Emphasizing ‘A Natural Style of Kicking and Punting’®, Coach Zauner’s teaching philosophy facilitates an environment where kicking specialists develop the skills, technique, and confidence to achieve their maximum physical and mental potential. At an amateur and professional level, Coach Zauner, LLC programs and events provide a kicker, punter or snapper ‘A Specialist’s Path to PRO Football'®...Coach Zauner, LLC Mission Statement

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Brinkley, Hekker & Potter Make NFL Rosters

Snapper - Beau Brinkley (University of Missouri) Tennessee Titans
Punter - Johnny Hekker (Oregon State University) St. Louis Rams
Kicker - John Potter (Western Michigan University) Buffalo Bills

When I first decided to start my College Senior and Free Agent Specialist's Combines, my soul purpose was to create a venue that was composed of the best young specialists in the country and give them another opportunity for NFL exposure. I felt a well organized event, my NFL contacts and ability to evaluate talent, would yield several specialist's reaching their dream of playing in the NFL.

So far, that dream has come true for several specialists who have attended Coach Zauner, LLC Combines including this year's College Senior Combine attendees Beau Brinkley (Tennessee Titans), Johnny Hekker (St. Louis Rams), and John Potter (Buffalo Bills). Each of these specialists have their own 'Specialist's Path to PRO Football' and I would like to share them with you.

Beau Brinkley - Snapper University of Missouri and Tennessee Titans
Beau Brinkley - One on One Snapping Lesson In Phoenix, AZ
When I first met Beau, he had just finished his senior season at the University of Missouri, and was aspiring to continue playing football into the NFL. His father, Mike, like Beau, also handled long snapping duties during his playing days at Missouri Valley College. He knew that in order for Beau to reach his dream, that he would need not only an expert to evaluate Beau, but also another avenue to gain exposure for him.

Beau Brinkley - 2012 January PRO Development Kicking Camp
Beau first attended my PRO Development Kicking Camp for punters and snappers in January of 2012 where we worked on retooling and refining technique as well as snapping a crisp ball with more consistency. Beau was a true believer in the Coach Zauner philosophy and opted to return to Phoenix for One on One Snapping Lessons and attended my 2012 College Senior Specialist's Kicking Combine.

Being a little undersized for most NFL snappers today, Beau knew that having passion, a no nonsense attitude and being a consistent snapper could make up for his size as long as he got an opportunity to compete with the best. While under pressure of the combine he had a very good day snapping, blocking and covering, but we both knew it wasn't his best performance. The biggest thing that I look for when evaluating NFL potential is not one particular workout, but how they perform day in and day out. I am very familiar with NFL coaches expectations and felt that Beau was capable of meeting them.

Beau Brinkley Competes At 2012 College Senior Specialist's Kicking Combine
Beau is the kind of athlete that loves to be the underdog, and has always had to prove himself to earn what was given to him. He was recruited by Missouri as a preferred walk-on and won the starting job by the beginning of his freshman season. Beau caught the eyes of Tennessee Titans Special Teams Coach Alan Lowry not only because of his snapping ability, but because of his athleticism and competitive drive. Beau possesses all of the intangibles that an NFL coach looks for and during our One on One Snapping Lessons him I found him extremely coachable.

When Beau signed a free agent contract with the Titans, he knew like in college he was a rookie and would have to prove himself all over again, which is just the environment that he thrives in. Playing in the NFL was also a big transition for Beau because the increased importance of blocking after the snap, which is something that Titan's coaches mentioned they were keeping an eye on in an interview I had read.

Last week, Beau made the final roster cuts and was named the starting snapper for the Titans, finally achieving the dream that he has worked so hard for. I know that Beau will only continue to improve with his dedicated work ethic and he has truly earned the right to call himself an NFL long snapper.

Johnny Hekker - Punter Oregon State University and St. Louis Rams

Punters - Johnny Hekker (Oregon State U.) and Dawson Zimmerman (Clemson U.)
Another specialist that benefited from Coach Zauner's College Senior Specialist's Combine was Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker. I was already familiar with Johnny and his ability to punt prior to the Combine and had extended him an invitation to compete. Johnny had a reputation for having a big leg in college, and when I first met him, his 6'5" and 230 pound frame made it obvious to me why he had that reputation.

A professional colleague, agent Paul Sheehy from ProStar Sports Agency, discussed with Johnny the benefits competing in the Combine, because he was confident Johnny would get my endorsement and more NFL exposure. Paul had seen success with other clients attending Coach Zauner, LLC programs and taking One on One Lessons such as NFL Kicking Specialists Billy Cundiff, Rian Lindell, and Dave Rayner.
Johnny Hekker (Oregon State U.) Produces Big Punts At College Senior Specialist's Kicking Combine
Johnny had a very successful career at Oregon State U. averaging over 41 yards during his 50 game career, however there were inconsistencies with his punting that showed. Oregon State U., like several college teams today, not only run a traditional punt formation, but also included rugby style kicking into their game plan.

