Monday, August 29, 2011

Tis the Season! Let's get this started!

Camp is over and game week is staring us right in the face! I am not sure if anyone else feels this way, but camp seems like it flew by. I am sure the players would not agree with me. I am so ready for the season to start! My football juices are flowing! Please fast forward me to the opening kickoff. Matt went into camp with a smile on his face. He said this team is focused and have really come together during the off season. The team goals are in place! The personal goals are in place! The leg is fresh! The body is strong! Let the games begin! The team would be staying in the Mitchell dorms during camp. Matt is rooming with Ryan Allen this year. Matt said he was going to be kicking a lot during the first 2 weeks with team. He knows he needs to get the reps in with Josh and Taylor, but wants his leg to be as fresh as possible when the season starts. Matt said the first couple of days he kicked with team were interesting. One day there was not a goal post and he aimed at the camera guy who was filming from the lift tower.
The next day they had a temporary goal post, but it was not in the center of the end zone of the practice field. It was off center by about 10 yards. That would have been pretty funny to see. When he is not kicking with the team he is kicking and charting kicks from various distances for review with Coach Thommerdahl. Last year I did not get to make any of the practices. This year I was able to make the two full pad scrimmages. David (Janet's Uncle) and I drove over from Big D in time to catch the Thursday night practice before the scrimmages on Friday, but we arrived Ruston just in time to get pelted by a nice 20 minute hail storm. Due to all of the rain, practice was moved indoors so we did not get to see anything. I was pretty bummed! We caught up with Matt around 8:00 after he had to check in at the cafeteria. Since we were in town he could go eat with us, but he had to check in first. We went to Sundown Tavern.
This was my first visit and the Sriracha & Honey wings were amazing! I will be back! We went back to Matt's house and visited until he had to leave to check in the dorm before the 11:00 curfew. We made it to the field around 8:45 AM. The special teams scrimmage would start at 9:45 AM. Got to watch Matt warm up and I was pretty amazed how much his kickoff height and depth had increased. His approach to FG's and kick offs were more upright and moving forward. He looked really good. His work with Coach Zauner over the summer was paying off. I have never seen a special teams only scrimmage and I was impressed with how structured it was. I thought Matt kicked very well. Matter of fact I thought most of the special teams group and drills looked good. No, they were not perfect, but that is what camp is for. You work out as many kinks as you can before the season starts. After the scrimmage was over I saw all of the players walking towards the visitors' locker room. I could not figure out what in the heck they were doing. When I questioned Matt later in the day he told me that after every practice they are required to take a 3 minute ice bath. On heavy kicking days Matt said he will stay in for 10 to 15 minutes as it helps him recover faster.
That sounds pretty frigid to me and things could start shrinking! After Matt debriefed and checked in at the cafeteria we made our way to Dowling's for my rib fix and it did not disappoint me. Man they were good! We took it easy the rest of the afternoon until the evening scrimmage. Matt had to be at the field house at 3:30 for meetings. I was very excited to see how the team preformed. We arrived at the field around 5:00 so we could see some of the drills being run before the scrimmage. Matt was not going to kick in the evening scrimmage. This was strictly offense against defense. There were quite a few fans in the stands. I think everyone wanted to see the QB's take their turns against the defense. I did get to visit with Mr. Rust, Mr. Cockrell and Mr. Ford during the scrimmage. It is always good to talk football. Before the scrimmage was over they ran 160 plays. Wow! That is almost 2 full games. I thought all of the QB's had their moments and did well. That was the first time I had seen Nick and Taylor throw the ball and they looked good. I thought we looked good at all positions. There were mistakes made, but this is again what camp is for. I was pumped with what I saw. I would say excitement was in the air. We caught up with Matt around 9:00 and headed to Raw for some sushi.
This was my first visit to Raw and it was amazing. I had the Big Easy and the Ruston roll. I was later told after I was completely stuffed that I should of had the Baldwin roll as well. Looks like there will be another trip to Raw in my future. The team had off on Saturday and we met Matt at the Waffle House for a late breakfast before heading back to Dallas. I was glad I made the trip over to see the team do its work. I was very impressed. I talked to Matt later in the week and he had a less than stellar practice with the team. He had been kicking the ball very well, but this night he went 0 for 3 on FG's with the team. He was a little hot under the collar. Let's just say I could feel the heat wave through the phone. I asked about the misses and he said that for the ball to go through the uprights you have to have a perfect snap, a perfectly placed ball and a foot put on the ball correctly. He said they are misses no matter how close they are.
