Chargers Brass Will Head to Iowa

Nate Kaeding, a kicker at Iowa, in his recent draft diary talks about his performance at that testing ground in Indy, the latest on his draft status, how things are going for him as a student teacher of freshman American History, the four teams he had personal interviews with at the Combine, and much, much more. Yet, to hear Nate Kaeding talk, you would think the San Diego Chargers have the Iowa market cornered.

You're student-teaching at Wilton High this semester. How is that going?

It's going alright. It's a different challenge, it's going good.

What are you doing?

I'm teaching freshman American History. It's interesting. It's about what I expected it to be like.

Is it strange being a classroom and being the person that all eyes are on?

Yeah. Luckily, I'm only teaching freshmen. But sometimes it's hard to see myself on the other side of the desk there; not being a student anymore, but being a teacher.

You're pretty well known in this state. How do they view you or act around you? Did it take them awhile to get used to it?

Some of them. I'd say 60 percent of them could also pretty much care less who I am. You have your football fans; people that are kind of in tune with the sports world a little bit more than others. There's probable a portion of them that know what's going on. It works out good each way. They handle it pretty well. There's that little initiation period for a couple of days, but after that everything turns back to normal for the most part.

Did you get autographs and all of that stuff out of the way early?

Yeah. We did that at the start. Still, there's a couple of people that will come in every once in awhile and want something. But they've handled themselves really well for the most part.


How did the combine go?

The combine went well. It was a different experience. You get in there the first day. They rush you over to the hospital to do all of the these pre-exam prodecures, like X-rays, EKGs and blood work. You (urinate) in a cup and do all of that kind of fun stuff. They poke you all over your body and make sure that everything is alright.

That sets you up for the next day when they take you over to this convention center where each team has their group of physicians and trainers. Each team goes through a physical with you. They have these X-rays and have background material. If they find something else, they'll send you back over to the hospital to get more X-rays or an MRI or something like that.

I lucked out because I really didn't have any major injuries that were wrong with me. Some of those guys were going over and bouncing through MRIs two or three times and X-rays on all of these body parts. It took them almost a full day to get all of that stuff through. For me, I breezed through it pretty well, in a couple of hours.

That's kind of what the first two days were like. After that, you go interview with the coaches. I sat down with each special teams coach and chatted with them.

Every team?

Yeah. They have special team interviews where they have the head coach and the general manager and the team owner and all of these people. It's a pretty neat setup in this long hallway in this hotel. Each team has their flag outside their room. Everything is kind of shut off. They allot like 45-50 interviews per team. So, kickers, for the most part, don't usually get a whole lot of those interviews. They want to use them on position players or whatever.

How many of those did you go through?

I got lucky. I got four of them, which is a pretty high number for a kicker. I met with San Diego, Kansas City, San Francisco and New York, the Giants. I did that the last night, Friday. I kicked Friday during the day, just for about a half hour or an hour.

I did pretty good. I kicked off really well. I missed a couple of field goals near the end of my field goal workout. But for the most part, I feel that I went in there and did what I had to do. But just like they say, when you go in there 90 percent of their evaluation of you is already done. They take that off of the game tape.

The biggest thing for me to do is go in there and have a consistent showing, which I thought I did. I think that I helped myself out a little bit going down there and working out and kicking pretty well.

For the most part, it was a rewarding experience. It wasn't exactly a whole lot of fun. But it was good to get in there and get your name out a little bit.

How many days where you there?

I roomed with Robert. We where there Wednesday through Saturday.

Did all of the team trainers seem to be looking for the same things during the physicals?

Yeah, for the most part. They have that pre-exam stuff (at the hospital), And they also have information on you. I broke my collar bone in high school. They knew about that. I got an X-ray on that. But some of these guys have all of these little injuries throughout the career. Those guys are in there forever with the doctors picking at them and doing all of that kind of stuff.

What were the team interviews like?

The thing that I found was the most interesting about it was going to the four different teams that interviewed me and seeing the different coaches and the different personalities and the different environment in each room. They have a horn because everything is alloted on a time basis. So, you're in there for 20 minutes.

You start outside the room. There are a couple of field scouts out there. They kind of brief you. They're like "Coach Coughlin is in here." Then they say the GM's name. They say the name of the special teams coach. So, then you walk in there and you see these guys that you've grown up watching on TV like Dick Vermeil and Marty Schottenheimer and now you're sitting there right in front of them talking.

They have the coach, GM and special teams coach sitting right in front of you. Behind them, they have five or six other people taking notes down and looking at you to see how you're sitting and what you do with your hands and everything that you can imagine probably. Then, they've got another guy taping the interview.

Vermeil, he just kind of told some stories about some of his old kickers. He just kind of ran some stuff by me. It was more of a laid back interview. Places like New York, they popped maybe a little tougher questions at me.

