The skys the limit
Siegel's work ethic gives Ducks a kick
EUGENE Ñ Fifty-five thousand fans scream as Jared Siegel sizes up the kick. A national TV audience watches in anticipation. Game on the line, and the Oregon Ducks are putting their trust in the kicker. Gulp.
Dan Weaver snaps the ball, Jason Fife places it. Calm and collected, making the moment seem routine, Siegel swoops in, puts his foot on the pigskin, sends the ball soaring toward the goal post. It's good!
It's called visualization. Practice makes perfect.
'I've already beaten Michigan 100 times on a game-winner this summer,' says Siegel, looking ahead to Oregon's fourth game of the year, Sept. 20 at Autzen Stadium. 'Pity them if it comes down to that kick.'
It's 6:30 a.m. in the middle of July, and the only heartbeat inside Autzen is his. Most, if not all, of the Ducks haven't even had their Wheaties. The only things up are the burgeoning blue sky, a sun rising over the north side of the stadium, a moon still visible, a jet cutting through the thin air, a worker using a power tool in the locker room and Jared Siegel and his four footballs.
'This is the only time that fits into my schedule,' he says, explaining his early regimen.
Siegel, who will be a junior, doesn't want to be alone; he would welcome the arrival of some dutiful freshmen.
'I should have two personal shaggers,' he says. 'I've got to negotiate that one with coach.'
But Siegel, a Lou Groza Award finalist last year who nailed 20 of 24 field-goal attempts and made a 59-yarder against UCLA, must deal with such isolation to be successful. It's the life of the kicker, even one who's a potential All-American.
So, he kicks four balls and chases them. Kicks four, chases. Kicks, chases. Boots from 52 yards, then 31, then 44. He tees up the ball in the end zone, five yards from the goal posts, just for, well, kicks. Helps him practice trajectory. 'I was making 50-yarders before I could do this,' says Siegel, who proceeds to go 4-for-4.
In all, Siegel kicks more than 70 balls in less than an hour.
'You get enough repetitions and it's second nature,' he says. 'When I get on the field, I don't have to think about it. My body knows what to do.'
Siegel defies the stereotype of the wimpy kicker. Shortly after assistant strength coach Jeremy Pick turns on the lights in UO's massive weight room, Siegel starts throwing around the iron. You can hear the proverbial pin drop between the clanks and thuds of Siegel, 5-10 and 193 pounds, doing clean and jerks. Nobody else is around. Not at 7:15 a.m.
'He's a linebacker trapped in a kicker's body,' says Pick, detailing Siegel's bests of 400 pounds in the squat, 300 on bench and 303 in clean and jerk.
The 303 'is enough to tie (Joey) Harrington's best,' Siegel brags, 'but he's going down in a couple weeks' during preseason testing. Nothing like talking trash, kicker about quarterback, two players who aren't exactly Charles Atlas types.
Siegel often works out with Josh Bidwell, a former UO punter now with the Green Bay Packers.
Siegel acknowledges that he doesn't really need to lift weights, beyond some clean and jerks for explosion and maintaining some muscle. Curls are for show. 'Biceps are for looking good coming out of the tunnel,' he says.
Call him altruistic, because Siegel pushes himself in the weight room to motivate others. Whoever gets beaten in the weight room by the kicker Ñ say, in the bench and squat Ñ basically wears the scarlet letter.
Only running back Ryan Shaw and safety Justin Phinisee are stronger than him, pound for pound, Siegel says. Not even mammoth tackle Igor Olshansky measures up to the kicker.
Pretty soon, safety Marley Tucker and Shaw arrive to lift. Some basketball players trickle in. Like a happy dog, Siegel welcomes the company, and talk turns to hoopster Matt Short's hometown of Yreka, Calif. Siegel also lives in Northern California, in Sacramento.
'But we don't claim Yreka as ours,' Siegel jests. 'They do have a nice Chevron there. I stop there on the way home.'
Siegel, by the way, has yet to yawn. By 8 a.m. some days, he has been up for four hours.
Ties own ties
By 10 a.m., the 22-year-old Siegel has his uniform on Ñ a suit and tie ÑÊand is sitting at his desk at Merrill Lynch. He's an intern trying to determine whether clients have the right equities in their portfolio. Respectful and disciplined, and fairly adept at looking stoic, Siegel seems to fit well in the financial world. He wants to be like his father and someday work with other people's money.
'My dad used to take me to work. I'd clip on the tie,' Siegel says. 'I've grown out of the clip-ons.'
It doesn't matter that Siegel makes just over minimum wage and works only 12 hours each week. He can tell you what standard deviation and correlation means pertaining to life insurance.
'It's nice to teach him what to do and see what he figures out on his own,' says his boss, Blaine Werner.
Werner has had season tickets to UO football for eight years. 'But we don't talk about sports,' he says. 'My thought is, he probably gets enough of it. We talk about other things. He's a good golfer, a fly fisherman. We talk about his high school. I have three kids Ñ we talk about them.
'He's a good, solid young man. If he was a renegade, he wouldn't be here.'
Siegel, who will work till noon, says that he could make more money in construction but that this job offers good practical experience.
'It pays for a bucket of balls,' he says.
The Ducks' Tiger
Dressed down to shorts and collared shirt, Siegel lifts the golf clubs from his Lexus and heads to the driving range at RiverRidge Golf Course.
