ATLANTA -- In his younger collegiate days, Scott Blair had voices in his head.
None were saying anything good.
It should be noted, the former Georgia Tech placekicker wasn’t really losing his wits nor hearing actual arguments from spirits trapped in between his ears, but he had let others enter the reality of his mind nonetheless. Fans, bloggers and the seemingly omnipresent gatekeepers of the Internet media took up residence there and didn’t seem set on moving out anytime soon.
It made for a disastrous mix.
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“I used to go on blogs a lot,” Blair said. “If I had a good game, I wanted to see what people had to say. And then, even if I had a bad game, I was in the habit of checking things that I’d see what everybody had to say again.
“I know it probably was the spoken minority saying most things, but ...”
The seeds of negativity were there. And Blair knew that if he was going to cancel out the naysayers, he’d have to make a conscious off-field change.
Thanks to a much needed, albeit brief, period of reflection and introspection halfway through his junior season, Blair was able to do just that. To hear him tell it, by spending two games away from action, a complete turnaround was sparked. It’s one that led to his 4-for-4 field goal showing in the ACC championship at that season’s end and a 9-for-9 performance to start the following year.
He hopes such numbers help him get landed by an NFL franchise following next month’s draft.
With such statistics, one would have thought his mind long would have been on draft parties and the lavish life of a professional athlete. But that wasn’t always the case.
“I know there’s great competition out there,” Blair said. “I guess just based on my first two years, I always thought I was just lagging behind everybody.”
But this offseason, after he nailed his lone extra point attempt in Georgia Tech’s 14-7 Independence Bowl loss to Air Force, Blair has seen that he isn’t as far back after all.
As he starts trying to woo pro franchises ahead of late April’s draft and rookie/undrafted free agent signing period -- one that could be put on pause due to the NFL’s current lockout -- Blair has turned to dad’s research to help his state his case.
Scott’s father, Jeff, took his son’s kicking numbers from all of the 2010 season and the latter half of the 2009 season and compared them to Scott’s college peers.
He also compared certain statistics, namely long-range kicks, to the NFL’s best kickers along the same time period.
The latter half of the 2009 season constitutes the last eight games of Scott Blair’s junior year. After going 2-for-5 on field goals in games against Miami and North Carolina near the start of that season, Blair was benched by head coach Paul Johnson to clear his mind and rediscover his focus.
“Like Coach Johnson said, I really was ‘paralysis by analysis,’ ’’ Scott Blair said. “I was psyching myself out about everything trying to be too mechanical.”
That meant staring at the field goal posts a little too long when he took his steps back to set up the kick. It meant convincing himself psychologically that he was further from his mark than he actually was.
It meant he was inside his own head.
“I needed to kind of step back and see things from a different perspective,” Blair said. “Since that break, I’ve just been a different kicker than I was prior to that.”
Jeff Blair’s study shows he’s right.
Using just the aforementioned time period, Jeff Blair found that Scott made 85.2 percent of his field goals. That ranks fifth in the FBS, and second among ACC kickers. Virginia Tech’s Chris Hazley had a 95.5 percentage. Also, Scott’s 13 field goals from between 40-49 yards was the most converted by the kickers grouped in the study.
“After I saw that, it was a reality check,” Scott Blair said, “a good one to see where I ranked among other kickers that are considered among the nation’s elite.”
He stacks up with the NFL quite favorably, too.
Only five professional place-kickers had more attempts from beyond 40 yards during the period used for research. Scott Blair’s 81.3 percent success rate from that distance was dwarfed only by Tennessee’s Rob Bironas (90.9), New Orleans’ Garrett Hartley (88.9), Indianapolis’ Adam Vinatieri (90.0), Atlanta’s Matt Bryant (81.8) and Minnesota’s Ryan Longwell (100.0). In fairness, Longwell had just two attempts.
“This is just to increase any chance that I have,” Scott Blair said of his dad’s research. “As far as the draft, I’m not looking at the draft at all. Realistically what I’m looking at is getting invited to camp and maybe prove that I can kick pretty well there. Not necessarily take over the job, but by word of mouth getting my foot in the door. I expect it to be a long road, but we’ll see how it goes.”