After practice was over Josh, Taylor and Matt went back and kicked from all 3 spots as practice went. Matt said he connected from each spot 4 times in a row and then took his ice bath. Then it was off to the film room to dissect the kicks. Matt is the most mentally tough person I have ever been around and he will grow from this. I am sure he stewed a little bit during the night replaying those kicks in his head. I talked to him the next morning and after film they knew what needed to be corrected. Our special teams chemistry is good! My goal is to go 1 for 1 and each kick is a new kick! Later that night he called after practice was over and said dad, we got it corrected. We went 6 for 6 on FG's and 2 for 2 on PAT's with team. I did not have to say too much after that. He has all of the body parts working for the kicking game and he is refining his mental game as he gets ready for the season. I anticipate he will have a great season. He is very goal driven and he has some very lofty goals this year. I think I will leave camp here.
I have to get myself ready for Southern Miss. Before I officially leave the camp experience I wanted let you know what a typical day was like for Matt with only a night practice that day. Wake up at 7:00 AM, breakfast with the team, weights, team meeting, special team meeting with film, offensive meeting, lunch with team, team walk thru, stretch and warm up an hour before practice, practice, ice bath, weigh in, dinner with team, break down film and curfew at 11:00 PM. Now I am out of breath! The coaching staff does keep them busy and I know all of the hard work will pay off big time during the season. I can't believe the Southern Miss game is less than a week away. We will be heading over to Hattiesburg on Friday and I cannot wait for game day to get here. I am very impressed with Coach Dykes and this coaching staff. Thanks for everything that you do. A toast also goes out to the equipment staff, the training staff, the strength/conditioning staff, the film guys and all of those associated with the team. All of the things that you do behind the scenes is greatly appreciated.
The season is here and I cannot wait! I will have my tailgate spot for all of the home games and I hope I get to introduce myself to all of those who I have not met in the La Tech family. We will be located at spot # 52 in the C Lot. Please stop by anytime. I think I have said enough! I appreciate all of those who are following my journey. I write from my heart and what my feelings are at that moment. Matt, thank you for letting me live my dreams through your eyes. May your Football Season be filled with many Football Victories, Sunny Smiles, Sandy Dreams and Travel Your Way! Until our paths cross again, have a blessed week! College Football Dad!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let the Games Begin 2011

With the heat wave in full force this can only mean one thing. College Football fall camp is staring me in the eye. The anticipation is intense and I can smell the sweat dripping off of my forehead. Let the games begin, please! Enough of this waiting and torture! The team checks in the dorm at 2:00 pm today and a team meeting will be held later this afternoon. Matt will be rooming with Ryan Allen. Matt is very excited about the upcoming season and feels the team has really come together over the offseason. He is looking forward to getting the entire team back together. He said the mindset of the team is different this year and the whole team is completely focused on the team goals. Once the Spring Game was over Matt went to work to improve his strength with the help of Damon and Thomas. He has made significant gains over the summer. Not only has he spent his offseason in the weight room he has put in the field time perfecting his kicking game. His mental toughness always amazes me. He must have got that gene from his Mom. Since this is my first blog during the 2011 season I thought I would reflect on some of the things that Matt has spent his offseason doing besides his obligations to the La Tech football team and his studies earning his finance degree. Once Spring Football was finished Matt went back to work at Squire Creek Country Club. Some of Matt's responsibilities included getting the members clubs on the carts, picking up the balls on the range, cleaning the carts, running food and beverages out to the members on the course, setting up the range along with anything else that Brad needed him to do. With Matt's love of golf working at Squire Creek has been a blessing. Matt said that working the Big Whit golf tournament to raise money for the Whit 77 Foundation was an awesome experience. Andrew Whitworth who plays for the Cincinnati Bengals had several big time athletes come in to play golf and help him raise money for his foundation. Matt got to visit with Mike Nugent, Andy Dalton, Rey Maualuga and Joseph Addai. Since Squire Creek does not have hole signs on the course Matt got to take these guys to the hole they were starting on. He said Joseph Addai was hilarious and had never swung a golf club before so he got to witness Joseph's very first attempted golf shot. The other thing that stands out was while