Confidence Factor

If confidence is the key component in the makeup of a successful placekicker, incoming freshman Pat McAfee should have an outstanding career at West Virginia.

It's not as if the Plum High School senior is talking trash or boasting about his skills. It's simply a matter of a player, who is confident in his abilities, speaking sanguinely about his forthcoming career as a Mountaineer, and what he hopes to accomplish. It's more a matter of the way in which he talks about his goals, and what he expects to do in the gold and blue. It's the air he projects as he speaks. Again, one that doesn't downgrade others, but one that announces ‘I'm ready to play.'

Take, for example, McAfee's goals for the season. While many incoming freshman would simply like to avoid a redshirt and get on the field, McAfee is looking far beyond that.

"I want," he said after taking in WVU's spring game, "to be perfect."

Come again?

"I want to have a perfect season," he reiterated. "Everyone says that, but I really want to do it. I think I am capable of that, and I should be capable of doing that. That's my goal."

While many people wouldn't consider perfection as a realistic goal, it seems like a matter of course for a player that was rated by as the number one placekicker in the country. McAfee doesn't feel any pressure from that label, nor is he bothered by competition.

That's not to say that he doesn't have respect for those players he will be battling this fall. He had good things to say about walkon Colby James, who was WVU's only placekicker this spring after Andy Good quit, and anticipates a good battle with him in the fall. (James, who had a groin problem during the latter part of the spring, was only able to kick extra points and short kicks, at reduced effort, during the game.) McAfee also joked about defensive back Mike Lorello, who attempted a pair of extra points during the scrimmage.

"When I saw Lorello line up to kick, I really wanted to go out there and kick one," he said with a laugh. "I was thinking maybe I can beat him out."

McAfee knows, however, that everyone expects him to win the job and be WVU's placekicker by the end of fall camp. That's a good bit of pressure for a freshman, especially at a position that often features game-deciding plays. McAfee doesn't seem to be bothered by any of that, though. He plans to get ready for fall camp with a healthy dose of summer work, as well as a dash of the traditional unconventional outlook most kickers have.

"This summer, I will concentrate on my consistency," McAfee said. "I need to make sure every ball goes to the same spot, and make sure every ball is straight, of course. I'll work out on my own, and I'll be going down to Florida soon and working with Mike McCabe, who played with the Chicago Bears. After that, I'll come down here on July 5th, and I will stay here for the rest of the summer. I plan to live with (holder) George Shehl and work with him a lot."

McCabe is a highly regarded kicking coach who is on the staff of several kicking camps in the Sunshine State, and who works with a number of top kickers in the country. McAfee and incoming punter Scott Kozlowksi both wowed WVU coaches at a combine hosted by McCabe and in January, so it's no surprise that he will continue to work with McCabe prior to his collegiate career.

Should McAfee win the starting job, a very interesting matchup could be in the offing right off the bat. When the Mountaineers travel to Syracuse, the kicker for the Orange could well be Morgantown native Patrick Shadle, who WVU declined to offer a scholarship. It's the perfect opportunity for second-guessers to criticize WVU's decision, should McAfee come out on the short end of any such matchup, but again, it's something that doesn't bother the relaxed high school standout.

"Pat was [at the spring game], and I talked to him in the stands," McAfee noted. "I've known him for a while - we've met at some camps. He's a good kicker, so it should be a lot of fun. We'll see what happens."

One gets the feeling, however, that McAfee has a good idea of exactly what will happen. With his confident demeanor and outlook, there's no doubt that he believes he'll be the one celebrating a game-winning kick.

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