There’s no time to think when senior kicker Mitch Ewald attempts a field goal. No thoughts run through his mind.
“That’s just muscle memory,” Ewald said. “And if you’ve done muscle memory drills, and you get out there on the field, you’ve done it a million times.”
Ewald is already one of the most storied kickers in IU history. The four-year starter is four field goals away from having the most in school history. He also has the most points of any IU kicker in the program’s 129-year history.
His kicking prowess and reputation instills confidence in his teammates.
“You know, I can still get mad on the sidelines and be mad we’re getting off the field,” senior receiver Kofi Hughes said. “But as soon as you run past Mitch, you’re saying, ‘All right, at least we’re getting a little something.’Just because you know it’s going in.”
Ewald has consistently been among the nation’s best kickers. For the third straight year, he was named to the preseason watch list for the Lou Groza Award, the award given annually to the nation’s best kicker.
The next step for Ewald after he graduates with his management degree from SPEA could be the NFL.
The senior is just seven points away from passing former Hoosier quarterback Antwaan Randle El for second most points in school history.
Ewald is also the most accurate kicker in school history.
His accuracy is what makes him elite. In the NFL, there are six kickers who are 25 and under and played Division I football. Thus, they are comparable to Ewald’s age and have kicked recently in college football.
Looking at their college statistics, Ewald places second among them in field goal accuracy with respect to their college statistics.
Only Baltimore Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker had a higher college field goal percentage then Ewald, connecting on 83.3 percent of his kicks while at the University of Texas.
Ewald is not far behind.
So far as a Hoosier, he has hit 80.4 percent of his field goal attempts.
He has made 45 of 56 field goals in his career. He is also 128 for 129 in extra points, with his lone miss coming last season.
“Yeah, that was unfortunate,” Ewald said of his miss. He shook his head at the memory. “I was hoping to keep that streak alive, but you just have to bounce back and move on from there.”
Ewald came into college as a highly targeted high school prospect.
He was ranked as the third best kicker in the country according to Rivals.com and fourth according to ESPN.com.
He weighed 145 pounds coming into college. He knew strength was something we would need to improve.
The Naperville, Ill., native hit the weight room and impressed his teammates. On the 2013 roster, Ewald is listed at 176 pounds.
“If you saw him working out with us, you wouldn’t think he was a kicker,” senior safety Greg Heban said. “You’d think he was a receiver, a cornerback or something. He’s got hands. He’s got it all for a kicker.”
Teammate Hughes echoed Heban’s proclamations about Ewald. Hughes said he’d be a receiver if he wasn’t a kicker.
“When we warm up sometimes, Mitch will happen to slip into our pat and go drill,” Hughes said. “He’ll be out there catching balls when Coach Wilson’s not looking. So I think that’s pretty funny.”
Still, after all his weight room experience, none of Ewald’s 45 career field goals have been over 50 yards. His career long at IU is 49 yards. But people on the team know he is capable, including Ewald.
“As far as leg goes in the NFL, I think I have it,” Ewald said. “I’m not the biggest or strongest guy in the world, but a lot of it is based off of consistency and how accurate
you can be.”
IU Coach Kevin Wilson said his kicker consistently knocks in 50-plus yard field goals during practice and believes he has the leg to kick in the NFL.
Whether or not Ewald will hear his name called at the NFL Draft next April is unknown.
But his coach thinks he has the tools to succeed in facets of life besides football.
“He’ll be successful at whatever he does,” Wilson said during Big Ten Media Day in Chicago this July. “Whether he’s an NFL guy, he’ll be back here in Chicago and own one of these big buildings or something. He’s a gifted kid.”
Follow reporter Evan Hoopfer on Twitter @EvanHoopfer.
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