June 21, 1999 - by
National Title Game Could Be a Real Kick

December 30, 1998

By RICHARD ROSENBLATT

AP Football Writer

PHOENIX (AP) – Bobby Bowden has plenty to worry about as Florida State
prepares for yet another shot at the national championship. One of those
concerns, however, is not the kicking game.

Hallelujah!

In Sebastian Janikowski, the Seminoles’ coach finally found a kicker he can
depend on. Two field goal attempts that sailed wide right, against Miami in
1990 and 1991, cost Florida State national titles. And in 1993, when Florida
State won its lone national crown, Bowden had to sweat out a Nebraska
field-goal attempt that went wide left.

Now, just in case Monday night’s national-title deciding Fiesta Bowl game
against No. 1 Tennessee comes down to a kick, he has an All-American kicker
from Poland.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” Bowden said. “I would imagine had we
had Janikowski back in the early ’90s, we might have won a couple more national
championships. The guy can kick the ball. He’s powerful.”

And he’s accurate, too. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound sophomore, also known as the
Polish Powder Keg, won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best kicker in just
his third year playing football. He once kicked a 70-yard field goal in
practice.

With an offense that will be directed by a quarterback – Marcus Outzen –
making his third start, Janikowski’s left leg become even more important to the
Seminoles.

Should the Fiesta Bowl turn into the defensive struggle even the coaches are
expecting, Tennessee can answer with a superb kicker of its own in Jeff Hall.

“If it comes down to a kickout,’ there’s no one I would rather have to
make a kick than Jeff,” Vols coach Phillip Fulmer said. “Jeff can make it
from 50 or 55. He’s got a heck of a leg.”

Hall, a 6-0, 182-pound senior, kick-started Tennessee’s perfect regular
season with game-winning field goals against Syracuse and bitter rival Florida.
Hall doesn’t believe the game will come down to his foot, but says he’ll be
ready for anything.

“This is not going to be a one person show for either team,” Hall said.
“Both have good defenses and both have a good running back. I just have to
make sure to be prepared for whatever comes around.”

Janikowski was prepared to play soccer when he came to the United States six
years ago to be with his father, who was pursuing a pro soccer career of his
own. But Janikowski fell for football, American style.

This season, he hit 27 of 32 field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder
against Clemson, and 42 of 43 extra points for an Atlantic Coast
Conference-record 123 points. He also had three field goals in the 23-12 win
over Florida, hitting a 41-yarder with 4:31 left to seal the victory.

Unlike many kickers, he doesn’t lift weights to strengthen his legs. He just
runs and kicks to stay in shape. He says soccer prepared him well for kicking
footballs.

“In Poland, I played soccer a lot, that’s all I did,” Janikowski said. “I
knew I could kick very far from my soccer style.”

When he decided to play football his senior year at Seabreeze High School in
Daytona Beach, he took the nation by surprise. Janikowski kicked a 60-yarder to
clinch a win over Palatka and made several high school All-America teams. He
also played forward on the soccer team that year and scored a state-record 69
goals, although he says, “that’s a mistake, it was 73.”

Janikowski said he turned down “a lot of money” to play for one of
Argentina’s First Division soccer clubs so he could go to Florida State. He
also was recruited by Tennessee, Miami and Michigan.

In two seasons with the Seminoles, Janikowski has yet to line up for a
game-deciding field goal. Not that he isn’t ready to do it, but he says: “I’d
rather not kick a winning field goal, I’d rather have us score six points.”

Hall has been a model of consistency since he arrived at Tennessee five
years ago from Winchester, Tenn., the same hometown as Fulmer.

He hit on 19 of 24 field-goal attempts and all 47 extra points for 104
points, giving him the Southeastern Conference record for career points with
371. He’s connected on 13 of 14 field goals from inside 40 yards.

While Janikowski goes about his business casually, Hall is a student of the
kicking game, carefully lining up each kick and trying not to put too much
pressure on himself.

Against Syracuse, he hit a 27-yarder on the last play of the game for a
34-33 win, and then kicked a 41-yarder in overtime to beat Florida 20-17. He
also staked the Vols to a 9-3 lead at Georgia before the offense got untracked
and Tennessee won 22-3.

“I have the same approach to every game,” Hall said. “I always look at
every kick, whether it’s an extra point or a field goal, as a very important
kick for the team. I don’t think about who we’re playing or what the game is.

“It’s intense each time I walk on the field because I know it’s important
to get those points.”

Related Articles