By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
There was a day when Sam Brockshus would worry about kicking a field goal or PAT, more concerned about the possibility that he might miss than embrace the opportunity to make.
“I really had to force myself to look forward to a kick,” Brockshus said. “I would always worry about making a potential mistake instead of focusing on making a big play against a very good team. Now, I look forward to the opportunity.”
Brockshus has made some clutch kicks this season, though none quite had the significance of the five PATs and game-winning field goal he made in last week’s 38-35, double-overtime victory against Northwest Missouri State at Blakeslee Stadium. The victory has pushed the Mavericks to their deepest trek in the national tournament, hosting a Super Region 3 championship game at noon today against Missouri Western State.
“It’s hard to believe we’re still playing this late in the season,” Brockshus said. “Getting to the national semifinals would be really nice. It’s hard to wrap my head around all of this.”
Minnesota State coach Aaron Keen wasn’t here to see Brockshus kick as a freshman and sophomore. He just knew that his kicker was coming off a redshirt season and back surgery, and Keen needed to see something during last spring’s practice or he might have to find another option.
But as spring ball progressed, Brockshus regained his leg strength and form, giving his coach a good dose of confidence. As the season has developed, he’s less likely to settle for a long field goal than risk a marginal fourth-down play.
“He’s a weapon,” Keen said. “His ability to get his kickoffs deep takes away the opportunity for big returns. At this point in the season, his ability to put points on the board is key because against very good teams, every point counts.”
As a freshman, Brockshus made 11 of 14 field goals and 51 of 55 PATS. He struggled some as a sophomore, making 8 of 14 field goals and 34 of 35 PATs. He then took off a year because of two herniated disks that required surgery.
“It seems like two different careers,” Brockshus said. “The first two years were a little bit of a struggle. Once I got back, the team started doing well, and I had some good games. I realized how much I looked forward to these games.”
This season, Brockshus set records with 18 field goals and 110 points this season, and he’s become the all-time points leader at Minnesota State with 252 points.
“A kicker’s points are directly related to the team’s success,” Brockshus said. “I just feel blessed to have had a lot of opportunities.”
Brockshus was put in the ultimate pressure spot in Saturday’s double-overtime victory against Northwest Missouri State. He doesn’t have much of a pre-kick routine, and he hadn’t practiced any kicks into the 15-mph wind at the open end of Blakeslee Stadium.
But with the teams tied at 35 and Brockshus just 27 yards from a game-winner, Brockshus looked at holder Adam Thielen, who reminded his kicker to use good tempo. The kick was solid and straight, knifing through the wind, and his teammates soon swarmed Brockshus in a mass celebration near midfield.
It’s a kick that may have not happened when he was younger, worried about letting his team down more than booting the Mavericks to a victory.
“That was one of the happier moments since I’ve been here,” Brockshus said. “It was cool seeing everyone celebrate. The playoff atmosphere was so intense.”