PHOENIX If Sunday’s Super Bowl comes down to the final seconds with the Seahawks needing a field goal to beat the New England Patriots, Steven Hauschka is ready.
“It’s the most exciting thing you can do in my profession,” Hauschka said. “I’m just looking forward to the chance to win the game, potentially, for our team.”
The Seahawks haven’t needed their kicker in that situation this season although Hauschka converted two game-winning kicks in overtime last season. His 27-yard field goal capped a Seahawks’ rally in a 27-24 win over Tampa Bay, and his 45-yarder beat Houston, 23-20.
Hauschka’s teammates have faith in the 29-year-old to deliver when called upon. Punter Jon Ryan, who holds for field goals and extra points, said he is “100 percent confident” in Hauschka and that when Hauschka misses, it’s an anomaly.
Quarterback Russell Wilson knows Hauschka as well as anybody. He and J.R. Sweezy were freshman at North Carolina State and they roomed with Hauschka, who was senior who had transferred to the Wolfpack.
“I’ve known Steve for a long time and I believe he’s the best kicker in the National Football League,” Wilson said. “He’s so consistent, makes every one, pretty much. Every time he gets up there he’s going to make it, I believe.”
The statistics back up Wilson’s belief. Hauschka has made 85.4 percent of his career field goal attempts to rank ninth in accuracy in NFL history. He’s been even better in the playoffs, converting all of his 12 attempts.
This season he missed a career-worst six field goals but three came in one game against the Arizona Cardinals. And that was in the same place – University Phoenix Stadium in Glendale – that he will play in Sunday.
Hauschka missed from 52, 50 and 47 yards.
“It was just one of those days when things didn’t go his way,” said Ryan. “It wasn’t like he was missing short field goals, they were 47, 47, all pretty deep. Just one of those days; that happens.”
Hauschka said the misses were not a case of bad turf, or gusty wind conditions or anything of that nature. He said he enjoys kicking in Arizona and does not have any negative associations with the stadium.
“It’s awesome, awesome building to kick in. It’s got a funny smell to it when you walk in before the game. It smells like cinnamon, liked fried dough,” he said. “I played there like six times, maybe seven, and that’s the first thing I remember.”
Hauschka said he has not allowed himself to think of this game any differently than any other.
“You honestly don’t have to think much at all this week,” he said. “It’s just your body knows what to do, and the key is just to go out there and let your body do what it wants to do. I know how to swing, and no mental thoughts are going to make me swing better right now.”
Part of that confidence comes from his preparation, both mental and physical. Hauschka is known to bring a soccer ball to practice to help with his agility and to work on kicking with his left leg. Hauschka’s right-footed.
Hauschka grew up in Needham, Mass., playing soccer and rooting for the Patriots. His favorite player, not coincidentally, was kicker Adam Vinatieri.
Vinatieri is known for providing two game-winning Super Bowl kicks. His 48-yard field on the last play of the game lifted New England to a 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI and his 41-yarder with four seconds left beat the Panthers, 32-29, in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Among Hauschka’s favorite possessions is an autographed picture of Vinatieri from the famous Tuck Rule Game against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 divisional playoffs. In that game, played in the snow, Vinatieri forced overtime with a 46-yard field goal and then won it in overtime with a 23-yarder in less than ideal conditions.
“It’s very fitting to play your childhood team in this game. I grew up rooting for the Patriots,” he said. “When they won that first Super Bowl on Vinatieri’s foot; that was the craziest thing.”