Sam Ficken goes from goat to hero

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Sam Ficken might've been the most hated man on campus just one year ago.

After missing four field goals and a PAT in a 17-16 loss against Virginia, the Penn State kicker retreated to his campus apartment and refused to leave until the next day. He was arguably the worst kicker in all of college football. And those hateful tweets and Facebook messages came at him like rushers off the edge.

"Just kill yourself."

"You should never dress in a jersey again."

"You are a f---ing joke."

"It was all sorts of stuff," the junior said recently in the players lounge, his bony elbows resting on a wooden table. "There was one joke, like, 'Hey, we don't need to worry about Ficken hanging himself. He can't kick the chair out from under himself.'"

Ficken leaned back and let out a big laugh.

"That one's actually kind of funny."

The skinny kicker with the hawkish nose can laugh about it all now. And he did, repeatedly, during a warm Wednesday afternoon. He spoke as if that day -- maybe the worst in his life -- happened 10 years ago, and almost as if it happened to someone else altogether.

He can do that now because he's parlayed his life's greatest failure into his greatest turning point.

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