A Word With: Alex Elliott
Our host George Marinos recently sat down with Hanover Rhinos’ second-year kicker Alex Elliott to discuss the science of kicking, as well as his love of the X-Files.
GM: I’m here with Alex Elliott, kicker for the Hanover Rhinos. Often times, kicking is passed down from one generation to the next in a family. Has anyone else in your family kicked?
AE: Actually, nobody that I know of has any kicking experience in my family. My father was an all-around good athlete who played multiple sports. I played soccer for a while when I was younger, and switched to football when I was in middle school. I didn’t initially kick, but the team needed a kicker, and then I realized that I enjoyed it.
GM: Were there any kickers you looked up to when you were growing up?
AE: When I was growing up, I looked up to Matt Stover and Nick Novak. Both of them were local guys, since Stover played for the Ravens for a while, and Novak attended the University of Maryland. I also attended multiple kicking camps that they hosted, and I believe they were excellent experiences. They really influenced me, and I learned a great amount from them.
GM: Considering you are a kicker, did you think about changing your name when you found out about Lin Elliott, who is infamous for missing a big kick in the playoffs in 1995?
AE: No, I would only change it if it were Norwood or Finkle.
GM: (Chuckles), What makes those two special?
AE: Their infamy makes them special, and both are obviously known by their last names.
GM: On a side note, I once drew a picture of Scott Norwood missing his kick when I was in middle school. Both that and the Lin Elliott kick happened around the time you were born. Are there any sporting events that you didn’t witness, that you’d love to go back and see?
AE: If I could, I would have liked to witness the 1983 World Series, when the Orioles won their most recent championship. Also, even though this happened during my lifetime, I would have liked to experience the 2000 Ravens Super Bowl run, since I was a little too young to really cherish it.
GM: Speaking of the Orioles, you’ve got a pretty cool thing going on right now. Tell us a little about how you got an internship with the Orioles, and what you do for the team.
AE: I major in sport management and minor in business at Towson University. I also have good experience with marketing and customer service, since I am working with TU’s Tiger Athletic Fund and at Fox Hollow Golf Course. So far, the internship has been a very interesting and exciting experience. I work with community relations, and I am involved with the promotional aspects of game day operations.
GM: Do you have any really good stories from game day at Camden Yards?
AE: I was standing with the National Anthem performer before the 7th inning stretch, where he was going to perform “This Land is Your Land”, when a foul ball was hit in our direction, and bounced off of seats, into the concourse tunnel. The performer immediately sprinted into the tunnel, and came back with the ball. He was so happy that he recovered the ball, since it was his first one.
GM: I can relate.
Getting back to the topic of stuff from the 90’s, another thing that was pretty popular then was the fledgling show, The X-files. I know you are a fan. Talk about what got you interested and why you watch?
AE: One of my favorite genres of movies/TV shows is suspenseful thrillers. I think that describes what the X-Files are, with a twist of Sci-Fi. I continue to watch it because I really like the characters and the themes.
GM: Is it the best show you’ve ever watched?
AE: I don’t think it is the best show that I have ever watched, but it’s very good. I think the best show that I’ve seen is Breaking Bad, which actually shares some of the writers and actors with The X-Files.
GM: Which do you like better? Scully, or the wife from breaking bad?
AE: Scully. No competition. The wife’s name is Skyler.
GM: No competition. Really? What made the choice that easy?
AE: Because of her charm, intelligence, and her good looks.
GM: Yeah, Skyler’s not exactly charming. A couple of weeks ago at practice, you dodged this question. You’re going to answer it tonight. Would you let Scully tase you?
AE: (Chuckles), I guess it really depends. Maybe I would allow it if we were to go out to dinner together or something.
GM: Just don’t tell her you are Blair Walsh. Why do kickers get so little respect, and what makes them just as talented as everyone else out there?
AE: You probably know the line… kickers are like lawyers, they’re never truly appreciated until you need a good one. You are either loved or loathed, there’s really no in between. I believe that it involves a lot of mental aspects, and it requires a great amount of focus. The tiniest mistake can make a world of a difference when kicking.
GM: Talk about some of the technical aspects involved in kicking. It seems like it has a lot of moving parts, like a golf swing. For example, what do you have to account for every time you line up to kick?
AE: Kicking shares a lot of similarities with golf. Every time I line-up to kick, I make sure that I am always the same distance away from the holder, so that I don’t overextend to the ball or become too close to it. Just like a golfer, I try to keep my upper body straight, follow through with my kick, and keep my head down. Also, during the process, you must be smooth, just like a golfer’s swing.
GM: Take us through your approach to the ball. What’s going through your head at that point?
AE: For a field goal attempt, I take my steps back and line-up, and try my best to zone everything out. I take a look up at the goalposts and visualize my kick going through them, and then stare at the spot where the holder will place the ball. I try to only focus on what I can control, the kick, so I try not to worry about the snap. Once the ball comes into my vision, I begin my process to the ball.
GM: Does freezing the kicker really work?
AE: I don’t believe so, and it especially helps if the ball is still snapped and I can get a practice kick in. I think it gives me more time to relax, since there is no hurry, and to familiarize myself with the spot of the kick.
GM: Imagine for a moment that you are Blair Walsh. What’s the first thing you think and the first thing you do after missing that kick in the playoffs?
AE: I’d probably just be in shock, because, Walsh probably makes this kick 98 or 99 times out of 100. There’s not much you can really do at that point, except accept what happened, and move on to the next kick.
GM: It’s a crazy world we live in when someone starts getting death threats for kicking an inflated piece of leather wide of a designated area. Do you agree?
AE: I agree, people get a little out-of-control. That is going to happen in every sport though, and you just have to not let it get to you.
GM: Tell us how you got hooked up with the Hanover Rhinos?
AE: I originally thought I was retiring from football after my two years playing at Stevenson University. Right after I transferred to Towson, I was introduced to the Rhinos by a coach that used to coach at my high school, Manchester Valley. I was told that they could use a kicker, and so I tried out and here I am today.
GM: What does it mean to be a part of this family?
AE: It means a significant amount. It means everything. When I joined the team, I did not know anybody, so I was not really sure what to expect. Through a season and a half, I have built good relationships with the players and the coaches. I’ve made some good friends throughout the process.
GM: Donald Trump’s hair looks like _____ and reminds me of ________.
AE: Strange bird, older Biff Tannen from Back to The Future.
GM: Thanks for your time, man.
AE: Thanks for having me, George. I appreciate it.