth quarter or overtime attempts with Notre Dame embroiled in a tight contest. (He's missed one fourth quarter kick, but the Irish lead 28-6 over Temple in the 2013 season opener.)

Though not Notre Dame's most consistent kicker of the modern era, Brindza is the guy you want standing seven yards behind scrimmage with the game on the line. And he plans to work on the former.

"Definitely my consistency, not just from field goals and punts but everyday life," Brindza said of his forward focus. "That's how it's supposed to be if you have a consistent basis outside of football you'll have the same thing in day-to-day life. With consistency comes better form. With better form you can have a better ball come off the foot. Focus on the little part of punting: perfect drop, perfect steps, perfect mold. Those little slight details that can mess up something. With field goal, same steps back, same steps over, same breathing in and out. It will make your ball go much better."


Brindza went 3 for 3 in Ann Arbor last fall

Just two of Brindza's six misses last fall were relative chip shots: 37 yards against Michigan State in mid-September, and 38 yards against Arizona State two weeks later.

But he bounced back vs. the Sun Devils to hit his next three attempts in a 37-34 win (including a 53-yarder to tie a program record), and concluded his campaign making 15 of his final 18 attempts, 20 of 26 on the season. (One miss, a 55-yarder at Heinz Field, came at a distance no kicker -- professional or collegian -- has ever achieved in the stadium.)

And he ended it with supreme confidence in himself. Actually, he likely began it that way as well.

"The fourth quarter is what I love," he said of his sterling efforts in the clutch. "That's pretty much what a kicker's job is supposed to be. My favorite athlete is (Mariano) Rivera. The reason why is he's a closer. And that's how I like to think of myself."

He's doubtless Notre Dame's, and the added duty of punting the football -- or as Brindza puts it, "Getting us out of any jam" is a challenge he embraces as well. 2013's final numbers show a 41.1 average with seven boots in excess of 50 yards.

Solid numbers, but not yet among the nation's elite.

"I actually have a poster in my bedroom: ‘Jack-Of-All-Trades,'" Brindza said. "That's what I want to be. I don't want to be known as just a kicker. I want to be known as the kicker-punter who's a hard worker and dedicated, and doesn't treat it as a job but a love and passion."

Kicker, punter, kickoff-specialist…and leader?

"I can definitely be a leader on this team," he said. "I'm pretty sure you can ask a bunch of other people. I'm not a typical kicker. I'm not the wimpy kid who's going to go work out, do his own thing and play pool (in the lounge). Yeah I'm good at pool and pop-a-shot, I'll admit to that. I'm just good at those things. I'm the first one here, I'm pretty much always the last one out because I'm willing to work extra because I have my eyes on a higher prize."

(According to Brindza, his pop-a-shot record in Notre Dame's players' lounge is unapproachable: "Let's just say my pop-a-shot record will stand here until they remove that game.")

"I'm not the typical kicker who's just going to be complacent. I want to be just like a quarterback, to be seen as that person who'll take the next step to the next level."


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