Aug. 29, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army players circled around Eric Osteen as he lined up for a 42-yard field goal.
They screamed as loud as they could, trying to disrupt Osteen's mental routine as the Black Knights closed practice Monday.
Osteen was focused. In the zone. Locked in.
He took one step back and crushed the ball.
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Smeland threw a football up in the air near the path of Osteen's kick for an additional distraction. No effect. The boot split the uprights.
Coach Rich Ellerson figured freshman Dan Grochowski, who had a chance to walk on at Florida, would be Army's field-goal kicker the next four seasons.
"Eric has changed how we feel about that," Ellerson said.
Osteen, a senior, is locked in a battle with Grochowski for the job, and the last thought on his mind is the competition.
He thinks about how hard he worked and what it took to be in this position.
Like most football players, Osteen entered his first season with tired legs from Beast Barracks, the freshmen boot camp. Not good for a kicker.
Osteen struggled to find his rhythm. He spent his sophomore year as a member of Ross' Rangers, a group of football players who develop mentally and physically away from the practice field.
"That's when I got big into it," Osteen said. "I lifted a lot."
He said Army's strength and conditioning coach Brett Gerch "took it to whole new level. It gave me time to step back and take a look at everything."
Osteen was refreshed and stronger heading into training camp last season. He was named Army's kickoff specialist and became a weapon. Osteen's 10 touchbacks were more than the team's total in the three previous seasons.
"He's really an amazing story," Ellerson said. "He went from a guy that was borderline going to get cut. Last year, he really wasn't competitive in field goals."
Army struggled with its kicking game in 2011. Senior Alex Carlton missed five extra points and three of his six field-goal attempts.
Ellerson was looking to replace Carlton, but Osteen was too slow in getting off his attempts. Osteen and Ellerson worked on the kicker's timing and cut his approach from three steps to one.
A trip to kicking guru Gary Zauner this summer shored up Osteen's approach.
"My biggest problem was trusting myself," Osteen said.
Confidence isn't an issue.
Osteen was a perfect 8-for-8, including a 50-yard field goal, in a controlled scrimmage Saturday.
"I just worry about my kick," Osteen said. "You have to zone out everything else, all the distractions and just control what you can control."
Now Osteen controls his own destiny.