Mehlhaff prepping others for NFL while he awaits his call

first_imgFormer UW kicker Taylor Mehlhaff (front row, fourth from left) had around 35 kids attend his kicking, punting and long-snapping camp Sunday at the McClain Center.[/media-credit]In describing kickoffs, former Wisconsin kicker Taylor Mehlhaff instructs the athletes at his kicking camp to imagine coming up and over a hurdle. In many ways, a similar description is fitting for the pro career of the 5-foot-10 native of Aberdeen, S.D.Since last suiting up for the Badgers against Tennessee in the 2008 Outback Bowl, Mehlhaff’s career has been anything but easy. From getting named a two-time all-Big Ten pick and AFCA All-American in 2007 to being a sixth-round pick and eventually getting cut three times in two years, Mehlhaff has experienced a lot in just two years as a pro.“The NFL has kind of been a rollercoaster ride for me,” he said.As the 178th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, Mehlhaff appeared to have landed in a promising position as the kicker of the future for the New Orleans Saints. Things did not, however, go well for Mehlhaff as a member of the “Who Dat Nation.”In the last round of cuts before the beginning of the 2008 season, the Saints released Mehlhaff in favor of Pro Bowl kicker Martin Gramatica. Mehlhaff’s career with New Orleans was far from over, however.When Gramatica was placed on injured reserve Oct. 8 following the Saints’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Saints recalled Mehlhaff to take over the starting kicking duties. Over the next three games, the rookie went 3-for-4 on field goals and 9-of-10 on extra point attempts. After missing an extra point against San Diego near the end of October, though, Mehlhaff was — for the second time during the 2008 season — released by the Saints.After spending the next two months as a free agent, Mehlhaff’s NFL career appeared to have gotten a second chance, when he signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. Once again, though, Mehlhaff’s career did not go as hoped in Minnesota, as the kicker was waived on Sept. 1, 2009.Mehlhaff was not surprised by the Vikings’ decision, however.“I had a great camp there, but obviously Ryan Longwell is one of the best kickers in the league,” Mehlhaff said. “I was going there to earn a spot as a kickoff kicker, and I did really well. But for them to hold two kickers, I would’ve had to just blown them out of the water.”Most recently, Mehlhaff got a call from the San Francisco 49ers during the final week of the regular season, as they needed a kicker to fill in as they faced off against the St. Louis Rams. Mehlhaff said the competition was between him and another kicker, one that had more NFL experience. When the 49ers were unable to secure an indoor location for the two to compete for the job, the team chose to go with their other candidate based on his experience.Mehlhaff was not happy about the inability to earn the position, to say the least.“I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Mehlhaff said of his reaction. “I was like, ‘Let’s go to a high school field and kick; and they’re like, ‘We don’t want you to go to St. Louis in the 10-degree weather and make you kick in the snow.’“So I was so close to getting signed there for the final game with the 49ers and they just dropped that on me. It’s kind of the way the NFL is for me at this point.”As he stood in the McClain Center on a chilly Sunday afternoon in Madison, Mehlhaff was in good spirits, despite the setbacks in pursuit of his professional kicking career.After recently establishing his company, Taylor Mehlhaff Kicking, Mehlhaff returned to Madison for his first kicking, punting and long-snapping camp, held Sunday at the McClain Center. An estimated 35 participants took part in the four and one-half hour camp, which was about 10 more than Mehlhaff had anticipated.Alongside Mehlhaff were Ryan Sensor — his long snapper in New Orleans who also currently is a free agent — and Luke Biondi, a kicker and punter from Northern Illinois, as well as current UW punter Brad Nortman.Mehlhaff and staff spent the first half of the afternoon instructing the participants in the fundamentals of kicking, punting and long snapping. In the second half, they competed in several competitions, including longest kickoff, longest field goal and most accurate punt.The camp is something Mehlhaff has considered for a while as many people have approached him about holding a kicking camp. According to Mehlhaff, though, the coaching side of things is not just a temporary thing.“If you run this the right way and you do it the right way, I think you can build something pretty big here,” he said. “Kids are looking for this. Nowadays, kids are getting scholarships to go snap a ball between their legs and kick a ball as far as they can on a kickoff.”Based on his track record, Mehlhaff seems to be the perfect candidate to teach aspiring kickers. Not only has Mehlhaff proven to be a strong kicker, but he also has experienced the kinds of ups and downs to be expected in the NFL and unpredictable nature of the sport.Now if only there was a team out there looking for a left-footed placekicker.Jordan is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Are you also surprised that Taylor Mehlhaff remains a free agent kicker? Send your thoughts to [email protected]last_img