Hauschka to Kick Off a Career in the NFL

By Middlebury Campus

Even though ESPN personality Mel Kiper Jr. did not comment on Steve Hauschka’s ’07 “explosiveness” or “pop” during the two-day media extravaganza of the NFL Draft, just hours after its completion the Middlebury alum signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Although his name was not at the top of any draft boards, nor was he involved in any ceremonial pose with his jersey, Hauschka has already slipped on his practice uniform to take part in mini-camps, with hopes of earning one of the 53 roster spots for next season.

After going to the first mini-camp in Minnesota this past weekend and sharing the field with the 2007 Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson, Hauschka – who used his final year of eligibility to play for the Division I North Carolina State Wolfpack – maintains a level-headed perspective.

“I’m trying to go in with the right mindset,” said Middlebury’s all-time leader in field goals. “There are a lot of famous athletes out there, but I’m going there to win a job, not to get some autographs.”

He will get his chance to win that job over the next several months with a busy schedule. On May 18, Hauschka heads out to Minnesota to take part in offseason training. For five or six weeks, Hauschka and the Viking veterans will practice and work out together. Following a month and a half off, the entire squad will reconvene for training camp – the last set of practices before preseason games get underway. It will surely be a stressful and intense next couple months, but so was the draft weekend.

After the season at N.C. State ended – during which he converted on all 25 extra point attempts and on 16 of 18 field goal attempts – Hauschka worked hard with kicking coach Steve Wolf whom he got to know while at Middlebury through football head coach Bob Ritter. He has put on 25 pounds and was feeling as confident as ever in his kicking ability. On March 19, he took part in official weigh-ins and workouts for the scouts to watch. His performance generated interest and sparked dialogue between the kicker and several special teams coaches from around the league.

In the days leading up to the draft, he did not know what to expect.

“I knew it was tough to get drafted,” said Hauschka, “because usually only one or two kickers get taken.” Even with the odds against him, however, several teams contacted him on the second day of the draft, indicating that they might be interested in a late-round selection. Although that scenario did not materialize, shortly after the end of the draft Hauschka was faced with competing offers from the Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens.

“It was a tough decision to make,” said Hauschka, “since the offers are only on the table for a minute or two, but Minnesota made the better offer.”

During those hectic minutes, Hauschka was on the phone with his agent, while his parents listened on speakerphone through the house line. It is hard to say who was more anxious. When it was all over, the new NFL player took some Tylenol PM and slept off his headache.

“It took a couple of days to digest the decision,” said the former neuroscience major, who is putting off UCLA dental school for the moment, “but I think I made the right one.”

He is up against a tough task. Veteran kicker Ryan Longwell is returning to the team. Hauschka is unsure of what exactly the Vikings are looking for, but he remains focused on winning the job. If he does, his first regular season game will be at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers.

Not every NFL star comes out of the first few rounds of the draft. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady got picked up in the sixth round, but several more noteworthy players – past and present – rose to fame after being undrafted free agents. Hall of Fame member Warren Moon tops that chart, while Adam Vinatieri, Kurt Warner, Priest Holmes and Tony Romo are right under him.

An NFL signing is not unfamiliar to the Hauschka family – both his Middlebury football one and his immediate family in Needham, Mass. His father, Peter Hauschka, spent some time in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears as a placekicker, while Middlebury classmate Kevin Ryan ’07 signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following last year’s draft as a defensive end.

Written by JAMES KERRIGAN

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Hauschka to Kick Off a Career in the NFL