With the September 20 season-opener against Lehigh less than a month away, the Yale football team’s season has gotten underway with practices and training camp. After earning a spot on a number of preseason watch lists, kicker and punter Kyle Cazzetta ’15 has proved himself to be an Eli to keep an eye on entering the season. The News caught up with Cazzetta to talk about training camp, staying composed under pressure and unknown parts of a kicker’s game.
Q. How has training camp been so far?
A. Camp’s been good. Guys are really excited to be out there. There’s a good class of freshmen coming in. Spirits are high. We’ve been growing since Reno took over the program and we’re gonna start to see results from when he took over — the new ideas that he put into our team. So just our overall morale of camp is definitely high and guys are just ready to go.
Q. Were there any specific areas that you tried to improve upon over the offseason?
A. Yeah, as a kicker I’m always trying to improve my consistency in any way, shape or form. Just the smallest mistake in kicking can provide the biggest error, so I have been working on some small things to fine-tune myself in a way to get better. I didn’t go out and try to change anything huge because I’ve been doing this for so long, but small changes have shown results for me, so I kind of fine-tune myself in areas that I thought I could grow and it’s worked out so far.
Q Imagine that it is Harvard-Yale, a tie game, 8 seconds on the clock, and you come into the game to kick a 40-yard field goal. Do you get nervous in that kind of a situation?
A. No, you can’t be nervous in those situations and most guys won’t be nervous because the fact of the matter is that I’ve kicked the ball thousands of times in my life, and that kick is no different from any other kick. If you treat it like that, then it’s just like you practiced kicking an extra point, so there is no getting away. You just put your head down and do what you know how to do, and I’ve done it so many times before.
Q. Do you have any techniques that you use to stay composed before you get out on the field to kick?
A. Well I think you have a routine. I have a specific routine that I do for every kick, whether it’s a warm-up kick, whether it’s a practice run or whether it’s a game kick. And to be in that same routine, you’re able to — not block everything out, you can’t block out the distractions that are already there — but by having that routine, you can be in your element and it feels the same way every time.
Q. Last year was your first kicking with the team — before that you had been punting. How was the transition from just being the punter to being the kicker and the punter?
A. It doesn’t change too much in the fact that I’m going out every day and I’m working getting ready for Saturday. The thing that would change is that when I was specifically punting I would go out with certain goals in mind to become a better punter. When I started kicking as well, I had different goals as a punter and different roles as a kicker. You take on a little more workload, but it’s not much at all.
Q. Last year, you hit a 46-yard field goal in two different games. What is the longest field goal that you have made in either practice or a game?
A. In high school, I had a long field goal of 51 yards. The longest I’ve had in a goal at Yale was 46 yards. I’m comfortable going to 50 and a little beyond. Once you get to the 50 point… I don’t feel as consistent anymore. I like to treat every kick the same way, as I said before, and when we’re inside 50, I feel confident in my ability to be there and be consistent.
Q. What’s something that people don’t know about punters or kickers?
A. I’d say the biggest thing is it’s such a mental game. Just like golf, so much goes into practice and so much goes into — we take so many reps every day in practice, and it’s not all of the team. We’re on our own a lot… And all of this work goes into Saturday, where a running back might carry the ball 40 times. At most I’ll have eight kicks and eight punts. That’s 16 reps. So the amount of work I put into, I’m not seeing the same results in terms of how many reps you get on Saturday… The idea is that when you’re in a game on Saturday, anything can happen… so the swings of a game play a huge factor in your position and being mentally strong is a huge part of it. A lot of practice that we go into is a lot of mental reps as well, so I’d say the mental side of the game is a huge part of a kicker that — a lot of people say kicking can be an easy job, it’s very stressed at times, but you’re not really working as hard as the positions. And that’s true, whereas my position isn’t really as physical as running back or a linebacker, but the mental reps of the game are so much more important.