Ohio kicker Matt Weller never thought any of this was possible. How could kicking an egg-shaped ball through a goal post bring heaps of success?
The red-shirt senior became Ohio’s all-time leading scorer after connecting on a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter of the Bobcats victory against New Mexico State three weeks ago.
Weller surpassed former Ohio quarterback Kareem Wilson, who set the record in 1998, for the honor and now has 312 career points with nearly his entire senior season still in front of him.
“I never would have thought that (I would be the Bobcats career scoring leader),” said Weller grinning. “It’s pretty unreal.”
Unlike many other collegiate kickers, Weller did not start kicking until his freshman year of high school at age 14. “It’s stuck with me ever since,” he said simply.
The kid from Twinsburg, Ohio wanted to continue kicking after high school, but the Bobcats were the only Division I offer he received. It seems to have worked out for the best.
“I loved the campus and the coaching staff was great,” Weller said as he recalled his initial thoughts upon visiting Ohio. After redshirting during the 2008 campaign, Weller has made 69 of his 96 field goal attempts (71.8 percent) and 141 of 150 extra points (94 percent).
However, the 6-foot, 200-pounder is quick to tell you about another record he owns.
“We’ve been the winningest class that’s come in here so it’s a great felling to be a part of that,” said Weller.
Weller’s special teams coach, Brian Haines, is entering his fifth season with the Bobcats, but first as the special teams’ coordinator. Haines has had the chance to watch the Academic All-MAC Team member and reigning MAC Special Teams Player of the Year grow over the years and is most impressed by Weller’s attitude and approach to his job.
“If you talk to Matt and watch him work, he is so humble and is still hungry to get better every day,” said Haines.
Many casual football fans may overlook a kicker’s importance to a team. But in recent years, NFL kickers such as the Colts’ Adam Vinatieri and the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski have brought to light how significant it is to have a kicker you can consistently trust.
Most guys have the physical talent, but what separates the best from the rest is a kicker’s ability to block out his surroundings and focus on the task at hand. Haines believes Weller excels in this area, which is why he thinks his kicker has a good shot at continuing his career.
“If he misses, he’s not a guy that has his head down and has bad body language,” Haines said. “He knows what he did and what we need to do to fix it and then we’ll walk through it and he moves on.”
Composure is an invaluable trait when all eyes are glued to you as you set up for a field goal, many times with the game on the line.
No kicker is perfect and understanding this is essential. Although he broke the all-time points record, the right-footed specialist has converted just 12 of his 19 field goal attempts this season.
“It seems every year I go through a little slump…I’ve just got to remember to breath and slow everything down,” said Weller.
Weller did not want to look too far down the road but he did say his “accuracy and speed” would have to improve if he wanted to latch onto an NFL roster next summer.
When asked if Weller had the ability to kick in the NFL, Haines responded, “Without a doubt.”
Through all the kicks he’s made, and all the battles he and his teammates have endured since 2009, one moment stands out to Weller.
“Winning the bowl game and sharing in that experience, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that,” he said, reflecting on last year’s improbable 24-23 comeback win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
For now, Weller wants to enjoy the rest of his senior season as he hopes to create a new favorite memory in the green and white.
Weller’s composure will be important this season as Ohio gains more and more national attention. As a kicker, a mistake can lead to doubts and missed opportunities.
However, Bobcat nation won’t have to worry about that with Weller.
“Make or miss he’s always looking forward to the next kick,” Haines said. And that’s the best mindset a kicker can have.