Dec. 28, 2006
MIAMI (AP) - It's not easy kicking for Bobby Petrino.
The Louisville coach is so obsessed with scoring touchdowns, he almost looks defeated when forced to send the special teams unit out for a field goal.
It's a look kicker Art Carmody has gotten used to over the years, with Petrino somewhat angrily calling for the field goal after the high-powered Louisville offense failed to reach the end zone.
Carmody's goal is simple: keep Petrino satisfied, if not exactly happy.
"I try to take every kick like it can be the outcome of a game, whether it's the first quarter, second quarter, whatever," Carmody said. "You never know when you're going to need the points."
Points have never been hard to come by for the Cardinals under Petrino, and when Carmody has been summoned from the sideline, rarely has there been anyone in school history as automatic.
The kid who was simply happy to be on scholarship three years ago has evolved into one of the nation's best. Carmody won the Lou Groza Award as the country's best kicker this season after making 20-of-23 field goals and all 57 of his extra points for No. 5 Louisville (11-1), which plays No. 15 Wake Forest (11-2) in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 2.
The irony is that Carmody won the award while forsaking one dream for another. The Cardinals have been so good over the last three years Carmody has never been called on for a potential game-winner.
Ask Carmody if any one kick stands out, and he points to a 35-yard kick midway through the fourth quarter against Cincinnati on Oct. 14 that gave the Cardinals a 13-point lead in a game in which they would hold on to win 23-17.
Not exactly the kind of dramatic, fist-pumping, storm the field moment that gets you noticed. Then again, Carmody knows there are worse problems than playing on a team so dominant late-game heroics are unnecessary.
And to be honest, all of this - the Groza Award, the first-team All Big East honors, the Orange Bowl berth - are just a bonus for player who simply hoped to make the team as a walk-on in 2003.
"When I first got up here, I never envisioned all this," Carmody said. "I knew they had a good football team. Just to be on the team and to be a part of it is all I wanted."
It almost didn't happen. As a rule, Petrino doesn't give scholarships to kickers, instead putting them through a yearlong weeding out process to see who can deliver when the lights come on.
Getting the scholarship turned out to be the easy part for Carmody, who earned it in camp the summer before his freshman year in 2004. But the second Carmody won the starting job, the focus that helped him earn Petrino's trust vanished.
"That week after we put him on scholarship, I think he missed everything," Petrino said. "I was like 'Tony, what did we just do?"'
It was a mystery to Carmody too.
"The uprights looked really narrow," he said. "Everything looked like a 50-yard field goal. I was struggling to get the ball through."
Carmody battled through the slump after hearing over and over from coaches and teammates to take it one step at a time. One miss didn't mean he would lose his scholarship, and one make didn't mean he could stop working.
"With kicking, you're going to have days like that where you're kicking the ball great and all of a sudden you might miss one or two and your swing feels a little off," Carmody said. "But I learned you can't get too high with the highs and too low with the lows."
There have been few lows for Carmody over the years, thanks in part to friend and wide receiver Harry Douglas, whose good hands helped him earn the holding job and whose work ethic has let him keep it. Even as he's developed into one of the Big East's top receivers, Douglas hasn't forgotten how he first got on the field. He's spent countless days during the offseason working with Carmody
"It's great because he takes it serious," Carmody said. "We have a good relationship if he needs to get on me or I need to get on him for certain things."
Having Douglas back there adds a certain unknown element to Louisville's kicking game, though sadly Petrino's wide-open playbook doesn't have a chapter that asks for Douglas to run the ball.
"That's Artie's time to shine," Douglas said.
A junior, Carmody has no delusions of skipping his senior year to head to the pros. Only one kicker in NCAA history has won the Groza Award twice. Florida State's Sebastian Janikowski did it in 1998 and 1999, and the way the Cardinals have been playing the last three years, he knows he won't lack opportunities to do his thing.
"You can never get complacent," Carmody said. "You've got to just get the ball through the uprights and keep everybody happy, especially coach."