Steve McLaughlin had his University of Arizona football jersey retired at the half-time ceremony of the USC game in Tucson several weeks ago. The Zona Wildcat & former NFLer tells us a little bit about his playing days as a record setting kicker, as well as his playing days as a front man for his band that has played with the likes of the Dave Matthews band and Weezer.
Steve: My freshman year I started out as a punter before getting a shot at kicking, and only ended up having 6 field goal attempts so I wouldn’t say it was the first thing that came into my mind. I really just wanted to kick well and make the team. By the time I headed into my Senior year it was definitely a goal of mine. I wanted to be the best, period. I worked hard at it, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have won the award if it weren’t for the experience of my most memorable college kick in which you asked about.
My sophomore year we were playing Miami at the Orange Bowl when they were ranked # 1 in the country and just kicking everyone’s a**. They had won something like 56 home games in a row. We were not so good at the time but our defense was starting to really come together. Our defense featured the squad that would become known nationally as “Desert Swarm,” and included the likes of Tedy Bruschi & Tony Bouie, and on this day they slammed the Canes offense down. We were trailing 8-7 with 3 seconds left on the clock when I was called in to attempt a 51 yard game winner. ESPN cut away from their regular scheduled show to watch us end the Miami streak. I don’t think I ever kicked a ball better or farther in my career. The problem was it sailed wide left by a hair. If it was a 60 yarder, it would have went straight down the middle. I could have let that moment destroy me, but instead it motivated me to be better. Worst moment turned into my best. We played highly ranked Washington next, and I nailed 3 out of 3 kicks and was featured in Sports Illustrated. My confidence never waned after that one pivotal moment (The Cats would beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl 29-0 the following season).
Andy: We always hear about kickers and the “special” mentality it takes to deal with the many pressures they have to face. You certainly walked away more successful than not when it came to splitting the uprights. Can you tell us how you prepared for your kicks – any superstitions or special routines?
Steve: That’s easy. Honey Nut Cheerios & 5 shots of Tequila before every game. Seriously though, I did not have one sip of beer or booze my Senior season (College student not drinking = rare = success). I also had to tie my left shoe first, then right shoe every time I laced up, every game. When I warmed up, I took my kicks in 2’s; not 1, or 3, or any other amount – it was always 2 kicks and stop. I knew other guys on the team that would drop a pass, or fumble and never wear the same socks or chinstrap or whatever again. The bottom line is kicking is mostly psychological, and my routines gave me comfort of mind, and kept me mentally tough.
Andy: You played for 8 different teams in the NFL & Arena leagues spanning a 10 year period, ending up in your home state for the Arizona Rattlers. Did you hate having to basically live out of a suitcase, or did you look at it like an awesome adventure?
Steve: It was truly a great time and experience. Heck, I didn’t even expect to get drafted. I was out mowing the lawn when the St. Louis Rams called. It was the first day of the draft, and I ended up a 3rd round pick. It was totally out of the blue. There were alot of growing pains my rookie season, but I remembered Morten Andersen made only 3 of 15 kicks his first year so I told myself not to get down (FYI, Andersen is the NFL’s All time leading scorer). As much as I enjoyed the NFL, I really fell in love with the Arena Football League. At one point I turned down a pretty good offer from the New York Giants because I was in the middle of a playoff run with the Nashville Kats. I have no regrets about that decision, and look back on my career very fondly.
Andy: Kicking in the Zona Zoo, Playing in the NFL, and singing for a successful Rock n’ Roll Band. Seems like you’ve had, and are having some serious fun! Can you compare playing in a band to kicking field goals (the music in the video below kicks in at the :30 second mark. It’s worth the wait!)?
Steve: Let’s just say performing at a concert is much different than performing for a football crowd. You’re really on stage just kickin’ it (no pun intended) and having a good time with your friends and the only concern is that you hope there are no technical difficulties and that the crowd is enjoying your music (they do!). There is so much more on the line at a football game. Jobs are literally at stake, and the pressure can be intense. You, the snapper & the holder have 1.5 seconds to make things right, and if you don’t, there are consequences. I miss a note in a song, or blow out a guitar string, it’s no big deal. Don’t get me wrong though, football was definitely a fun time too!
Steve’s latest track is called “No More Record Stores” which was produced by highly acclaimed producer Clif Norrell, and is available for download on Itunes (I listened – I liked! Check it out below…)
Steve also does quite a bit of commercial work, and you can check out his latest for the Ford 150 by clicking here.
Andy: Pretty awesome to get your jersey retired, and pretty awesome to see you and your wife wearing the Original Retro Brand on the field for the ceremony! Tell us a bit about the experience and also tell us about your love of our shirts.
Steve: Aside from my beautiful wife being with me (Yes, she’s a dead ringer for fellow AU alum, and softball superstar, Jenny Finch), the best part of the ceremony was being back on the field with many of my old teammates. It just brought back the greatest memories – Like Original Retro Brand shirts! The old graphics are fantastic, and I’ve never worn a more comfortable shirt. I appreciate the great customer service & support. I do have one complaint however – too much Arizona State gear!
We appreciate you as well Steve, and I wish I could help you on the Arizona State issue, but we’re an equal opportunity awesome t-shirt provider. Maybe your just upset that you weren’t able to suit up last Thursday instead of Alex Zendejas (Zendejas missed 2 extra points which proved costly as the Wildcats fell in overtime to the hated Sundevils)? Thanks again for your time Steve, and Good Luck against Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl!
If you are a big fan of the Original Retro Brand, and want to be featured on “5 Questions with…” please forward a picture of yourself wearing Original Retro Brand gear, and a brief description of what you do for a living to firstname.lastname@example.org If we like what we see, you may be contacted for an interview. You don’t need to be a Kick-A**-Kicker like Steve to be featured, and we’ll even send you an Original Retro Brand T-Shirt if we decide to post your story!