Chargers Hot For Kaeding?

Nate Kaeding is THE premier kicker entering the 2004 NFL Draft. Since his Pro Day, where he met over breakfast with the San Diego Chargers, he has been a busy man. Kaeding talks to us about what teams sent the most people to see him in Iowa City, nuances between Marty Schottenheimer and Tom Coughlin, in addition to a real kicking session with the holder and snapper of a current NFL team.

What teams have come into Iowa City to meet and work you out?

I had my last workout on Monday, and a total of six teams have come through. Like I said last time we talked, (San Diego) Coach (Marty) Schottenheimer and (New York Giants) Coach (Tom) Coughlin met with me as I kind of road on Robert's coat tails. They were in to see him. Those head coaches don't really come in except for the first round picks. It's also good to establish relationships with those head coaches, too. It's an opportunity that probably every other kicker doesn't get a chance to do.

Coach Schottenheimer didn't see me kick. I just sat down with a meal with him and a couple other personnel people.

How did that go?

It was good. We had breakfast there at the Sheraton for about an hour, hour and a half. They shoot some questions at you. We ended up talking more about golf; the golf courses out in San Diego, than anything.

It's kind of intimidating sitting there with some of those people. But I know it's going to be my profession. It's a good experience. You learn an awful lot. Coach Schottenheimer is among the all-timing winningest coaches in NFL history.

Coach Coughlin also is a very well-respected coach. He actually worked me out with the special teams coach. It was fun to do some stuff with him.

You worked out in the bubble?

Yeah. My first four (workouts) were in the bubble. The Giants were my first one. Then, San Francisco and Jacksonville came in on the same day; both their special teams coaches. The next Thursday, San Diego came in. They actually flew in their snapper and holder (David Binn and Mike Scifres). They wanted to see me kick with the unit that I would be kicking with. The next Monday, Cleveland came. And then the Monday (March 29) after that, Kansas City came in. That rounded it off.

Are you all done with the special teams coaches coming through?

Yeah. I had scheduled specific workout dates, and my last date was Monday. So, I'm all done with that.

What was Coach Coughlin like? He's been known to be tough on his players.

He got down to business when we were in there. But I enjoyed being around him. He had kind of a great, dry sense of humor. He was cracking some jokes. He had me punting out of field goal formation and doing a bunch of little quirky things. I had fun being around him. Like I said, you learn a lot from those kind of people. You can kind of see what he expects out of placekickers. He was real enjoyable to be around. But it's a profession. And you can tell with all of these coaches that come through that you better be hitting the ball between the pipes or you're not going to be around too long.

Were most of the workouts standard or were there offbeat things like Coach Coughlin having you punt out of kick formation?

Coach Coughlin, that was probably the most variance that I saw compared to the rest of them. They were pretty average workouts that they had me going through. They asked me if I wanted to kick off or kick field goals first. I chose to kick off first. You use a little more leg for those, and you don't want hit them at the end when your leg is a little fatigued.

I just went in there and kicked off first. A lot of them have you just bang three or four of them as far as you can; hit a couple right, left; then maybe a bloop kick or an onside kick. They want to see you do some different things so they can see if they can do some different things with their kickoff teams.

A lot of them just have you go into field goals. I did probably anywhere from 10-15 balls for each of them. And then at the end, they'd have you do some different stuff where they'd put you in a situation. The Kansas City coach said, "Alright, this is a conference championship. You need to this kick to go to the Super Bowl." They'd put you in different situations or have you sprint in off of the sideline and kick a field goal real fast.

You'd kick maybe three or four balls inside 35 yards. A lot of them wanted to see how you'd hit them from outside of 40. That was pretty much the same for everybody.

How did you do?

I did really well in all of my workouts. I was happy with the way that I performed. In a couple of them, the kickoffs weren't as good as maybe I would have liked them to be. They still thought they were definitely above average.

On my field goals, I rarely missed. They come in seeing that you're over 90 percent in your last two years. They expect you to make over 90 percent of your field goals in your workouts. Pretty much in every workout, I made them all or had one close miss.

Like I told you before, they take 90 percent of what you're going to do off that game tape anyway. They want to see how you're going to perform when the band is out there playing. That's when it counts; when the crowd is yelling, and the band is playing and people are screaming in your ear; not when you're out there just with them on some lonely field.

It obviously means something in they're going to come in here investing their time and money to come up and see you kick. If I was a coach, I'd want to do it too. I'd want to make sure there's no flaws or no holes in what they're doing. I'm real confident in the fact that I didn't give them a whole lot of doubt. I thought I left a good taste in their mouth with a last impression. I think I helped myself out, definitely.

