Brett Swenson: Big Ten’s Best Placekicker

Michigan St Indiana Football

By Paul M. Banks

Football placekickers play an interesting role in pop culture. This derives from their real life role as occasional scapegoat/pariah amidst their usual pattern of anonymity. Art imitated life in Adam Sandler’s comedic rock song “The Lonesome Kicker” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.” The latter reference contained a villain, Ray Finkle who was something like a demented Scott Norwood gone especially psycho. But Michigan State’s Brett Swenson defies the placekicking stereotype.

“I really feel I’m a little different from the typical kicker…I’m real outgoing. I’m a social person. I get along with everyone,” Swenson said at Big Ten Media Day. It’s true- this special teams guy is assimilated with the offense and defense guys. He’s one of the boys. He even mentioned his favorite movie being “Dumb and Dumber.” It doesn’t get any more regular guy than that.  So what’s a typical kicker like? Often neurotic at worst, eccentric at best; except for the kicker Swenson looks up to. “{Adam} Vinatieri, cause he’s obviously a solid kicker. He’s always consistent in pressure situations and he’s done some great things,” Swenson told me at Media Day. brettswenson

And Vinatieri is indeed the rock star of kickers, perhaps the only rock star of kickers. His unique role was assured by two pressure kicks: the snow globe moment in the 2001 AFC Championship game and the kick heard round the world in the Super Bowl that year. I asked Swenson what NFL kicker he models his game on. “There’s really no one I model myself after because everyone for the most part has their own flair, their own kind of technique they do. I watch other guys kick and see what works for me,” Swenson said. finkle-back-fold_1

It seems to be working quite well because the 5’8” 169 pound senior already holds a couple school records as he enters his final season, including consecutive field goals made (15), and field goals made in a season (tied with 22). Some of the records he broke once belonged to a guy his exact size, Paul Edinger. Like Edinger, Morten Andersen, and Dave Raymer, Swenson may go from kicking in Spartan Stadium to kicking on Sundays. MSU’s current kicker was All-Big Ten last season, and made the preseason All-Conference teams this season. He was fourth in the nation in field goals last year and has the second most 3-pointers of any current kicker in FBS. He finds himself fourth on the all-time Spartan scoring list heading into his final autumn.

He’s also missed just one extra point in his career (121 tries) and has currently made 66 in a row. Part of his success comes from knowing how to play with, not against Mother Nature. “Don’t ever judge the wind on the field, it’s the wind up there that matters,” he told me. When asked about what would be his favorite stadium to make a game winning kick would be, he naturally answered his home venue in East Lansing. But if that were not one of his choices he responded “whatever stadium has the least amount of wind that day.”