What a difference a year makes

He was the No. 1 kicker in the nation coming out of high school, but he struggled last year as a true freshman who graduated from high school a year early. What are his thoughts going into his sophomore year? Aggie Websider's Dallas Shipp visited with Szymanski this week about just that.

Each Wednesday, Aggie Websider will have a one-on-one Q&A with a Texas A&M player or coach. This week's guest is sophomore kicker Matt Szymanski, who was five-for-five on PATs with a 34-yard field goal in his first outing of 2007.

Shipp: Coaches have been raving about you during summer practice this year and you obviously had a good game this weekend against Montana State, so what's different for you in 2007?

Szymanski: Last year was a big building point for me. This year I needed to bounce back and I did it in the first game. Hopefully I can continue to do that. This year the team is counting on me. I'm not a freshman anymore and I need to get the job done.

Shipp: Were there any major differences between kicking in high school and kicking in college last year?

Szymanski: I think a lot of it was psychological last year. In high school I was 7-for-8 on college goalposts. Then I came here and psychologically, I wasn't ready. This year I know the team is standing behind me and so are the coaches and that helps me a lot. It gives me more confidence.

Shipp: Do you think you rushed going to college by graduating a year early?

Szymanski: I don't think I rushed it. You've got to do it at some time. My senior year might have helped some, but I don't regret graduating early. I don't know if I would be where I am today if I hadn't done it.

Shipp: Done anything psychologically to get more prepared mentally this year? Or is it just a matter of being a year older?

Szymanski: It helps being a year older but this summer, me the holder and the snapper went out there about five or six days a week and we didn't leave until we got it down.

Shipp: Has Coach Tommerdahl worked on your technique much since your arrived at A&M?

Szymanski: He kind of leaves it up to me, but when he sees a difference in my kicking he points it out and he helps me. He's done a great job. He doesn't pick at me too much. Kickers have their own style, but he helps me with the basics.

Shipp: It seemed like the field goal on Saturday had a higher trajectory. Have you been working on that this offseason?

Szymanski: The workouts that Coach Cole gave me to do helped out a lot. I am a lot stronger this year than I was last year and working with TJ and Corey has helped me out a lot too.

Shipp: What kind of workouts did you do?

Szymanski: Lunges, squats, leg press, hang clean with the squat. I really got my legs a lot stronger than last year. The running helped me out a lot, too. When you're quick it helps that ball get up there a little faster and higher.

Shipp: You were really booming the kickoffs this week, so I guess the new kickoff rules haven't really effected you?

Szymanski: I just went out there and stayed focused and had a good time, thinking positiveily and focusing on one play. I think it helped me out a lot. My focus has been a lot better than last year.

Shipp: Is it different when you're out there with the 12th Man KO Team? Do you try not to kick a touchback so they have a chance to hit someone?

Szymanski: I just go out there and try to do the same thing. I'm sure they want to get some action on the field. But I know they just feel honored to be out there. I'm happy for them, but I stay the same.

Shipp: Are you ready for a possible game-winning kick this year? Especially in one of these big road games?

Szymanski: I would love it. Going into someone else's stadium and playing and showing them up, I dream of that all the time. I wait for that day and I just think about how I'm going to connect when it happens. That would be great.

Shipp: Does it take a different kind of mindset for a kicker to be able to do that?

Szymanski: I get excited when I go out there and I have to compose myself. That's what happened last year I didn't really compose myself and focus. I couldn't ask for anything else. I love it.

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