Our own Joe Malfa had the chance to speak with Jets’ kicking hopeful, the undrafted Ross Martin out of Duke:
JM: First off, I have to ask you — and be honest — did Indiana’s kicker make that field goal in the Pinstripe Bowl last year?
RM: No, he definitely did not. I have watched that kick plenty of times, and just being a kicker knowing what a make and a miss each look like, it was definitely to the outside of the upright. There is all this talk of video review on field goals, but the refs are right below it looking up and it is an easy judgment for them to make.
JM: Also on a lighter note, I know that kickers tend to be very superstitious — is there anything that you do before a game or before a kick that falls into that category?
RM: Not that I would call superstitious, but just very routine and very regimented. Everything I do on the sideline and everything I do with taking my steps back before the kick is always the same, but I wouldn’t call it superstitious — just routine.
JM: Alright, now on a more serious note, what has your first NFL training camp been like?
RM: It has been incredible. I found out and hour after the draft that I would be coming to New York, and rookie mini camp was right after that so I have been here since May. Going back to routine, everything has become very routine, especially with training camp being at the facility — it is great and something that I am used to from my days at Duke. It is a dream come true putting on the jets helmet with guys that I grew up watching.
JM: What has your favorite moment of camp so far this year?
RM: Probably this past practice yesterday actually. Having my family and fiancee there was surreal. Just seeing them wearing my Jet jersey and supporting me in that setting was a very special moment to share with all of them.
JM: What are the biggest challenges facing an undrafted rookie kicker in the NFL?
RM: Overcoming the hierarchy of football. Obviously experience is king, which is true to all players on all teams at all levels. Seniors in high school get the most playing time, seniors in college get the most playing time, and veterans in the NFL get the most opportunities to showcase themselves. Being undrafted is tough because you are at the bottom of the totem pole, so earning respect is a challenge and gathering your bearings is tough at the start.
JM: Has it been tough at all to adjust to kicking from narrower hashmarks? I always thought it would be easier because the angles are less extreme, but I have heard kickers complain about the adjustment in the past.
RM: If anything, like you said, it is easier because wider college hashmarks make for tougher angles. You see it at times where teams will be on the right hash at the two-yard line, and they will take one or even two delay of game penalties to get a better angle. Now, virtually every kick is a straight kick.
JM: It seems like you and Nick Folk have an interesting relationship in the sense that he is trying to be a good veteran and help you out, yet at the same time, you are gunning for his job. Speak a bit about the dynamics of your relationship with Nick.
RM: It is a great relationship and it has been very professional. He has been around a lot so he knows how to do everything very well and stick around in the league, which is not easy for kickers at times because if you go on a cold streak, you are likely getting cut. It has been fantastic kicking side by side with him everyday and learning from a true professional.
JM: Are there any other veterans or coaches that have really helped you out early in camp?
RM: Our long snapper Tanner Purdum has been here forever [going into his 7th year with the Jets]. In the NFL, that is unheard of longevity for a long snapper, and his experience has allowed him to guide me through so much of training camp and the preseason.
JM: Which aspects of your game do you believe you need to work on most?
RM: I think slowing things down. The first NFL game of your career is extremely hyped up. You are excited, the adrenaline is flowing, and you want to go a little too fast. I fell into that trap and it was my first time playing in a real game since that pinstripe bowl, but now that the debut is out of the way, I can slow things down and get back into the routine that has brought me success.
JM: You mentioned your debut the other night — it was a bit of a rough debut, but how do you push forward now and rebound from that?
RM: Just watch the tape, learn from it, and talk through things with the coaches. Going back out yesterday in our first practice since the game, I got back to the basics of everything that has gotten me here, and I have put together two strong practices in a row again.
JM: Who was there after that debut to give you that reassuring pat on the back and say, “hey kid, it’s all going to be fine.”
RM: At the end of the day, I made the mistakes and I have to learn from them, but the entire coaching staff was there to help pick me up and say the right things. It is easy to dwell on something like that, but Coach [Todd] Bowles, Coach [Brant] Boyer [special teams coach], and the rest of the staff have really helped me get that day out of my mind.
JM: If you don’t stick here in NY, do you think you will have a chance to start elsewhere in 2016?
RM: I have not given that any thought because the minute you give into the “what-ifs,” that is when you lose focus on what is important and begin to have issues with your kicks. I have to focus on right now and take it one step at a time, one kick at a time. We will worry about future opportunities in the future because you never know when one may pop up, and you never know if I will even need one because I believe I still am capable of sticking here in NY.
JM: What do you believe are your chances at making this Jets roster?
RM: Just about every team, besides the Bills, carries one kicker, so I presume there is only one job here in NY. My options are starter, free agent, or maybe practice squad, but not a lot of teams occupy a valuable spot on the practice squad with a kicker. There is no time to be a backup and learn, it is probably a ‘start or leave’ situation, so that is the number one goal — be the starter. It is what I have been working toward since my days at Duke and I think I have had a lot of success so far in trying to win this job, but that is for the coaches to decide. I hope to be here kicking in Green and White come the home opener.