A conversation with Matt Stover

Note: Baltimore Ravens veteran kicker Matt Stover is a former Pro Bowl selection whose career-high streak of 36 consecutive field goals ended with a miss from 42 yards wide left of the upright during Sunday's 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The streak represents the third-best in league history. Until misfiring Sunday, Stover hadn't missed since October, 2005 against Pittsburgh.

Stover's last-minute 52-yard field goal against the Cleveland Browns earlier this season marked the 12th and longest game-winning kick of his 17-year career. "Who else would you rather having doing it?," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "He's the only kicker I know as a head coach, and he has bailed me out more times than I care to count."
The third-most accurate kicker in league history, Stover recently discussed his penchant for clutch kicking with Aaron Wilson.
Wilson: "What are you thinking about when the offense is driving and nearly within your range?"
Stover: "You've prepared for it prior to the game ever starting, so when it comes to that point, you accept it. You gladly accept it and go out there and execute the kick as well as you can. You have confidence that you've been successful in that situation in the past and you rely on that a lot."
Wilson: "Do you have a specific process that you go through on the sideline to get prepared for a big kick?"
Stover: "It's all very mental. I visualize the kick going through the uprights. I already see it happening before I kick it. If it's third down and the ball is on the 20-yard line, I'm already thinking I've got around a 38-yard field goal or so. They may get some yards, they may not, but I visualize the kicks so when I go out there I've already kicked the ball in my mind."
Wilson: "How do fans react to you and what do they say while you're getting ready to kick the ball?"
Stover: "Of course, you're hearing them, but you're not really acknowledging them. You're kind of like what they call in the zone where it's all out there, but you don't care because the only thing you care about is the ball. That's the way I look at it."
Wilson: "Do your teammates and coaches ever speak to you prior to the kick?"
Stover: "Everybody leaves me alone because at that point there's really nothing you need to tell me unless it's a special situation like a third-down field goal or a bingo kick. Leave me alone so I can get mentally focused and I don't have that extra noise coming in. If they do bother me, it doesn't bother me. So what?"
Wilson: "What's the most unusual thing that's ever happened to you during a game-winning kick?"
Stover: "One time, I had three timeouts called on me. One by the refs, one by my team and another by the opponent, which was at Cincinnati on a 50-yard field goal. It was like eight minutes and a TV timeout before I got to make the field goal. That was pretty funny. That was back in 1999, Brian Billick's first year. The game was tied and I kicked a 50-yard field goal."
Wilson: "Can you recall an especially strange circumstance where you missed a late field goal?"
Stover: "There was a kick back in 1993 where I lined up to kick it for the second time after I doinked one off the upright from 47 yards out in Cincinnati with about a minute and 45 seconds left. I got another shot because our defense got the ball back real quick and from 36 yards, I got it blocked. It was one of those memorable times I recall."
Wilson: "What's the aftermath like after converting a game-winning kick?"
Stover: "That's fun, coming in after the game seeing your boys, seeing the joy on their faces, knowing you've had a huge part in doing that. That gives you a huge amount of gratification, it really does. It's very short-lived because you have to let it go quickly because you have the next game coming up."
Wilson: "What's it like when you miss a potential game-winning kick?"
Stover: "There are some guys that are angry with it. There are some guys asking what happened. There's other guys understanding that that stuff happens. There's other guys that say, 'Look, Matt, if I would have stopped the guy on the goal line, we never would have been in that situation.'
"You get the gamut. One thing, though, is that I always want them to look back at me and say, 'He gave it everything he had. He's not the guy that we couldn't depend on. It's just unfortunate circumstances.'"
NOTE: Return specialist B.J. Sams is expected to be named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after returning six kicks for 212 yards against the Falcons, including two returns that directly led to touchdowns.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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