Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and what you have learned from your journey to date. First things first, though, what is something about you that your fans don’t know?
Mike: Thank you for this opportunity Adam! Most fans that I encounter don’t realize that I’m not a very big guy, only 5’8” and 180 pounds. They often comment something along the lines of “wow, I didn’t realize that someone of your size could be a professional football player.” Another thing they don’t realize is that I went to a small college (Division 1AA) and was not drafted.
Adam: What should fans understand about the life of an NFL kicker? How did you manage the pressure of coming in to kick with the game on the line? How did you did with the failure of missing big kicks?
Mike: Fans should be aware that the life of an NFL kicker is not all “rainbows and butterflies” by any means. At the highest level of football in the world, there is an extensive accountability that comes with the kicking job and athletes at this position need to be incredibly mentally and physically strong. I was able to develop the ability to, more or less, disregard the pressure of the outcome of each kick…regardless of the score and time of game that kick might be. In other words, I was able to treat every kick with the same importance no matter when the opportunities were presented throughout the game. Because I was taught a very detailed, but easily repeatable type of kicking form, I was able to focus on the solid basic foundation of the technique when I was faced with situations where I’m attempting a kick after a big missed kick. The idea is simple…trust your form and do not overthink it…basically “dumbing down” the process.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your development and success?
Mike: Growing up as a kid, I was very involved in a variety of activities and sports…soccer being my favorite. I was a descent athlete, but never that big, strong, or freakishly athletic kid by any means. I always had a knack for kicking because I had played so much soccer and I enjoyed the challenge. The “challenge” was ultimately what drove me to work hard to see what kind of success I could achieve at kicking. Many failures, setbacks, and challenges came about in my life during this long journey, but I never let them control me, as most of them were ultimately out of my control. I was overlooked by many colleges and NFL teams because of my size, so that just fueled my fire!
Adam: In your experience, other than natural talent, what are the defining qualities of a superstar athlete?
Mike: There are so many extremely natural talented athletes in this world. There are many things that separate the successful athlete from the unsuccessful athlete, but I believe the one primary denominator is the athlete’s mindset towards their skill and sport. Superstar athletes have a very unique sense of accountability, responsibility, and honesty with themselves and their teammates. The dedication that these types of athletes have towards their personal success, as well as the success of their team sport, is not common among the average athlete.
Adam: What players and coaches have you learned the most from? What did you learn from them?
Mike: I’ve learned many great life lessons from some of the most amazing coaches and teammates throughout my football career. Discipline and accountability were the most common things that Coach Connors (High School), Coach Cooprider (Junior College), Coach John L. Smith (University), and Coach Tom Coughlin (NFL) had emphasized and taught me. My personal kicking coach Jim Gaetano taught me about patience, persistence, and trust as his kicking technique was very tedious and a bit difficult to master. My Jaguars teammate, punter Bryan Barker, taught me specific “specialist” work ethics and professionalism.
Adam: Who is the best teammate you ever had and why? What are the characteristics of a great teammate?
Mike: Punter Bryan Barker was the man who took me under his wings from the day I made the Jaguars team as the kicker. He showed me the ropes about everything it takes to be a professional in the NFL. Not only was Bryan very inspiring to me, he became my best friend during my time in Jacksonville with the Jaguars…and we are still friends to this day. The characteristics that Bryan displayed were ones of great work ethics, consistency, and accountability.
Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have played with and what do you believe are the defining qualities of a great leader?
Mike: I’ve been around some legendary NFL athletes and amazing team leaders. Guys like Junior Seau, Jeff Lageman, Mark Brunell, Keenan McCardell, Donovin Darius, Drew Bledsoe, and Michael Strahan. Every one of them displayed a very vibrant sense of team dedication and demanded accountability.
Adam: What are the best lessons you have learned through your career in sports that are applicable to those of us who will never earn a living playing pro ball?
Mike: The best lessons that I have learned throughout my entire football career are all life lessons that I apply to my current everyday ethics. Lessons like accountability, commitment, humbleness, respect, and responsibility are very important to anyone striving for success in any field of expertise that they choose.
Adam: What is the most surprising thing about life in professional sports? What is something that would shock fans?
Mike: The most surprising thing about life in professional football was that is was an all year long, full time job…that the average person/fan would not know. Professional football at the highest level on earth is a very big commitment and many fans think that we just showed up for some practices and games during the season, then had the rest of the year off to do whatever we chose.
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Mike: The single best piece of advice that I’ve ever received is something that I learned during my football playing days, and it’s something I abide by in my everyday life today. I was taught to trust my form (kicking technique), the process of the form…and always focus on only the things that I have total control over. This thought process takes a lot of the pressure away and ultimately simplifies things. It’s very easy to second guess yourself, but if you are truly very confident on what it is you are doing, there is absolutely no reason to second guess, or try harder than you really need to…like “dumbing down” the process.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Mike: I love this expression of “paying forward!” It comes very easy to me because of my natural giving nature. I think that it everyone should understand that they are no better than anyone else in this world…we are all human and we should all be treated with respect and love.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Mike: My hobbies are anything that includes physical movement and exercise. I’ve played sports all my life and I believe that not only did sports heavily contribute to my physical abilities to kick a football for a living, but they also assisted in molding me into a business professional because of the team, responsibility, dedication, and accountability aspects that come with sports and professional business.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Mike: I’d just like to express my approach to the very common mindset that most people feel about goal setting. I’ve always had pretty much only one goal in life… “To do the best that I can under any and all circumstances that I’m given on a daily basis, one day at a time, and looking myself in the mirror at the end of each day, knowing that I’ve honestly given my best efforts under those circumstances…accepting the outcome of those challenges, good or bad.” How can one ever fail with this mindset???