August 26, 2010

Walsh looking for repeat performance

Count Blair Walsh among those who wishes the 2010 football season would start today.

Coming off a year in which he converted 20 of 22 field goals, earning him a trip to Orlando as a finalist for the prestigious Lou Groza Award, it's no wonder the junior is anxious to pick right back up where he left off a season ago.

"According to my mind, I've been ready for a couple of weeks now. I've been ready to go since January," Walsh said in an interview with UGASports. "I get butterflies just thinking about it."

Fortunately for Walsh, he laughs those are the only butterflies he gets.

Besides his on-field reps, Walsh conducts what he calls "mental-reps" during his spare time.

But as the Fort Lauderdale native explains it, staying mentally prepared is just as an important part of his game as being fundamentally sound while kicking the ball.

"I might just be sitting at home and I'll close my eyes and tell myself, 'OK, there's no time on the clock and you need this 33-yarder to beat Georgia Tech' or 'There are four seconds left and you need to kick this 34-yarder to beat Tennessee,'" Walsh said. "Mentally, I put myself in those positions again and again, so after a while when it comes down to it, your body is going to do what your mind says."

Of course, when Walsh is practicing his mental reps he never misses a kick.

"Oh, I always make it," he laughed. "But at the same time I'm imagining making the kick, I'm always imagining myself using the right form, using the right technique so every time I go out I'm having that same feeling every day."

It's not that Walsh doesn't spend time refining his on-field skills as well.

There's always technique that can be honed and Walsh says he's a "little bit quicker" on his follow through.

"But besides that," he added. "Everything's still the same. I'm just practicing hard and trying to make kicks.

Getting reacquainted with personal coach and kicking guru Nick Gancitano hasn't hurt, either.

An author and spiritual teacher at The Self-Inquiry Center near Walsh's home in Fort Lauderdale, Gancitano graduated from Coral Springs High School in Florida, where he earned a football scholarship to Penn State University and played for the Nittany Lions from 1981 to 1985.

After graduating with a degree in Biomechanics, he played with the Detroit Lions before a knee injury retired him to the business world. After four years, he entered the public school system to teach the physical sciences for 10 years. Gancitano continued to tutor 50 field-goal kickers (including Walsh) and just recently returned from Costa Rica where he lived from 2007 to 2009.

Walsh resumed working with his mentor last May.

"I got to work with him back in high school and really enjoyed it," Walsh said. "He's really helped me with the mental aspect of kicking."

Walsh gives Georgia's soccer team credit for helping him stay shape, despite the fact he's had to eat some humble pie.

As a former soccer player, Walsh and fellow kicker Brandon Bogotay have spent their share of time playing pickup games with the Georgia ladies.

"I've almost lost touch completely, but I still got shots," Walsh said. "It's fun. I'm good friends with a couple of them but they consistently beat me. They're in shape. It's demoralizing. They run circles around us."

But can they kick a 45-yard field goal with time running out to win a game?

Walsh likes to think that's only a gift he can provide.

"With expectations can come pressure, but I don't feel any," Walsh said. "It's just one of those things where I'm going to do my best whenever I'm asked to go out on the field."

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