Different Path

While most members of the Mountaineer football team were working out on campus over the summer, one scholarship player was plying his trade several hundred miles away in Florida. However, don't get the idea that he was relaxing on the beach while his teammates were toiling away in WVU's rigorous off-season conditioning program.

Placekicker Pat McAfee, like many specialists, works summer kicking camps in order to keep themselves in shape and prepare for the upcoming season. Most of those camps are located in the south, which means that many kickers migrate in that direction when school ends. It's no vacation, however. As it turns out, he probably gets in more work during this period than any other time of the year.

"I kicked my butt off," said the refreshingly open McAfee of his summer schedule. "I kicked way more than I do during the season. I went down to Florida in May, and worked three different kicking camps, including the D1 football camp and the Miami Hurricanes camp. I did a lot of running and conditioning too."

While there, McAfee worked with kickers from other schools, including Garrett Hartley and Mike Knall of Oklahoma, Brian Monroe from Miami, and Eric Wilbur and Jonathan Phillips from Florida. While primarily a placekicker so far at WVU, McAfee is also working on his punting skills, and plans to give that discipline a chance when the Mountaineers open fall camp on August 5.

"We all trained together and critiqued each other," McAfee said of the process. "We kicked together, and we shared some pointers."

The information shared might not help McAfee as much as it did the others, however. True to his unconventional style, the Pennsylvania native doesn't share many attributes with other kickers.

"I am the most inflexible person you will ever meet," he revealed. "I can't even touch my toes. So everything I do as a kicker is a little different, because I am tight. The other guys can still help me some, but I do things a little differently because of that."

In addition to simply working on his form, McAfee and his fellow kickers got to work with an NFL-level center during their time in Florida. Jeff Dellenbach, who played center for the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Philadephia Eagles, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawk, was on hand at one of the camps to teach snapping, and he worked with the kickers and punters on their techniques as well.

McAfee also believes that the instruction he provided to the high school kickers at the camps he worked can help him improve.

"I do think you can learn things about yourself by teaching others," he said as he reviewed his summer activities. "Some people think that's cheesy, but you can learn and see different things when you are doing the instruction. It's like it's in your head more. You repeat it over and over, and while you are telling other people what to do, I think that helps get it into your mind as well."

McAfee, who also crossed paths with WVU punter Scott Kozlowski in Florida, recently returned to the Mountaineer campus, and was, understandably, the target of a few barbs from his teammates that didn't get to spend the summer near the beach.

"My first workout back I did catch some flack," he admitted with a laugh. "It was just joking and kidding around, but I expected to catch some of that."

Of course, McAfee could spend his summers in the south of France so long as he continues to nail big kicks for the Mountaineers. After fighting an alignment problem through parts of last year, he corrected his approach and finished the season strongly. His performance in the Sugar Bowl, which included the winning points on a field goal and numerous booming kickoffs that kept Georgia bottled up in its end of the field, was arguably his best of the year

"I am hard on myself when I mess up, and everything was going through my head during bowl week," McAfee admitted. "It was nice to know that I ended the season well, but I'm not satisfied with that. I had some good kickoffs [in the bowl game] but I shouldn't allow any returns at all. There are always things to improve on."

No matter where McAfee spent his summer, there's no doubt he was working to do just that.

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