Every week, NittanyNation will pose five questions to a recruit, player, alum or coach about all things Penn State.
This week's subject is Kevin Kelly, a PSU kicker from 2005-2008 who started all four seasons. He came on with a scholarship and left by shattering the school points record. The 5-foot-7 Pennsylvania native ended his career with 425 points -- 143 points more than the No. 2 on the list, Craig Fayak.
Kelly still attends about four games a year and says he never misses a game on TV.
NittanyNation: Have you reached out to Sam Ficken at all, and just how much of a mental game is kicking?
Kevin Kelly: Yeah. I reached out to him a couple weeks ago, and we've been texting back and forth here and there. But, at this point, it's a mental thing. Being at a Division I school and being a starting kicker, especially at Penn State, it's not physical. His mistakes maybe are physical, but it's moreso a mental thing for him, and it's just something that takes time.
My freshman and sophomore years, I wasn't a good kicker. I made field goals, but I didn't make the ones that I needed to make. He's kind of in the same area, where he's growing and learning. He's gradually getting better and better, and that's what we can expect of him. As long as he's trying to fix those mistakes, that's all we can ask for.
NN: When you played for Penn State, how did you rebound after a missed field goal or maybe a bad performance?
KK: The biggest thing I always looked at was if I'm playing at that level, then I'm obviously good enough to get out there -- and I put statistics into my head. If I missed that one, then OK, I had to make this one. If you take the average of my kicks, then it's rare that I would miss these both. I kept that mentality with the numbers, that I was due for a field goal, and it worked a little bit.
NN: Looking back at your Penn State career, what are you most proud of?
KK: I'm most proud of what we accomplished in those four years. When I was getting recruited, I had people back home telling me, 'Look. Penn State hasn't won any games and they're not doing well.' But I went there for the academics moreso than football and ended up being there when we turned things around. We went to two BCS bowls, I graduated, I was in a healthy environment where academics were No. 1, so my overall experience was phenomenal.
My most memorable games, I would probably go Florida State as No. 1 [26-23 3-OT Orange Bowl win in 2006] for sure, just because how it ended up. Then probably the Rose Bowl [38-24 loss to USC in 2009] because I was still able to experience it and take it all in and then the Wisconsin game [48-7 win in 2008]. ... Besides Beaver Stadium, I think Camp Randall is one of the best in college football, and to blow them out there was just a great game.
NN: As an alum now, what do you think about names on the back of the jerseys?
KK: You know, it's kind of weird; I kind of go both ways. I love the fact when I played there wasn't a name on the jerseys because of the tradition and all that, but Coach [Bill] O'Brien has come in, and he's done a great job. He's put names on the jerseys so people know everyone who's stayed, who's there for the program. I think the whole one-team attitude still applies, but I don't think it would have worked with the old system.
NN: What was your opinion of O'Brien when he first took the job, and how did that opinion evolve?
KK: When he first came in, I knew him as the coach that had gotten in Tom Brady's face so obviously he had the credibility and the experience, but I didn't know how he was going to relate to players until this summer. I met him at a kicking camp over the summer, and he's been awesome. I don't think he could have done any better. He really can't do it any better than he has, especially with the way the last two games wound up. He's rallied this team, and I think it says a lot about him and says a lot about the guys on the team.
Just his passion has really stood out. I only talked to him for a couple minutes, but I could tell right away he was in it for the right reasons; he's in it for the players. And it wasn't just like, oh, he was meeting a former player. He took the time to say hi to me and ask questions. He struck me as someone who's generally interested in how I've been since the program.