A side note. I first instituted the rugby style punt during my time coaching at San Diego State University in the 80's. It was designed as a gimmick play and I feel that if used too often it can hinder the ability to develop as a traditional style punter and can hide true NFL potential.

Johnny punted well at my College Senior Specialist's Combine by hitting some long distance punts with excellent hang times. However, in my opinion as a kicking coach, he showed that he still needed to work certain fundamentals to become more consistent and make a NFL roster. However, he definitely had NFL potential.

After the combine was finished I sent out final stats and DVDs to every NFL Special Teams Coordinator and Director of Pro Personnel and College Scouting. Several coaches contacted me about various specialists. My former assistant John Fassel who is now the St. Louis Rams Special Teams Coordinator had expressed interest in Johnny after traveling the country in search of a punter. In an article I read, Coach Fassel said that he felt John's rugby punting took away from his development as a traditional punter, but he knew that being able to concentrate on one craft would make him an NFL caliber specialist.  I would agree with his assessment.

After competing for the starting job throughout the summer, Johnny has finally been awarded the starting punting job for the St. Louis Rams. I know Johnny has the ability to sustain a career in the NFL and will keep improving to see that it happens. I wish the best of luck for him and look forward to having another opportunity to work with him in the future.

John Potter - Kicker Western Michigan University and Buffalo Bills

John Potter (Western Michigan University) During Field Goal Competition
Another talented specialist that benefited from the College Senior Specialist's Combine was Western Michigan University kicker John Potter. John was brought to my attention by fellow kicking coach Jamie Kohl and John's agent John Perla, who I'm both familiar with from the Wisconsin area. They felt it would be a good idea for John to compete to showcase his skills and gain more exposure through the combine.

Whenever I work with a new kicker, I like to do a little research on them to get a better feeling of their kicking ability and background. What I learned was that John was not only a very good kicker in college, but he is also a very gifted athlete. Being a standout dual athlete in high school by competing in both football and track, he showed his athleticism by breaking a Western Michigan U. record for tackles by a kicker with 36! Oh, and his 36 touchbacks from the 30-yard line his senior season weren't too shabby either.
John Potter Catches Everyone's Eyes With Booming Kickoffs
After John's first two kickoffs, it was evident he had an NFL leg as both sailed eight and 16 yards past the end zone, while also displaying good technique. John was also able to show his potential kicking field goals as well, however I noted to him that when he was kicking further back, he changed his form when he didn't need to. Although he didn't make it to the finals of the competition, I wasn't deterred from recommending him to NFL coaches. After the combine, I was still very confident that John would find himself in an NFL training camp fighting for a position this year.

The 2012 NFL Draft came and the Buffalo Bills selected John Potter in the 7th round! The Bills were impressed with his leg strength and ability to make a tackle down field. They also felt that playing under NFL veteran Rian Lindell would help him further develop as a field goal kicker in the future. During the NFL preseason John went 11 of 13 in touchbacks on kickoffs, which was placed him among the league leaders.

While making final roster cuts, Buffalo did something that most teams shy away from today because of the 53 man roster limit. They decided to keep both kickers on their roster with Rian Lindell handling field goal duties while John was rewarded kickoffs. In a game of field position and strategy, having almost every kick as a touchback can make things a lot easier on a defense.

John has earned his place in the NFL and I feel that he will continue to improve as a kicker to one day handle all of the kicking duties for his team. I wish him nothing but the best and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to work with him again.

Coach Zauner's College Senior Specialist's Combines has also produced results for several other young specialists that dreamed of playing in the NFL. Current NFL players such as Morgan Cox (Baltimore Ravens), Christian Yount (Cleveland Browns) and Justin Drescher (New Orleans Saints) all showcased their skills here in Phoenix, AZ. In addition, several other specialists were given opportunities to pursue their dream of playing in the NFL because of their performances at the College Senior Specialist's Combine.

'A Specialist's Path to PRO Football' is not always an easy one and each specialist's path is different. I feel that each and every specialist deserves their chance to prove themselves on the field and I will always try to make sure that they have that chance with my College Senior and Free Agent Specialist's Combines. These young men deserve all of the credit because like I always say, 'Coaches Coach and Players Play'.

Click below to listen to Beau Brinkley (University of Missouri), Johnny Hekker (Oregon State University) and John Potter (Western Michigan University) give their testimonials about their experience at Coach Zauner's 2012 College Senior Specialist's Combine:

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