By Todd McElwee
|University of Maryland kicker Obi Egekeze is obsessed with the next kick. (Mitch Stringer/PressBox)|
Mobbed by holder Travis Baltz and his teammates, Egekeze celebrated en route to the sidelines. There, his thoughts shifted from what he had just done, to what he would do next. It's how he has always approached the game.
"That felt great," Egekeze said. "It was important because it was the next kick and we needed it to win the game."
Egekeze is obsessed with the next kick. His eyes light up when he talks about it. When the ball leaves his foot, he's powerless to change its trajectory. Like a closer in baseball, he must enjoy a short memory. Successes and failures alike are not entirely forgotten, but learned from and then let go.
"As soon as the ball is in the air, it's on to the next kick," Egekeze said. "Make or miss, you have to go out there and try to kick it. Once it's over, it's over; move on to the next one."
The next kick was all Egekeze could look forward to earlier in the season. He commenced his senior campaign by missing three field goals versus Delaware and each of his attempts against Middle Tennessee State and California. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen even spoke about examining the kicking game after outlasting the Golden Bears.
During the drought, Egekeze never lost confidence. He said teammates were nothing but supportive, never questioning his work ethic and offering whatever assistance they could provide.
Finally, barely a minute into the Terrapins' fourth contest of the year against Eastern Michigan, a kick went through. Lifting himself out of the abyss, Egekeze added another two field goals in a 51-24 Maryland rout. His next eight attempts, including four in a 26-0 beatdown of then-No. 18 Wake Forest, split the goal posts.
"I've just really tried to focus in," Egekeze said. "I've just concentrated on seeing the ball, staying back on it and just following through. I felt like I was kicking well at the beginning of the season. When I got that first one, I just took it from there."
Hailing from Augusta, Ga., Egekeze, whose actual first name is Chukweume, converted 9 of 11 field goals and 21 of 22 extra points as a senior at Westside High School. A two-time all state selection, he redshirted as a freshman and saw his first collegiate action handling kickoffs as a sophomore. In 2007, he hit on 17 of 23 kicks and was a perfect 36-for-36 on extra points.
With the score knotted at 24 early in the fourth period against the Wolfpack, Egekeze shanked a 39-yard try for his first miss in nearly a month. He shook it off, and looked forward to the next kick. N.C. State knows what happened.
Issue 131: November 2008