The Sideline Report with Jacob Branstetter
One housekeeping item before we get to this week’s Sideline Report: We’re having some technical problems with our Kream Keegan system, so we won’t have the contest for this week. Hopefully, we’ll get things up and running soon.
Let’s get right to our (extended) Sideline Report with junior kicker Jacob Branstetter. Thanks to him for opening up (and also loosening up) during Tuesday’s interview.
The Sideline Report with Jacob Branstetter
Jesse Newell: First off, do you think you’re a better kicker or a better tackler?
Jacob Branstetter: Kicker.
JN: Why’s that?
JB: I practice more. I practice more on field goals than I would on tackling. Tackling’s just something I do on instinct.
JN: You’ve kind of gotten a reputation for tackling, right?
JB: Yeah, I definitely have a reputation as a tackler. I wouldn’t say it’s something I work on or practice. It comes natural from junior-high, high-school days, I guess.
JN: Is it surprising to you that you’re such a natural at that? Kickers usually aren’t good tacklers.
JB: Yeah, but not many kickers, I guess, probably played football beforehand. I played football in ninth grade, played free safety. I always had a knack for the ball, so it’s not that surprising.
JN: What’s the longest field goal you’ve ever kicked?
JB: Oh. Sixty-one-and-a-half (yards). Sixty-two-ish.
JN: When was that?
JB: We hit a couple 61s the other day, maybe three or four days ago in practice.
JN: Do you test yourself often to see how far you can go?
JB: Sometimes. Sometimes people like to test me on the practice field. (Punter) Alonso (Rojas) likes to joke around with me a little bit. Alonso can kick the ball. He’s a better punter than kicker, but he can kick the ball pretty far.
JN: Do you guys have competitions then?
JB: It’s laid-back competition. Sometimes, whenever we’re just hanging out after our workouts or whatever — especially on calm days … we actually like to do it when it’s not windy, because we don’t think that counts. Anybody can kick a 60-yarder with a 15-mile-per-hour wind behind your back. But we’re just messing around after our workouts sometimes, just to see it.
JN: Not everybody can kick a 60-yarder with a 15-mile-per-hour win behind their back. I can’t.
JB: OK (laughs), not everybody. If they’re college kickers, I’m assuming they can.
JN: How far can Rojas go back, then?
JB: He can hit a 60, if he hits it good.
JB: Yeah, Rojas is a great athlete.
JN: So have you gone up to any of the special teams coaches or coach Mangino saying, ‘You know, if you get to the 45, don’t worry about it. Just throw me in there.’
JB: No, I leave game-planning to coaches, definitely (laughs). I only kick when they say to kick the ball. I leave game-planning to them.
JN: No hints then? Like, ‘Hey, I can kick that 60-yarder if you want me to.’
JB: I think they know in the back of their mind, but I just don’t feel like there’s ever going to be an opportunity in the game that we’re ever going to need that, especially the way our offense moves the football.
JN: You set a school record for consecutive point-afters hit last year (with 49). Did you know about that?
JB: No, I did not. I did not know about that until my dad had seen that online or in the media guide. I had no idea about it at all.
JN: What’s your reaction to that?
JB: I wish I wouldn’t have missed that one that I missed. That’s my reaction to it, because I’m always trying to think what I could have done better. Although I had 49 in a row, I should have had 52 in a row. That’s my reaction to that.
JN: Which one did you miss?
JB: I think it was the second or third one of my first game. I guess I missed at a good time. … That’s just the way I look at it: When I hit one milestone or get to one spot, I’m always thinking I want to get better.
JN: Sounds to me like the misses stick more than the makes do. Is that correct?
JB: Yes, but I don’t dwell on them in a sense where I’m going to keep my head down or I’m going to pout about it or I’m going to focus on that when I get out there and kick. But when I’m working, when I’m practicing going through my training, I remember those kicks that I miss either in practice that day or a game and I go to those spots and I rethink them and I see what I can do better. That way, next time I get out there, I make that kick.
JN: I saw in the media guide that owning a sporting-goods store might be in your future. Why’s that?
JB: I love sport in general: male, female, football, soccer, water polo, Olympic sports, just anything. I’m a business major, so I put those two together, the two things I want to do. I love sports and I’m a business major. If I’m going to be happy in life, I put those two things together, and I come up with owning my own sporting-goods store. I actually worked in a sporting-goods store in high school, so that’s where I get that.
JN: I saw you like Michael Jordan. What stood out about him to you?
JB: Mental toughness. The way he perseveres at any point in his career in any games, specifically the flu game. That game just amazes me. How do you have the flu and score, what, 30-something points (Ed. note — It was 38. See below.) and lead your team to victory. The mental toughness that he expresses on the court when he’s playing is just amazing to me. It’s just something I always wanted to have in my game.
JN: Do you remember watching the flu game?
JB: I remember watching the game with my brother. I was pretty young. I didn’t really know what was going on. But the older I got, and the more I did my research and watched Jordan DVDs, that game just always sticks out to me. Just the way he has the ability, even when everything is going wrong, he seems to always come out on top. That’s just the attribute I want to have.
JN: Do you work more on kickoffs or field goals?
