Three Steps Back, Two Steps Over

Someone forgot to tell Texas Tech freshman kicker Alex Trlica he broke the school record for extra point completions in a game against TCU.

"Oh really? I had no idea. It was a school record?" was his bewildered response earlier this week. The redshirt from Friendswood took over field goal kicking duties for the Red Raiders this season and has been consistent to date, including his 10-for-10 performance against the Horned Frogs.

He followed up his record breaking performance by kicking a career long 34-yard field goal during Texas Tech's 31-30 win over Kansas.

"This whole season's been kind of crazy. I came in thinking I would just be doing kickoffs the whole year. Now I'm kicking field goals, which was ultimately my goal. I'm definitely surprised," said Trlica.

The former soccer player has been kicking field goals since the seventh grade and claims his soccer background helped develop a strong foundation for football. The biggest difference, of course, is jogging onto a football field with thousands of fans focused solely on you. Trlica states the hardest part of the gig is keeping a clear head.

"I don't really think about much. I can do a pretty good job of zoning things out so I don't hear anything. You can't let anything around you influence how you kick. And you have to be able to move on," he added.

Missed field goal kicks have been a hot topic in sports over the last few weeks, creating platforms for discussion on ESPN regarding the importance of kicker recruiting. Trlica claims the media attention is slightly blown out of proportion.

"A lot of the games where that has happened- they've been on television. That stuff happens all the time. Games end on field goals, field goals are missed and games are lost. I don't think it's happening more, but the general public is taking more notice because they see it," Trlica remarked.

Before he steps out onto the field, Trlica has a few particular undisclosed things he thinks about, but then focuses on staying smooth, taking a deep breath and letting muscle memory take over.

That muscle memory is developed over the course of countless hours spent training on every aspect of the skill. The kickers complete the same rigorous strength and conditioning program as the rest of the team, but follow a more specialized daily routine to focus on kicking.

"We start practice doing mental kicks. I'll step out my steps like I'm going to kick a field goal, but there's no ball. Then we usually go down to the turf and kick about 15 field goals. Then we have a special teams period and kick about five field goals," said Trlica.

The kickers end their workout every day with thorough stretching routines created by the strength coaches to stay limber.

Trlica stays loose during the games by kicking five balls into the net on the sidelines ever so often, but as soon as the offense crosses the 50-yard line, he gets down to business.

"With our offense, if we cross the 50, most of the time we get down to field goal range," he said.

The freshman's routine is working well so far, and he admires the efforts of another fellow kicker, the Colts' Mike Vanderjack. Yes, the kicker who made controversial comments about his team's ability, only to be reprimanded by his quarterback on national television.

"The next year he came in and set the NFL record with 43 straight field goals. Last season he went 100 percent. He did not miss one field goal and that's phenomenal. To be able to go the whole season and not miss a single kick, that's pretty impressive," Trlica remarked.

To Red Raider fans, Trlica's recent record is also impressive. While most freshmen are stuck at the back of the bus, or forgotten all together, you can be sure this freshman has a first class seat on the plane ride Norman, Oklahoma.

Catch Trlica in action throughout the game as the Red Raiders travel to take on the Sooners this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. We're hoping he has a busy day.

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