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He’s getting a kick out of an NFL player

In pro football this year I follow closely the fortunes of the Patriots — and the Seattle Seahawks.
I try never to miss a Seahawks’ game. My favorite player is a Seahawk.
I am absorbed every week by the performance of the Middlebury College graduate who is playing a crucial role for the Seattle team.
Steve Hauschka, Middlebury 2007, is the placekicker for Seattle and is having an outstanding season. He has converted 22 of 26 field goal attempts (two over 50 yards) and all 30 of his extra points.
Not reckoned a powerhouse, Seattle has played very well of late, winning five of their last six, whacking the Chicago Bears last Sunday, 38-14. With seven wins and seven losses, the youthful Seahawks still have an outside chance at a post-season playoff berth.
Against the Bears, Steve made his only field goal attempt; the week before against St. Louis he was 3-4; he kicked five in a big win earlier in the season against the Baltimore Ravens.
Yet when you look at the Seattle roster, you don’t find that Steve played for Middlebury. His college affiliation is listed as “North Carolina State.” The reason for that is central to the story of Steve Hauschka and his peripatetic life for the past four years. 
Steve came to Middlebury from high school in Needham, Mass., hoping for a college soccer career to augment his academic experience. He had a fine season his frosh year, playing on the “B” soccer squad, but his future in soccer was uncertain.
“My roommates were football players,” he recalls, “and that team needed a kicker,” so he tried out for the role of placekicker on the football squad — and the rest, as they say, is history.
All he did in football was set the school record for field goals in a season (10) and career (20) and made the All-NESCAC team in all three seasons he played (first-team his senior year). His booming kickoffs are legendary.
With his football success at Middlebury and a season of eligibility left, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 210-pound athlete (he also played lacrosse at Middlebury) decided to see where his special talent could take him. “I called 30 Division I teams who looked like they needed a kicker. I got some interest from Baylor, Northwestern, and NC State. By mid-April my senior spring (2007) NC State had worked out the compliance issues.”
He hardly neglected his studies while investigating this opportunity to play a football season at the highest levels of college sport: he graduated cum laude in a particularly demanding major, neuroscience.
So he found himself in Raleigh, N.C., in the fall of 2007, kicking for the Wolfpack in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). On this larger stage, he was equally adept, making good on 25 out of 25 extra points and 16-18 field goals, including the game winner against Miami in the Orange Bowl. He was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award for top college kicker.
At NC State, he took three courses in their Graduate School of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management in order to be eligible to play (“not the same as Middlebury,” he allowed). He took the DAT and applied to dental school. “I interviewed and got into several, but I chose football.”
He has chosen a tough business. There are over 200 Division I or I-AA schools and only 32 NFL jobs. The Seahawks are Steve’s seventh team in three years.
This year has brought a welcome stability. Steve appreciates the opportunity he has with Seattle. “It’s a young group of guys, and Coach (Pete) Carroll has a young ‘mind-set.’ I really enjoy what I’m doing. Everyone’s highly motivated. I’ll be here as long as I play well.
“I’ve worked hard. It’s my job, my livelihood. No sport puts in so much practice time as football. I’m at the practice facility from early morning until late afternoon.”
It’s not all kicking. “I have to take care of my body. Kickers are susceptible to repetitive movement injuries,” he explains, “like pitchers in baseball and golfers. Pitchers have pitch counts; I have to limit my kicking.”
Steve was married last summer to his Middlebury classmate, Lindsey Jones. Lindsey has graduated from Boston College Law School. “We like Seattle,” Steve says. “We’d like to live here.”
About his Middlebury experience, Steve says, “I loved it. I couldn’t have been happier. I pushed myself and I learned a lot.” He jokes, “I’m glad (soccer) Coach Saward overlooked me.” Steve and Lindsey intend to return to Middlebury this spring for their fifth-year reunion.
He assured me in a recent phone conversation that he will fix the roster information and get his college affiliation changed from “North Carolina State” to “Middlebury,” but not till the end of the season.
While he’s at it, he told me he hopes to get his name “Steven” changed to “Stephen,” as it appears on his birth certificate. “I don’t know how it became ‘Steven,’ probably at NC State.”
But first things first. Finish the year at Seattle as their placekicker, now and for the future, and then take care of the details.

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