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Indiana kicker seeks sequel to winning Purdue kick

Thursday, August 28, 2008


AP Sports Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Austin Starr would rather focus on kicking footballs this season.

Indiana fans may never let him forget last season.

When the fifth-year senior walks the streets of Bloomington, he's prone to having strangers pull him aside and recount their own memories of his game-wining kick over Purdue. And if he's not hearing those stories in person, he's constantly reminded by the television replays or the excitable radio call that play in Indiana football promos.

Suddenly, the kid from Logansport isn't just another Hoosier; he's a humble hero.

"I want to share it with everyone because I always say that people are not fans of players when they're fans of themselves," Starr said. "I look at guys like Marvin Harrison and Adam Vinatieri, and they're very humble guys. So when people come up to me and tell me where they were during that Purdue game, I always listen."

The sequel will be tough to match.

In 2007, Starr made all 48 extra points, set a single-season school record with 21 field goals, had the third-best field goal percentage in the nation (91.3) and gained second-team All-America honors.

But all that pales in comparison to what most fans remember most -- the career-long kick that might have turned around Indiana's football program.

The Hoosiers entered the season finale needing a win over Purdue to reach their first bowl game since 1993. Late in the third quarter, victory looked all but assured with Indiana holding a 24-3 lead.

Over the next 14 minutes, things unraveled as the Boilermakers scored three touchdowns to tie the score with 3:39 left.

Indiana responded by methodically moving 45 yards to set up Starr's 49-yard attempt. As the ball dropped over the crossbar with 30 seconds to go, a wild celebration ensued and Starr's life was forever changed.

"I was so overwhelmed when the game was over," he said. "I was crying because I was so happy that we had fulfilled his (the late coach Terry Hoeppner's) goal and his dream. After I kicked it, I immediately looked to the sky and thought about coach Hep because I knew he was with us."

With the season-opener against Western Kentucky scheduled for Saturday, Starr must leave his Purdue kick in the memory bank. Although he's already been added to the watch list for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best kicker, he starts 2008 with greater goals, NFL aspirations and, yes, 0-for-0.

How does he improve after going 21-of-23 on field goals last season?

"You try to miss none, and when you miss only two kicks, I guess the obvious answer is you don't miss any," he said. "But you have to look at the fine details, the mechanics and you not only have to do better, you have to have the same kind of consistency."

The difference between 2006, when Starr was 12-of-15 and missed four extra points, and last season when he made all but two kicks came in during his offseason workouts.

Starr hooked up with Carmel native Mike Panasuk, a former professional kicker, who provided some valuable lessons about training, kicking and the mental approach to the game.

"He took it to the next level," Starr said. "Two years ago, I was 12-of-15 and I thought, 'I missed three, that's bad but I missed three.' He said, 'You can't worry about the numbers, you've got to do what you're asked to do when you're called upon.' "

The new approach paid immediate dividends.

He no longer frets about the big kicks, lets down on a gimme, allows doubts to creep into his mind or permits success to go to his head.

Even if everyone else wants to keep reliving the past.

"I had a husband and wife come up to me and they said they were getting ready to leave, to beat the crowd, and they came back in and stayed until the game was over and saw the celebration on the field," he said. "That just shows you how much that game meant to a lot of people. It's never overwhelming, it's never too much."

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