This week I have been finalizing details for my First Annual Coach Zauner Free Agent Specialists NFL Combine, an event I've dreamed, planned and trained for throughout my life. On Monday, April 6, I will be hosting (26) National Football League (NFL) teams, (2) Canadian Football League (CFL) teams and (4) United Football League (UFL) teams, who will be evaluating some of the top free agent kicking specialists in the country. This is making for a VERY busy weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, (21) specialists are driving or flying into Phoenix to be evaluated by me for the opportunity to kick, punt or snap with (24) other handpicked kicking specialists. By Sunday night I will have evaluated these players to see which will be eligible to compete in Monday’s Free Agent Combine. This means there is the possibility of having a total of (45) kicking specialists showcasing their skills and ability in front of (32) professional football teams. When I first decided to create this event, I wasn't sure what the turn-out would be; both in terms of coaches and specialists. The results have truly surprised me, and I am appreciative of the support I have received from the NFL, CFL and UFL teams for this event. I am also appreciative of the specialists whom saw the value in this Free Agent Combine and realize this is (and will be in the future) an excellent platform and opportunity to get signed to a professional team. This was always a dream of mine.
In the photo below Coach Zauner is getting his grove on playing in a semi pro football league for the West Allis Spartans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin way back when. In this semi pro league I was the All-League Punter and Kicker, later signed by the former Houston Oilers. Today, they are called the Tennessee Titans.
Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin many years ago every sport minded kid dreams of playing professional sports. At least I did. When you're young, you work hard and focus on training with just the 'inkling' of a hope to be seen by a NFL coach (let alone a total of 32 NFL, 2 CFL and 4 UFL coaches all in the same venue!!!). And just like everything else in life, time changes things.
Over the years it seems there have been limited venues for young aspiring kicking specialists to demonstrate their talents in front of a large group of NFL coaches and Pro Personnel. And I honestly think this window of opportunity has been shrinking. I recently had the chance -at the NFL Combine- to discuss this with Commissioner Goodell.
I worked hard coming out of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in 1974 and received an invite and an opportunity from the Minnesota Vikings to attend a tryout camp. I competed with about 10 other kicking specialists and had a great day kicking and punting.
After the workout I was offered a free agent contract and reported to training camp that fall. What a great experience and opportunity of a lifetime. To have a chance to actually make a living and get paid to play football. Back then, that's the way most athletes felt. But, time seems to have changed this as well. Today's football world is so different than the one I grew up in. But...that's a different blog!
However what hasn't changed, is the 'desire' a young specialist shows when talking about getting an opportunity to be seen (and possibly signed) by an NFL (or other professional) team. And I am very happy, all these years after receiving my NFL opportunity, to be giving a group of young men the same opportunity and chance I had. So, for many reasons -personal and professional- I am looking forward to Monday's Free Agent Combine. And in between all the things I am doing to prepare for the Free Agent Combine, I did have a little time to go out on the field and work with my two assistants past & present. Shane Phillips (Alcorn State) an Australian Rules Football Punter who assisted for about six months last year, and James Wilhoit (University of Tennessee) kicker is my current assistant.
In the photo above, Shane is working on his holding skills and James is working on his field goal technique. I worked some One on One Lessons with both of them this week in their preparation for participating in the Free Agent Combine. I wish both of these fine young men the best of luck in the Free Agent Combine. I believe the field is loaded with free agent talent so they have their work cut out for them. On a final note (at least for this blog) I would like to thank the other members of Team Zauner for their help and support they have given me in this project. Of course I could not have done this without the 'tireless' help of my wife Michelle who handles all the 'detail' work surrounding this event including the accounting, client contact, mailings, coordinating volunteers, being a sounding board for just about every issue that arises, and....ok...I don't think I have enough room to account for everything she does. Thank you Michelle! As always, I appreciate the efforts Craig Kasnoff who is my website, media, and business consultant for all of Coach Zauner's, LLC efforts. He only likes to be referred to as my 'media guy', however he does do so much more. Thanks Craig.
All of them have all put in countless hours preparing for this event. I am so thankful for their time and devotion to the project. Anyway, now back to work. I look forward to keeping you all posted on how my 'dream' unfolds.
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