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Lessons of success, failure keep Gophers kicker Emmit Carpenter on his toes

September 19, 2018

The reasoning might seem clear.

Emmit Carpenter is from Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Packers tied the Vikings 29-29 Sunday when kicker Daniel Carlson missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt as time expired in overtime. Therefore, Carpenter was happy.

But thats not the case because Carpenter, the most accurate kicker in Gophers history, watches NFL games from an educational perspective, not necessarily as a fan.

I look at it from the standpoint of being able to learn from the guys on TV. Because whatever NFL team it is, those are the 32 best in the entire world at what they do, Carpenter, a fifth-year senior, said Tuesday. Its an awesome thing for me to get to watch these guys kick, because whether theyre making kicks or missing kicks, theres something in it for me that I can learn from them.

Sundays game, of course, offered graduate-level lessons for a kicker. Carlson, a Vikings rookie and a fifth-round draft pick out of Auburn, missed field-goal attempts from 49 yards in the second quarter, 48 yards in overtime and the fateful 35-yard wide-right push that Monday cost him his job. Packers veteran Mason Crosby made five field goals but missed a 52-yarder as time expired in regulation.

In a game like that, every point matters, no matter what side of the ball it is, Carpenter said. It rings true for kickers on any team at any level that any time youre called upon, its crucial for you to do the job that youre asked to do for your teammates.

That said, Carpenter felt bad for Carlson, whom he has gotten to know through footballs tight-knit special teams community.

All the specialists across the country, we really do think were a big fraternity, because most of us train together in the offseason and get to know each other as kickers and as friends, Carpenter said. Ive gotten the chance to kick with Daniel Carlson a few times, and hes an incredible kicker. But I think its more important to notice that hes even a better person than what he is as a kicker.

Kickers operate on an island, so every make and especially every miss is magnified. Carpenter points to the need to remain consistent in his approach. He empathizes with Carlson, whose Sunday got worse and worse as it went on.

As much as you can tell yourself to forget about what happened 20 minutes ago, Carpenter said, you can always have that little piece of doubt creep into your mind.

This season, Carpenter has made five of six field-goal attempts, including bombs of 50 and 53 yards against Fresno State. He is 41-for-50 on field-goal attempts in his career, an 82-percent success rate that ranks best in Gophers history.

Hes been exceptional, coach P.J. Fleck said.

To keep doubts from entering his head, Carpenter has a routine that has teammates looking on in puzzlement.

When I go out to kick a field goal, I talk to myself out loud. Im sure [holder] Jake Herbers thinks Im crazy, Carpenter said. Hes like, What are you talking about, man? In my own way, if I can talk to myself out loud and give myself some positive reinforcement, thats how I can keep negative thoughts from coming into my head.

Little things like that can make a difference, he added, and confidence is everything as a kicker.

That played out Sunday for Carlson. Carpenter, however, sees a bright future for the now-former Viking.

I have no doubt in my mind that hell bounce back from this and hes going to end up having a great career, Carpenter said. You cant let one game or kick define you.

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