RENTON, Wash. -- The text messages that Seattle Seahawks placekicker Steven Hauschka has received from friends in his hometown of Needham, Mass., have been a little more frequent this week with the New England Patriots coming to town.
"They're wishing me the best, but not wanting us to win," he relayed Friday. "They're like, 'I hope you have five field goals but you don't pull it out.' They want the best of both worlds."
Tough crowd. But it's all in good fun for Hauschka, who grew up admiring Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, has an autographed picture of Vinatieri's famous snow bowl kick, and understands the passion of New England fans because he was once one of them.
But these days, he views the matchup against his hometown team as pure business.
"In the past five years, everything has kind of changed since I've been playing. The allegiances change," he said. "Obviously, I'm the biggest Seahawks fan now. It seems like every week there is something new, you're playing an old teammate, an old coach, you're playing in a town where you know everybody, or an old team. You kind of get used to all those distractions and it's football at the end of the day."
Like teammate Breno Giacomini, who grew up in Malden, Mass., and first started cheering for the Patriots when quarterback Drew Bledsoe was drafted in 1993, the 27-year-old Hauschka reflected Friday on attending his first Patriots game in the 1990s when Scott Zolak replaced Bledsoe and led the team to victory.
Fast-forward 20 years later, and this time it will be Zolak watching Hauschka, providing analysis for the Patriots' radio broadcast at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
"I like the matchup. They are obviously a great team but I think our team fights hard to the end," said Hauschka, who has made 51 of 62 career field goal attempts, and is 10-of-11 this season. "We have a tough stadium to play in. Anything can happen in that stadium."
For Hauschka, who is expecting only a few friends in town for Sunday's game, breaking through in the NFL has been a long journey.
It started at Middlebury College, then N.C. State, while his NFL resume includes mostly brief offseason and preseason stints with the Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. There was even a stop with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.
He joined the Seahawks at the start of last season, and this is as close as he's had to a secure regular-season job in the NFL.
"I just stayed on course and kept kicking, and knew I would get another opportunity. You just have to make the most of that opportunity," Hauschka said, adding that a big part of his breakthrough has been trusting his abilities, treating every kick the same, and developing a rapport with snapper Clint Gresham and holder Jon Ryan.
So far, so good.
"Steven has been really consistent for us," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He's a very smart kid, great worker, big kid for a kicker (6-4, 210). He's just been very effective and hopefully we can just keep him knocking them in. We haven't asked him but just a couple times to have to bomb any kicks, but his consistency has been excellent."