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Kickers mental game gets outside help

When Portland State's Eric Azorr has a problem, he can't go see his kicking coach about it.

'I answer to our special teams coach (Jim Craft), but my kicking coach lives elsewhere, in the Midwest, I think,' Azorr says.

Like a lot of college kickers, Azorr has sought out a specialist. The senior from Clackamas High is a disciple of Paul Assad, a former Sacramento State player who calls himself 'The Kick Doctor.'

Assad travels around the country, helping dozens of kickers from high school to the pros. He's worked with former PSU kicker Dan Frantz, who has been a star in Arena Football, and with current Viking punter Andrew Levers and Oregon Duck kicker Paul Martinez.

A visit can cost a couple hundred dollars, or more. 'Being a college kid, it kind of burns a hole in your pocket to hire him,' Azorr says. 'But it's definitely helped.'

Azorr isn't having a great year, but he isn't having a bad year, either. He is 16 of 17 on extra points and 8 of 12 on field goals, with two kicks blocked. His protection broke down on a 21-yard attempt that was blocked last week by Idaho State. 'Our offense wasn't expecting their middle rush,' he says.

He thinks he's become more consistent and composed. 'I'm finally able to be relaxed in a game,' he says.

'I like to say I have the most stressful job on the team; I don't know if I'm giving myself too much credit,' Azorr says. 'I don't know if you can fully understand the psyche of the kicker. You have to have a short memory, and the hard part is, when you miss a kick, you never know if you're going to get another shot.

'Some kickers psyche themselves out,' Azorr says. 'A positive attitude is the whole key. You're not going to make it unless you go out there knowing you're going to make it.'

From 40 to 45 yards, 'I don't think about distance, so I should make 90 percent,' he says. 'Beyond 45 yards, you hope to make at least half, but it depends somewhat on the conditions.' This season, Azorr is 3 of 4 from 40 to 45 yards and 0 for 1 from longer, missing from 46 on a rainy, windy day at Montana State.

Azorr, who also kicks off, enjoys having the same holder, backup QB Rob Freeman, for the second year in a row. He also gets along well with snapper Patrick Dunn. 'We all hang out and play Tiger Woods (video golf) and real golf. They call me the putt-master because I make all my putts on the video game,' Azorr says.

Saturday's matchup with Eastern Washington will be Azorr's final home game as a Viking, his final appearance at PGE Park in front of his mom and dad, grandmother and girlfriend -unless the school's appeal for an extra eligibility is granted. After the season, the Viks will ask if he can have a medical redshirt year for his freshman season (2003), during which he suffered a groin injury.

'He was on the field for probably 11 or 12 plays that year,' coach Tim Walsh says.