Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sidelines Archives
The kicking unit of most football programs is often the most overlooked part of the team, typically the offense and defense gets highlighted on television. However, a strong kicking unit can help sway the tide of a game, such as a punter not giving up good field position, or a kicker converting on a late field goal to give his team the lead.
In these moments, the pressure can be turned to such a high degree that most people would crack before even attempting the task at hand. A level-headed kicker is the key part of any team that wants to find success.
Middle Tennessee just so happens to have two such players on their roster in placekicker Canon Rooker and punter Matt Bonadies.
Rooker is a four-year starter at Middle Tennessee, gaining another year of eligibility after an injury in the 2014 season. In his time for the Blue Raiders, he has been a model of consistency for MTSU.
He is currently 10-11 on field goals for the season, and just hit a career-long kick of 47 yards this past Saturday against UAB. He is currently one of the highest-ranked kickers in the conference in all major statistical categories.
“The best way to stay calm is to stay consistent, and going and doing the same thing every day,” Rooker said. “That’s something that coach Stockstill has instilled in all of us.”
Bonadies is a three-year veteran at the punting position after taking over during his freshman year against FIU. So far throughout his career, he is averaging 40 net yards per punt, and had a career-long this season against Minnesota when he booted it for 64 yards.
It is this kind of consistency that can help the team’s struggling defense keep opponents as far away from the end zone as possible.
“Relaxation and confidence in my technique and what I’ve developed, relying on that helps me to focus, ” Bonadies said.
The teammates have had a great positions coach in their time at MTSU, as special teams coordinator Mike Polly has watched and developed both players.
“What sets Rooker apart is his persistence since he came here. He’s a fifth-year guy now and he’s worked hard at becoming the kicker he is today … He’s a leader in this unit and he does everything that you ask of him,” Polly said. “For (Bonadies), consistency is the main key that he has to focus on, and he’s gotten more consistent throughout the years.”
It is clear that both of the guys play a huge, but often overlooked, part of this team’s effort. They are undisputed assets to the team, and the kind of reliability they offer is a rare combination to have.
You can see Canon Rooker and Matt Bonadies back in action this Friday, when the Blue Raiders take on Marshall at home in the annual blackout game. Kick-off is set for 6 p.m.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email firstname.lastname@example.org.