Siegel shot even-par 36 on the front side of RiverRidge the previous day. He made an eagle on the par-5, 508-yard second hole. 'Knocked down a 25-foot putt and gave it a Tiger fist pump,' he says.
Siegel declares himself the best golfer on the Oregon football team.
'Most of the guys don't golf, and I've golfed with everybody who has,' he says. 'My game's coming together. I consistently shoot 83-85. But I do have moments where I lapse back into the old me.'
Fundamentals, repetitions and concentration make the golfer, Siegel insists, just like in kicking. Whether lining up for a game-winning field goal against USC or hitting 9-irons off the carpet, one can't forget about the fundamentals because they breed confidence.
'Every time I trotted out there last year, I knew it was three points on the board,' he says.
Siegel's concentration seems to wane the more he talks about football while trying to hit golf shots. He stops when the topic turns to former UCLA coach Bob Toledo, who told him over the phone once that he 'didn't have a Pac-10 leg.'
Oregon beat UCLA last year, in part because of Siegel's school-record 59-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
'What a great turn of events,' Siegel says. 'Obviously, he (Toledo) isn't a good judge of kicking talent.'
Siegel hit 18 of his first 19 field-goal attempts in 2002 before tiring and missing three in the last four games.
Could he be in for another big year?
'I'm very confident I can be an All-American,' he says.
He can play
Quarterback Kellen Clemens and punter Drew Larson join Siegel for a 1 p.m. tee time. Larson's two drives on No. 1 go astray, the mulligan hitting a maintenance building. 'Boy, that's a high casualty rate,' Siegel says.
Clemens took up the game less than one month ago, using the clubs Siegel sold him for $40. 'I just do what Jared tells me,' he says.
Clemens hits into the sand trap on the first hole, and Siegel tells him to square the club face, hit behind the ball and refrain from hitting the water boy hosing down the green.
The topic turns to Siegel, and whether football players consider kickers one of their own.
'If you're a Lou Groza finalist, you're treated great,' Clemens says. 'If you shank 'em É'
'Hey, I'll openly admit that some kickers are a disgrace,' Siegel says. 'I record a couple tackles a year. I pride myself in being a football player.'
Siegel's concentration again starts to wane as he continues to talk about football. His drive and mulligan on No. 3 go way right. Speaking of errant, Siegel learned much from watching Oregon State's Ryan Cesca self-destruct the past two years.
'Probably started to second-guess himself,' he says, 'and tried to correct everything at once. There's a difference between corrections and adjustments. You have to stick to your fundamentals. You can't let past performance affect your next performance.'
It's 4:45 p.m. and Siegel sits alone in a school computer room on a 90-degree day, finishing the last of his summertime class work. He carries a 3.7 grade-point average, majoring in business, and goes about his schoolwork with the same discipline as he does practicing field goals, lifting weights, crunching numbers and smashing golf balls.
He doesn't have a girlfriend. 'It's doable,' he says, 'but girls have to be understanding of the time commitment. You have to find a balance between them and other activities.'
He'll socialize at Rennie's and Taylor's, the popular campus bars, but staying out past midnight doesn't happen very often.
He lives with teammates Nick Steitz and Jerry Matson and ex-UO punter Jose Arroyo.
'He's got this first-tier personality Ñ really professional and serious,' says Matson, a linebacker. 'But once he gets away from football É we've had many a prank done on us. I'm in the shower and a bucket of cold water flies over the top. That's Jared Siegel. You're never safe. Entertaining to live with him.'
Siegel passes an ensemble calling itself 'The 5-Minute Circus' on his way to the Knight Library. Another man, saying he needs to make $500 to leave the country, plays Bach Ñ a really, really crude version of Bach Ñ on his violin. Siegel, in typical fashion, deadpans the situation.
'Sacramento's got its special people, but Eugene has a higher concentration of them,' he says.
As he reaches the library, Siegel says he can count on one hand the number of times Oregon coach Mike Bellotti talked with him last season.
Siegel says Bellotti's philosophy is, if it's not broke, don't fix it.
Running with the boys
Many of the Oregon players, including the 300-pounders, have taken off their shirts for sprints and conditioning drills, as the clock strikes 6:30 p.m.
You won't see Siegel, a redhead with sensitive skin, without his shirt on and SPF 45 sunblock applied, not after playing at Cal in 2001. 'I got scorched,' he says.
Matson says Siegel has earned respect from teammates for his work ethic. Siegel doesn't need to be out in the heat running sprints ÑÊ'hopefully, the kicker is not running 80-yard sprints at any time in a game,' he muses.
Siegel wants to be one of the guys, help build camaraderie and set the bar. Nobody wants to get beat by the kicker.
He yearns for the day when special teams coach Robin Ross will allow him to run downfield and attack the kick returner, rather than stay back in the prone position, getting ready for the all-important saving tackle.
Siegel played rugby as a youngster. In one match, he lined up against Haloti Ngata, now his 330-pound Oregon teammate and defensive lineman. Siegel also played safety in high school. Don't let his title fool you, this kicker can occasionally kick butt.
'I don't get to hit too often, so opposing players are surprised when I come up and hit them on the jaw,' Siegel says.
'I got the better of a Beaver last year,' he adds. 'Wish I knew who it was. I'd call him out.'