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Wyoming kicker Williams cites mental preparation as key to success

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UW vs Hawaii Football

Stuart Williams kicks a field goal after Robert Herron's touchdown as Wyoming faced Hawaii on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo. (Ryan Dorgan, Star-Tribune)

Before Stuart Williams made the kick, he made the kick.

When Wyoming senior linebacker Mark Nzeocha forced a fumble with barely two minutes remaining and the Cowboys trailing Florida Atlantic 19-17 on Saturday, the senior kicker set in motion a mental routine.

In his mind, he was out there, taking deep breaths, lined up behind a hulking offensive line and holder Sam Stratton. He saw Brendan Turelli flick his wrists and propel the football to Stratton, who corralled it before making a clean hold.

He saw himself approach the football with perfect footwork, then drill it cleanly and follow through as the pigskin arced gracefully through the posts.

He heard the crowd roar, and saw his teammates approach him and pound his helmet in frenzied celebration.

Before quarterback Colby Kirkegaard completed an 88-yard pass to Dominic Rufran, before Williams knew he'd even be granted an opportunity to win the game, the senior placekicker visualized his own success.

And as it turns out, dreams really do come true.

“The mind is very powerful. It tells the body what to do," Williams said Monday. "So by doing mental reps and knowing exactly what you need to get done -- snap, hold and kick -- it makes it all a lot easier.

"I focus on the positive aspects of my kicking. It spikes your confidence before you go out there and kick.”

With 15 seconds left to play, Williams trotted onto the field, lined up 18 yards away from the uprights and calmly drained the go-ahead field goal that sealed Wyoming's victory.

Williams didn't dwell on the circumstances of the kick -- the fact that, for instance, the result would likely spell the difference between victory and defeat.

He saw the kick for what it was: a glorified extra point.

In other words: easy pickings.

“I just remembered, ‘This is a PAT. You do these all the time,’" Williams said. "Regardless of what the situation was, I knew what I needed to do and how I needed to do it.”

It was a game full of highlights for Williams, who also knocked through a career-long 50-yard field goal in the second quarter and drilled two kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Thus far, the Colorado native is a perfect 4-for-4 on field goals and 8-for-8 on extra points this season.

On Monday, the Mountain West named Williams the conference's special teams player of the week.

The honor is the result of a steady progression that head coach Bohl has witnessed ever since his arrival last winter.

“He has made tremendous progress from the spring," Bohl said. "We have spent a great deal of time working around the 40-yard-line, saying that we have to be consistent on that. He can stretch to the 50, and he said he felt good from 53 in the pregame warm up. I think he could have kicked a 58-yarder.”

While Williams has always had the physical ability, he has previously lacked sufficient opportunities to be successful. Last season, Wyoming attempted only seven field goals -- the lowest mark in the country. Williams connected on four of them.

Through four games this season, he has already matched that total.

“It definitely was [tough]," Williams said of his sporadic attempts in 2013. "This season, there’s a lot more emphasis on the kicking game than there has been in prior years. It’s been a lot more of a priority in practice and obviously in the games, because I’ve kicked the same amount as I made last year, and it’s been four games.

"I think there’s a lot more emphasis, and it’s easier for me to get into the game, knowing that."

Williams credits much of his success to his recent work with Dr. Jack Stark, a performance psychologist who previously worked with Bohl at Nebraska.

Because of Stark, Williams now visualizes the kick before he ever attempts it.

And when the mind is prepared to succeed, the body inevitably follows.

"It's the first step towards making the kick," Williams said. "It’s trying to build my confidence before I go out there, and it relaxes my mind.”

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.


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