The evening I returned from Jacksonville Jaguars minicamp, out to a family-night picnic, all my three-and-a-half-year-old son wanted was for me to join him and run.
I’m slow. He’s fast. Often for additional entertainment, I exaggerate my old age (I’m 44) and fake additional slowness.
On this night, I didn’t have to pretend. Just above the back of my right knee, on the inside, I was really sore. The low, outside part of my left calf didn't feel great, either.
Those were apparently the spots that suffered the most from a long field goal-kicking lesson/session with Josh Scobee the day before on one of the Jaguars' practice fields.
Scobee has connected on 80 percent of his 240 field goal attempts in nine seasons with the Jaguars. He’s hit from 59 yards, 56 yards and 53 yards at the end of three different games against the Colts, game winners all. USA Football was such a fan of his mechanics, he was the kicker on its All-Fundamentals Team in 2011.
On even mid-range stuff during special-teams practice periods, he booms kicks well over the net that fills the space between the uprights, over fences and into parking lots. My makes, shockingly, went through a bit lower.
The 30-year-old Scobee is a mellow guy, and he was a patient teacher who urged me to stretch thoroughly ahead of our work. I did, or I’d have been in far worse shape facing that request to run a day later.
Why try, a cynical friend asked when I told him about revisiting something I tried with Al Del Greco of the Tennessee Oilers 15 years ago as a newspaper reporter. Why not? Finding anything a team and a player is willing to help me try, where I can step across the sideline, do something different and have some fun seemed worth a shot. I’m fatter and squintier in the video than I’d like, but we know what the camera can do to a guy.
Scobee and I wear the same size shoe, which turned out to be really important. My men’s-league soccer career has been over for some time now, and my old Puma Kings disintegrated early in my time with Scobee.
(It’s a great start when, on an initial practice kick with no ball involved, a cleat goes flying and your kicker spots it, tracks it and brings it back for inspection.) Graciously, Scobee loaned me his shoes, coaching me in his socks. When we were finished, I cleaned up the best I could. But the grounds crew might have found a stray cleat or piece of my sole on the field. Sorry, fellas.
What Scobee covered that helped me:
Approaching the ball along the hypotenuse of a triangle formed by taking three steps back and two steps over to find my starting point.
Where I needed to connect with the ball on my foot, and how my kicks that missed short were nearly always a result of striking it too low on my foot.
How I needed to get the ball as high as the 10-foot crossbar within the first 5 yards in order to clear big guys intent on sending me the other direction, chasing a blocked kick being returned for a potential touchdown.
Aiming points, focus and pressure. Scobee will often pick a person -- the guy in the red hat -- to kick at. Lacking a stadium crowd, I picked a diamond on the netting.
In the end, I had a blast on a blazing-hot Jacksonville day and managed to hit one from 45 yards, winning Scobee’s left shoe.
It’s on my office bookshelf.
I’m back on the press side of the sideline.