What do Neil Diamond, kicking and a sore hamstring have in common?
LONGMONT, Colo., -- The next time you hear anyone gripe about the place kicker, do me a favor, slap them.
That stuff is hard. Mentally and physically.
I learned that the hard way Monday at Longmont High School in northern Colorado, former stomping grounds of Wyoming's all-time leading scorer, Cooper Rothe.
You can watch right here:
He took on the monumental task -- bless his heart -- of teaching me how to kick field goals. Yeah, me. It was as bad as you are imagining.
My right leg has been barking now for more than 24 hours. I slid out of bed this morning doing my best impression of a 70-year-old man. And it only took 20-plus kicks to get there.
In my defense, I have never in my 36 years of life attempted to put a football through the uprights. It didn't take long into our lesson to figure that out.
OK, enough of my belly aching.
Why did I want to do this? Well, there are a few reasons.
First of all, it's not every day you get the chance to learn from the best in the business. Rothe broke Sean Fleming's school record when he hammered through his second point-after attempt against Border War rival Colorado State on a frigid night in Laramie last November.
Rothe has 59 made field goals in a Cowboys uniform. His 342 points won't soon be eclipsed.
Secondly, I find myself writing about kickers. I figured it would't hurt to spend a few hours in their cleats.
Don't get me wrong, I knew place kicking wasn't easy. I have always respected the position. Mainly the pressures that come with it. Take a game last November for instance. You don't want to remember it -- neither does Rothe.
With a chance to send the game into a second overtime on the blue turf at Boise State, Rothe lined up on the left hash and fell short on one of the biggest kicks of his life. The ball didn't make it the 37 yards it needed to and the Pokes fell to the Broncos, 20-17.
"It was hard," Rothe said Monday afternoon. "I'm used to being the one to lift other people up. (My teammates) were trying to lift me up after that."
Was it all Rothe's fault? Absolutely not. But the social media comments to follow went something like this: "What is wrong with Cooper Rothe? He isn't the same."
Rothe did have a uncharacteristic senior season. He connected on just 15-of-22 attempts. He even missed three point-after tries. That's not like him. But the expectations were raised after a junior campaign that saw Rothe convert 16-of-17 field goals. He was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist. That honor goes to the nation's top kicker.
Sometimes things don't go as planned.
Kind of like my Monday kicking session.
Rothe, to his credit, is a damn good teacher. He was patient, understanding and time after time watched me make the same mistakes. He encouraged me. He actually believed I could do it.
I can't lie -- that felt good.
I'm guilty of taking things like this way too seriously. Even if it's my first time, I want to conquer it. I expected to be consistently booting field goals on that snow-covered field.
I was humbled.
My unofficial stats looked a little something like this: 4-for-24 with a long of roughly 30. Often times the ball flew way off to the right. My shoulders were flying out. My approach sucked more times than not. I kicked up too many rubber pellets on the artificial turf, and never quite mastered the art of striking the ball with the inside of my right foot.
This stuff is frustrating.
There's no doubt that my respect for kickers has been ratcheted up about 10 notches. I'm glad it is. Whomever fills in for Rothe next year in Laramie has some gigantic cleats to fill. You won't catch me being obnoxious about a miss or two from Luke Glassock, Nick Null or whoever gets the nod from head coach -- and kicking coach -- Craig Bohl.
Trust me, he knows best.
My biggest takeaways from Monday were:
- Kicking is really hard
- Rothe is as good of a guy as you have probably imagined
- The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: his family is great
- He's related to Neil Diamond
Yes, Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond.
In fact, if you look really hard, and own a Diamond box set, you might be able to spot Rothe in a video. His mother, Marci Diamond Rothe, is also on an album cover. Rothe is a first cousin, second generation removed. Diamond is Marci's father's first cousin.
One of the coolest things I heard Monday is that Diamond himself will occasionally send Marci a text. It's him, kicking back in his California beach house watching a little Wyoming football. Diamond also spent a little time in Cheyenne during his youth. Pretty wild, huh?
Rothe has a rather large job interview coming up March 10 in Laramie. Scouts from all over the NFL will head to the Gem City to check out Bohl's crop of seniors. It's a nerve-racking time for Rothe, but one he knows he is blessed to be a part of.
Rothe is an easy guy to root for.
My guess is Wyoming fans will be able to watch and pull for him at the next level for a long, long time.