Other than San Diego, who brought its holder and long snapper, did you mostly kick out of the stand or did David Bradley and Kody Ausmus work with you?

These two guys were there for two workouts. Then, they were on spring break. One of the coaches put a clipboard in front of the stand so it would kind of like the same amount of time to see the ball.

Do you have any better feel from when we spoke last month in terms of which teams might have the most interest and where you project in the draft?

I can't really comment on a whole lot right now. But I can say that there are probably three or four teams that have really come to the surface with some interest. Each (NFL) team gets allotted 20 trips (to fly college players into their cities). I've already had some interest from two teams that are already going to want to fly me down to their cities to meet with their coaches.

Those are the six teams that came in. Out of those, there are three or four of them that have really solidified themselves as teams that really want to try to invest and make a move on me on draft day.

Do the teams tell you to be quiet now that it's getting closer to the draft so as not to tip each other off?

They don't say that to me to not to be doing that. My agent kind of gives me some advice in terms of what to say and what not to say. And I don't want to get into a situation where I'm sitting here on draft day having tried to predict the future and some team will come around and just randomly pick me.

I think it's just common place, once it gets down to this point, just to let these teams sort things out. There's obviously some strategizing going on with these teams. But they don't give me a whole lot of insight. You kind of get a feeling from what type of acquisitions teams have made and what kind of personnel they have and what they saying. And of course a team isn't going to invest the money to fly me down if they're not interested.

Maybe after you get flown in on your trips, you can let us know how those went.

Yeah. I think maybe the week before the draft I'll have a more solid idea of what's going on.

What are you hearing about some of your teammates and where they might go in the draft?

Everybody out there knows that Robert is going to be a pro bowl kind of guy. They know that he's one of the surest bets in the draft.

It's really the same for all of us. We've done our thing. It's just a matter now what the needs of each team are and what strategy they want to take. Robert could get taken No. 1. He could get taken No. 6 or 7. Either way, it's not anything that Robert did or didn't do. It's just a matter of what these teams want.

Bob (Sanders) has really helped himself out a lot. I think he's pretty much sewn up a first-day pick. He's probably a second-round, first-round kind of guy from what I hear.

Fred was the MVP of the Outback Bowl and Hula Bowl. That's going to help him out quite a bit.

Are you and Fred kind of in the same boat in terms of being on the bubble between first- and second-day picks?

Yeah. Him and me are kind of in the same situation. Now, it comes down to circumstance more than anything. We've proven ourselves to the point where teams know that it's a pretty good bet in taking us. I guess the projections after Robert are pretty much up in the air for the rest of us.

Is this going to be the toughest time now with the workouts done and waiting time setting until the draft on April 24?

The way I kind of planned it is that this is going to be my week or two off where as I would have taken these two weeks back in January. I've been kicking straight through and working out and having that pressure on me for eight months now.

I'm really going to take this time to have some down time and get my legs back underneath me. Come May, I go with my team and start working out there and trying to earn a spot. Then, the NFL season is 16 plus games long. You've got to have your full mental energy and your full physical ability behind you or you're going to be in a little bit of trouble.


So, you've landed your first commercial. What will you be doing?

Well, I got an endorsement deal with this car dealership with this dealership down in Muscatine, Krieger. It's pretty neat. I get a car every year for as long as I'm in the NFL. This year I'm not, obviously. The contract gets renewed each year that I'm in the NFL. Each year I get to shoot a commercial for them. This is my first commercial for them. I got to go on the lot and pick out whatever kind of car I wanted. I picked out a pretty nice GMC. It worked out good for both of us. I'm not much of an actor though.

Do you know the theme of the commercial?

The commercial is going to air here sometime around the draft. It's something with a tire. I'm kicking a tire. We're going to Brady Street Stadium, where I'm going to do some tire kicking stuff. I'll say something like, "Come on down to Krieger's."

Will you be wearing a football outfit?

Yeah. Just a practice jersey with my number. I'm sure there are certain copyright laws with having Iowa stuff on there. It should be interesting.

Have there been any more endorsement deals?

I've had a couple of signings and that kind of stuff. Robert and me got this pretty sweet trading card deal with Press Pass, I think. They're not actual rookie cards because they don't know what team we're going to be on yet. They're like a college picture. They sent us out like 2000 and some cards. We signed them all and sent them back. Then we each get a certain dollar amount for each card depending on where we're projected in the draft.

My agent is good in advising me in being selective about what I do and don't do.

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