By Bob Sansevere
Blair Walsh is the kicker the Vikings drafted to replace veteran Ryan Longwell. It didn't take long for that to happen. Longwell was released shortly after Walsh was selected in the NFL draft.
I had an enjoyable chat with the sixth-round pick from Georgia on Wednesday, May 23.
BS: When you were drafted, did you think you'd have to compete with Ryan Longwell to be the kicker?
BW: Absolutely. I thought I was going to come in here and compete. I didn't know their plan for me.
BS: Were you surprised Longwell was released shortly after you were drafted?
BW: Ryan is a great kicker. I grew up watching kickers when I was in high school. He was one of the guys I tried to emulate. His accuracy here was just
unparalleled. It was surprising, for sure. But it was a nice vote of confidence from the coaches. I'm ready to show them their decision was good.
BS: You've got the big-time leg, right?
BS: Are kickoffs into the end zone commonplace for you?
BW: I put that expectation on myself, especially since they moved (kickoffs) out to the 35-yard line. I think they'll need to be put it into the end zone -- at least. It's also what kind of coverage schemes you want, whether you want to pin them somewhere or put it high. It doesn't matter. I'll do whatever is asked of me.
BS: Did you have more than 50 percent touchbacks in college?
BW: College is a little bit different because your schemes are different. We kicked from the 30-yard line, which is not as much fun. I'd say I had 30, 40 percent touchbacks.
BS: That's pretty good when you're kicking off from the 30.
BW: It wasn't bad, but we definitely had to float a lot of them up there. Guys in the SEC are fearless. They like to take them out. I can remember a couple of guys from Florida. You'd put them seven, eight yards deep and they'd still take them out. Kickers' nightmares.
BS: What's your range?
BW: Realistically, as long as it's in the low 60s, I'll give it a shot. I'm not saying I'll make them every time, but I think I'm pretty dependable from 50-plus. I was in college. Hopefully, I can translate it to the pros. I can be a long-range threat or weapon, but it really matters about hitting those 40 to 49s.
BS: What's the longest field goal you've made, and I'm not even talking about in a game?
BW: We had a windy day at Georgia, and we were back to about 70 yards.
BS: You hit from 70 yards?
BW: Yeah, but trust me, it was not impressive. It was low. It probably wouldn't have gotten over the line. If you were there you would have said, "It's not that cool." There was a lot of wind. I'd say probably the most legit one was when we were at Arkansas. We were in pregame warm-ups. We had a very good backup kicker at my school, and we went back and hit 68-yarders. We both did. We were like, "All right, we're ready to go."
BS: Were you excited when you realized you'll be kicking at least nine games indoors every year -- eight home games and one in Detroit?
BW: Love it. I think indoors shows how good a kicker you actually are. There's no wind to help you out, and you don't have to play the wind. It's true to what your style is and your technique and how you hit the ball.
BS: Did you expect to be drafted?
BW: I didn't expect to have anything happen. I know the history of kickers. A lot of good guys go undrafted. That's why when I heard my name called,
BS: What happened in your senior year? (Walsh missed 14 of 35 field-goal attempts in his final season at Georgia.)
BW: I just started pushing a little bit. I missed early on in the season. I was 2 for 4 after the first two games, and I hadn't been like that ever. It killed me that I wasn't helping my team like I knew I had been in the previous years. I over-analyzed and got myself into a funk and was in and out of it all year.
BS: You're out of it, right?
BW: Oh, yeah.
BS: How did you get out of it?
BW: I went back to basics. I went back to having fun with it and saying for each kick, "Just go out there and hammer it like you normally do. The result is the result. Don't try to guide it in. Don't try to force it in. Just do what you've been doing for the last six years."
BS: Every athlete has a dream of making a big play. What's the dream kick?
BW: Any kick that's a game-deciding kick is a kicker's dream. It doesn't matter if it's against a lowly opponent or a winless team. A game-winning kick, no matter what, is the end-all.
BS: How many game-winning kicks have you had?
BW: Two. One in high school, one in college. I've had a couple that were made with a minute and 30 to go. I'm talking about the clock running out. To me, that's a game-winner.
BS: Did you have many games, or any, where you missed a game-winner?
BW: My last game in college against Michigan State in the (Outback) bowl game (a 33-30 loss in triple overtime). It was wide right. I probably was a yard or two wide right. It was from 42 yards. So it was midrange. That one was tough to get over, for sure. (It was in the first overtime and would have won the game for Georgia.) I made one (from 47 yards) to force a third overtime. And then I got my last kick blocked, so it was not fun.
BS: So after the wide right, there was a blocked kick?
BW: Yeah. It was a tough way to go. They won it on the block (because Georgia failed to tie the score and force a fourth overtime). That's why it made it so sweet for me to hear my name in the draft.
BS: Have you worked much with (holder) Chris Kluwe and (long snapper) Cullen Loeffler?
BW: We've already started working on the snap, hold and kick and what we like and what they like and what I can do to make their job easier. It's going well. They're really nice guys, and I couldn't ask to come into a better situation.