JB: Quantity-wise, I’d say field goals, just because we kick field goals on a daily basis to begin practice. That’s probably the only reason why. We kick 10-12 before we even start practice, so I kick more field goals than I do kickoffs.
JN: Do you get more complaints from coaches on field goals or kickoffs?
JB: I wouldn’t call it complaints. But coach Mangino gives me a hard time if I hit the post. Calls me ‘The Plumber.’ ‘Stay off the post, you plumber.’
JN: That’s a nickname you don’t want, huh?
JB: He gets on me if I hit the posts.
JN: Tell me something that would surprise me about you.
JB: (long pause) Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a field-goal kicker.
JN: What do you wish you were then?
JB: Free safety. Wide receiver. Just sometimes I don’t like to kick because I don’t get as many opportunities as I wish I could have. I don’t feel like, sometimes, I can make an impact on the game. Sometimes, I’m sitting on the bench — I played football in junior-high and high school — sometimes I wish I just could go out there and hit people just like everybody else.
(Ed. note — That actually is Branstetter on the left at the KU-MU game at Arrowhead Stadium in 2007. Crazy what you can find in the Journal-World archives).
JN: So are you one of those guys that runs up and down the sideline kind of wishing you were out there?
JB: I wouldn’t say that much. I have to stay focused so that way when I do get my opportunity to make a difference in the game, I make sure I do that and help my team out. But I get pretty excited. I’m not going to lie.
JN: How would you characterize your personality on the field?
JB: Elated and excited when we’re moving the ball up and down the field or when we’re making a big stop, but stoic whenever I get on the field. When I get on the field, I’m stoic and I try to ‘For the Love of the Game’ block out the mechanism, something like that. I’m stoic when I get out there to kick.
JN: So you kind of go into a zone sort of thing? Describe to me what that is.
JB: You don’t hear the individual words or the band playing or the cheerleading — you just hear dull roars. You just hear something really kind of dull. Your mental processes are going through your head, meaning what you’re going to think before every kick. ‘Stay slow. Stay balanced. Good tempo. Smooth kick. Up and through.’ I have these mental processes that that’s really all I hear. So I hear a dull roar and I hear myself talking to myself and saying, ‘Get out there and make the kick.’
JN: What’s the biggest field goal you’ve hit?
JB: I hit a game-winner in high school, so that’s obviously important, but I’d say the first-quarter field goal (against) Missouri. Just because if we don’t come off the field with points right there, we lose all momentum that we gained by the interception. That’s kind of the way I thought. As soon as we got the interception, I thought, ‘We’ve got to have points right here,’ and I got the opportunity and knocked it down.
JN: Give me a concert that you’re embarrassed that you went to.
JB: I can’t think of one, really. I’m from a military town, so they had MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) concerts for the military forces there. I was actually watching Willie Nelson.
JN: That was a pretty good one then, right?
JB: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever really been to a bad concert. Creed, Linkin Park and then a whole bunch of country music. Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, stuff like that.
JN: What’s a TV show I might be surprised you watch?
JB: Ooh. It’s going to have to be a girly one. (smiles) Kendra. (Claps hands) There you go.
JN: Kendra? What’s that? I don’t even know that.
JB: You don’t know what Kendra is?
JN: No, who is Kendra? Tell me.
JB: The girl off of Girl Next Door. She’s married to the Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Hank Baskett.
JN: I do know who you’re talking about now.
JB: Kendra. There you go.
JN: Uh huh. Is there, uh, any particular reason that you watch that show?
JB: You can guess. The girlfriend likes that show.
JN: Oh, the girlfriend likes the show.
JB: The girlfriend likes that show.
JN: So you’re safe. You’re totally safe.
JB: I’m not watching it for the reasons that you think I might be watching it. I understand. (smiles) I understand where you’re going with that. No, she said she wanted to watch it, and I told her I’d watch it with her and just kind of got hooked on it.
For the record, I’ve never watched it without her, so I’m safe there.
JN: I’ll have to bring it up with my fiancee, see if she wants to watch it.
JB: All right.
JN: Who has the best nickname on the team?
JB: I have to think of one that comes to mind. (pauses) Oh, he’d kill me if I told you that. There’s a lot of good ones, a lot of nicknames that if I said on record, I might get beat up for that. I’ll just give one that I use. Bradley McDougald, I call him “Freshy.” I don’t know why. Like freshman, I just call him “Freshy.” From the day he walked in, his nickname was Freshy to me. He’s lived up to it.
JN: Does he seem like a freshman to you then?
JB: No, not in any way at all, and that’s why it’s weird to call him that. We ran a lot together in the summer and he doesn’t seem like a freshman, so I always have to remind him that, hey, you’re still a freshman. Don’t forget it.
JN: Putting him in his place.
JB: Yeah. ‘Don’t forget it, bud.’
JN: What was your favorite video game growing up?
JB: Probably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the classic Nintendo.
JN: That leads right to the next question. Who was your favorite turtle?
JB: I’m going to go with Leonardo.
JN: Any reason?
JB: He’s the one that, when everything went south, Leonardo’s the one that you look to, because he’s the leader and he’s the first turtle everybody knows. I’ll go with that.