Like what?

Pretty much anything that you could imagine. Do you drink beer a lot? Kind of stuff that in a regular job interview might not fly. They want to know that type of person you are. They want to see how you answer a question like that. For me, the easiest way was to just be honest with them. I was like, "Hey, I have a beer every once in awhile on the weekend, but nothing too excessive. Playing football, for me, is the most important thing."

A lot of them had kicker-specific questions like - How do you handle the pressure of playing in front of a lot of people? I think it was San Francisco that asked - You're a rookie and you miss a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter. How are you going to handle it when a lineman comes up to you and starts yelling at you? Those are pretty tough questions. You have to answer on a whim because there are a bunch of people looking right at you, and they're expecting an answer right away.

Did the officials from places like New York or San Francisco ask you if you'd be able to handle living in a large city after spending your whole life here in Iowa City?

A couple of teams asked something along those lines. "What would be the biggest challenge for you to come into a new city?" It's obviously not a secret that I've lived in Iowa City my whole life. I just kind of said, "Hey. You know, I feel confident in my ability. I think that's one of the biggest things to get acquainted with not only the town but the people and my new surroundings on the football field. Basically, it's no different than anybody else that's moving to a new city."

Did the Penn State kicker shoot up the charts a little bit with his performance?

I haven't heard a whole lot about him. He kicked real well there. He showed a strong leg. But the thing that's definitely working to my advantage is the fact of what I've been able to do in my college career. Like I said, 90 percent of the decisions are made off of the game film. The kid from Penn State and the kicker from Louisiana Tech...a lot of people have great talent, but they haven't had the opportunities to prove themselves like I've been able to do over last four years. That's something that's separated me, for the most part, from the other guys.

Do you think that Kansas City likes that you and Jason (Baker) have worked together before?

I think so. They know that's kind of a factor. There's definitely that appeal. Both he and Casey have been giving me good endorsements saying that they need another Hawkeye on the team.

With a lot of the teams, the worry that they have if I'm going to get drafted at a spot where I'd like to get drafted, which is higher than where kickers are use to getting drafted at; if they're going to invest that money; they want a guy that's going to challenge for the job right out of the gate. That's something that I'd like to do, get out there and play as quick as I can. They want to know that I'm going to have a comfort level. Having somebody that I played for a year with at Iowa, like Baker, that I'm still friends with, it's definitely going to help me be more comfortable. It's definitely something working to my advantage.

Have you gotten any better of a feel, either through the combine or other conversations that you've had, where you feel more confident that you can achieve that goal of being drafted higher than those kickers in the past?

I don't know. You hear all of this talk and the speculation from other people about your value is here, your value is there. They have me as a third or fourth round kind of guy, which is obviously higher than what kickers usually go. But the mindset that I'm taking to it is that I'm not setting myself thinking that I'm going to get drafted like that.

All I'm worried about is how I'm going to kick for these coaches when they come in (to Iowa City) this month. (Where I get picked) is entirely out of my control. That's all a matter of circumstance. I know personally that if a team wants to make an investment in me, I'll fulfill that kind of value that they want to put in me. The only thing that I can control is making myself the No. 1 kicker in this draft. I feel as if that it something that I've done by not only what I've done after this season, but how I performed on the field; what kind of person that I am. I can just make myself the No. 1 kicker, and whoever wants to take me can take me.

When is the Pro Day at Iowa?

March 8. But for me it works kind of different. I don't know if I'll even be kicking on March 8. These special teams coaches will want to come in and work me out on different days. The whole Chargers organization is coming in to see Robert Gallery. That's something that's working to my advantage because two of the teams that are showing some interest are San Diego and New York (Giants). They both are looking at Gallery having top picks. Him being a top pick, they bring in their whole organization. It gives me good exposure that another kicker wouldn't have the opportunity to have. San Diego is coming in on Sunday, and we're talking about maybe getting together for breakfast maybe on Monday morning. New York is coming in this next Wednesday. Coach Coughlin will be here, and I'll be able to talk with him a little bit more.

What do these postseason workouts entail for you?

The combine is more structured. They have me kick off and do this elevation drill. Then they have you kick 15 field goals from different spots on the field. When they come in for your pro day, they'll be able to do a little more like specific stuff on specific questions they have about you. I think people will want to see me kick off a little more than the field goals. They can get a lot of that stuff off of tape. Most of it is seeing how you will perform in another pressure situation. They'll get you on the field and get a little better look at your technique. They get a better feel for you as a person. They get that one-on-one contact with you. It kind of varies in terms of what each coach wants to do.

How much do they test you on the intricasies of kicking?

They'll do that. They'll have you kick a ball to the right corner on kickoff or kick a ball to the left. They'll have you kicking onside kicks or have you run on the field and kick a last second field goal. Anything they want to see, they have the opportunity to see it.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories