March 6, 2011
By Matt Winkeljohn
I saw a lot of friends of Georgia Tech Sunday, when unfortunately I was not able to make the final game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum because my twin daughters turned 11, and the only time we were able to rent the Crawford pool for their party at the Campus Rec Center was . . . 2:30.
You were better off in the hands of esteemed colleague Jon Cooper anyway.
In between the cavorting of 12 pre-teen girls who had a blast, I turned a Friday phone conversation with Jeff Blair, father of kicker Scott, into a story. It was a pool-side deal, not a bad way to spend time — witnessing history of another sort.
Once home, this story was finished but the home wireless was shot.
Eventually – after drawing the responsibility after guests left of grilling steaks, baking potatoes, and boiling vegetables in the place of a wife who steered a weekend’s worth of birthday festivities — I made my way to Manuel’s Tavern. That’s a Tech hotspot near the eastern edge of North Ave. Go there if you haven’t been.
All I cared about was the wireless. I added the top of this story just because of my excitement once I got on-line. Then, I sent in this story to a fella who probably was a little irritated by the timing of it all.
To the original screenplay . . .
Wednesday will be Pro Day at Georgia Tech, and since Scott Blair would like to make a few bucks splitting uprights one day soon, he’ll be there with other former Yellow Jacket football players offering NFL scouts a glimpse of wares.
Maybe Blair will need more than that. He is a longshot kicker. Here’s where Papa comes in; Jeff Blair has spreadsheets to spare, spreadsheets about long shots.
Jeff Blair had a hunch that his son was a long shooter, and assembled data to prove it. Turns out no draft-eligible kicker attempted a greater percentage of his field goals from 40 yards and beyond in the past season-and-a-half than his son.
In that span, Scott made 23 of 27 field goals attempted, including 13 for 16 from 40-49 yards. He did not try from 50 or more in that span, but the fact that 59.3 percent of his attempts were from 40+ ought to count for something – especially since he made 81.3 percent of them. That’s the highest percentage in Georgia Tech history by the way.
Stacked up against peers, Blair’s numbers look good.
In something of an oddity, folks who think that Tech head coach Paul Johnson does his kickers no favors by using them less frequently than average might be missing points.
Perhaps the fact that most of Blair’s attempts were from 40+ will reflect favorably in the eyes of NFL types.
“Coach Johnson, when you get close – and rightfully so – he wants to go for the touchdown. Only when it’s further back, do we try a field goal,” said Jeff Blair. “Almost 60 percent of Scott’s field goal attempts were over 40 yards.
“When you compare that to everybody else . . . guys who were All-Americans, and Lou Groza award winners, All-ACC, and All-SEC, their percentages of kicks were not all that much greater than Scott’s.”
It’s possible that no kickers will be drafted, if there is a draft next month, or that a couple at most will be selected. Certainly, several college kickers will get tryouts with NFL teams and Jeff Blair would relish seeing his son get one of those shots.
So you’re wondering why he chose his son’s last season and a half for a sample size. Good question; unique answer.
Dad went back to the point in 2009 where Johnson put his son on ice for a couple games, telling him basically to stop thinking so much, stop over-analyzing. You’ve likely read those stories, where Johnson and Scott Blair both suggested the kicker had begun to suffer “paralysis by analysis.”
Jeff Blair has assembled other metrics, too, all of it combining in a resume of his son’s most recent work, or that since Johnson – who will tell you that he’s not one to over-coach a kicker – told Scott to pull his head out of his azimuth.
Pretty good stuff.
Only four other NCAA kickers who are now draft eligible, and three NFL kickers, by the way, had at least 50 percent of their field goal tries come from 40-plus yards.
Just one, Alex Henery of Nebraska, made a higher percentage of those kicks (14 of 17, 82.4 percent), including three of five from 50+ yards, and 29 of 32 overall.
There are plenty of numbers in Jeff Blair’s work, and a variety of ways to interpret them. It seems obvious that at minimum, NFL folks ought to give Blair a look.
No doubt Dad is proud. Jeff Blair’s a good man. I’ve spoken with him several times. We can both wax long-form about our children and their trails.
For a bit longer, Jeff is walking alongside Scott, who will graduate in May with a degree in management (specialization in finance).
Jeff Blair will be at Tech’s Pro Day with his spreadsheets, and his data will travel at the end of the month to Phoenix, where former NFL kicker Michael Husted will run a kicker combine for college booters aspiring to go pro, and for free agent kickers hoping to stay that way.
Scott will be there.
“I have made copies, and plan on taking that to the pro camp at the end of March and Pro Day,” Jeff Blair said. “Quite honestly, the reality is we know Scott is not going to get drafted, but he wants to try the free agency route. I just want to give him the best shot he can get.”
I’ve attached some of Jeff Blair’s work, if you’re interested. I like talking to Jeff. He reminds me at times of the father I hope that I am. If you have interesting thoughts on Scott, Pro Day, aspiring pros, the lockout, or, well, anything, hit me at firstname.lastname@example.org.