preparing things before the Bradshaw-Brooks golf tournament is he finally got to meet Mr. Bradshaw. He said that talking to Terry will be something he will remember for a lifetime. Matt and a few other players attended the Hico Elementary/IIC Picnic in May. Toni Patrick Cox set everything up with the players so the kids could have such a grand day. They played softball, autographed their shirts and ate lunch with the kids during their big day. Along with working at Squire Creek Matt would intern at Crossroads Church. He would be working with the youth group. (7th - 12th) During the summer Matt would mentor these kids, have bible study and hang out with them during their group outings. One of their outings included a 5 day trip to New Orleans/Gentily. They helped restore a house and a church that were located 1/2 mile from the levee that broke during Katrina. They laid plywood down for new flooring, primed walls for new paint, cleared out the attics along with many other tasks. Matt said this experience would stay with him forever and was so blessed to be able to be associated with these amazing kids from Crossroads Church and helping others. In the first part of the summer Matt moved into a house just off of Tech Dr. with Will Stagg (Should be on the Tech Golf team & interns with Matt at Crossroads Church) and Ben Carlisle ( Pitcher on the Tech Baseball team) It's a pretty cool 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. On top of this I forgot to mention the sumer workout schedule. The first part of the summer the workouts were M,T,T & F with W off. The second part of the summer the worked out M,T,W,T & F. Somedays they lifted and somedays they ran. 2 to 3 times a week he would get with Taylor Burch and Josh Cuthbert to work on their timing from snap to hold to kick. He feels like they have a great chemistry. For those who follow Matt know that he has spent most of his kicking career working with Chris Boniol. Now that Chris was hired by the Dallas Cowboys he can no longer work with Matt. With that being said Matt has developed a relationship with Josh Scobee. Josh recommended that Matt contact Coach Gary Zauner in Phoenix. After a few conversations with Coach Zauner Matt made a trip out to Phoenix to spend a few days working with him. Josh was out there working with Coach Zauner during the same timeframe. Coach Zauner reduced some of Matt's crunch when he comes through the ball so that he can finish his follow through up the field and relax his left arm bar during the downswing. Coach Zauner told him there would be no more walking like a chicken. You would have to see the video, but kicking with a crunch involved looking like a chicken walking. HaHa! Matt returned with some great things to work on and once mastered he will be kicking the ball straighter and further with less effort. Some of the kickers that Coach Zauner works with are Josh Scobee, Jeff Reed, Sebastian Janikowski, Billy Cundiff, Garrett Hartley, Jon Ryan and several other Pro and College kickers. This summer Matt has worked with some of the local high school kickers as well. He has helped the kickers from Captain Shreve, CE Byrd, West Monroe, Ruston and Steele high school. (Steele HS is where Matt attended in Texas) I think it is awesome that Matt takes the time to work with these young men to help them improve their kicking game along with discussing their mental approach to the game.
Matt got to come home last week after summer workouts were over. It was good to get to spend some time with him before the season starts. We spent a lot of time at Top Golf and actually got to go play 18 holes at Fred Couples course (The Bridges) where the old man showed Matt he could still beat him. Actually I only beat him by one stroke. With Matt's competitive juices flowing he has already requested a rematch. I will have time to brush up on my golf since Matt won’t be playing until after the season. Matt did have to buy dinner to pay off his bet! We found out this summer that Matt was on the College Performance Award watch list. We thought that was pretty cool. He was proud to be mentioned and excited the Matt Broha and Lennon Creer were also on the list. Wow, I am out of breath. I am not sure I can keep up with Matt's pace. I hope this gives you a little insight to Matt's summer as he gets ready for fall camp and the first game of the season at Southern Miss. We are very proud of Matt and his accomplishments. We look forward to the opening kickoff. I feel good about this team and I know good things are going to happen this year. Please get here soon as I need my tailgating fix. I hope everyone has an awesome summer and I look forward to meeting you at the games. My next blog will be after camp and then I will continue through the season with each game. I appreciate all of those who are following my journey. It is such a blast to follow Matt Nelson through his eyes and the Bulldog team! I write from the bottom of my heart and what my feelings are at that moment and sometimes I get a little carried away. I am very passionate about La Tech Football! I am just a College Football Fan and I love football! Until our paths cross again, have a blessed week! College Football Dad!