Mike McCabe may not be a household name, but he should be based on the number of college and NFL players he's connected to.
McCabe teaches kicking for a living, and he does so with tremendous success at the high school, college and NFL level.
Though he was an accomplished high school punter growing up in Ohio, McCabe but was never offered a scholarship by any of the D-I programs from the Buckeye state. Instead, McCabe ended up at Illinois State, where he was coached by a young specials teams coordinator by the name of Urban Meyer.
It was Meyer's first job as a coordinator after working as the TE and WR coach at Ohio State. Under his watch, McCabe became an All-American while leading the nation in punting his senior year and broke multiple school and conference records. McCabe made it to the NFL and was set to be the Chicago Bears punter. However, an Achilles Tendon tear in McCabe's rookie year effectively ended his pro career before getting into coaching in 1998 with Miami University.
After coaching for several years, McCabe went on to found One on One Kicking in 2002, and it's become the premier organizations for training punters, kickers and long-snappers. They've gone from a traveling camp to now having year-round locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York/New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington in addition to holding camps at many universities throughout the year.
Along with Director of Kicking Dan Lundy and the rest of their team, One on One Kicking has trained several of the top specialists in college over the past decade, some of which includes:
-4 Ray Guy Award Winners in Ryan Allen (won award twice at Louisiana Tech), Chas Henry (Florida) and Durant Brooks (Georgia Tech)
-1 Lou Groza Winners in Cairo Santos (now with Chiefs)
-2 Super Bowl Players in Ryan Allen (Patriots) and Garrett Hartley (Saints)
-28 College All-Americans and 14 Freshman All-Americans
-20 High School All-Americans
Their most notable NFL client is Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who set an NFL single-season record with his 44.2 yards per punt avg. in 2013). This past year, Hekker signed a 6-year, $18 million contract extension with the Rams, the largest contract ever given to a punter.
Other professional clients of One on One Kicking include:
-Ryan Quigley (Jets)
-Caleb Sturgis (Dolphins)
-Talon Pontius (Colts)
-Ty Long (Washington)
-Will Johnson (Texans)
-Richie Leone (Ravens and now CFL's BC Lions)
-Anthony Alix (CFL's Ottawa Redblacks)
-Ray Early (CFL's Saskatchewan Rough Riders)
Here's some of their work with Hartley:
What makes One on One Kicking the top training facility for specialists? We had the chance to speak to Coach McCabe about what goes into making a kicking specialist, his unique training methods, and his coaching philosophy.
What's harder to learn: Punting or kicking?
MM: Punting is probably the longest process to learn besides long-snapping when it comes to training. Muscle memory is the key ingredient. The drill work we do is broken down into segments to teach that muscle memory to react quicker and be more consistent in every aspect.
In punting, we really focus on breaking down ball reception. That's huge. If you don't receiver the punt properly and get it out on your drop table, you'll drop the ball down lower and take longer to bring it back up, resulting in longer strides to get the ball out. You're going to be very slow and inconsistent.
We use a drill that focuses on catching and floating the ball out to get the ball going forward so they can explode up and through it. And then we do explosion drills and more drill work.
On using Sparq and GoPro to train with:
MM: There's a lot of complex things that we do, even with film analysis using Sparq Motion. They're a great company. They do a lot of work with college and NFL teams. It gives you every different kind of angle you can use to see how the human body moves. It's so good you can see the ball decompress on someone's foot as they're kicking it.
We're able to show that player immediately what he's doing incorrectly so he can fix it immediately. We work on correcting the situation immediately vs. doing the work, going to a classroom to see the error then coming back out to try and fix it. We do it all at once right on the field.
And kicking, There's a lot of drills there too. We focus on consistency on all areas vs. just kicking or punting. We don't kick any more than 30 or 40 balls a day with our athletes. We focus more on drill work and muscle memory.
We also use GoPros so you can put a camera anywhere on your body and see exactly what you're doing and correct it. Doing this helps ensure they don't reach a plateau and always know what they can improve on. We work on getting them above that status quo.
What do you look for in recruits that makes them college prospects?
MM: Everyone loves strength and having a big leg. Me, I'm always looking for what kind of technique the kid has. It is bad and can't be fixed, or is it decent enough that we can fix it and make him a better player.
Then once you get the coaching, speed training, weight training and drill work we do, then that person will be hitting it great.
Kids fundamentally need to do drill work and really hit the weight room at the same time if they want to be a great punter or kicker at the next level.
Which coach has had the biggest influence on McCabe?
MM: Urban Meyer! He introduced me to discipline and character, as well as fundamentals on what to have to be great at your position. With his coaching at Illinois State, I led the nation in punting and was an All-American. He had a lot of great things to do with my success in college.
The pressure cooker. That's when you've got guys standing all around you screaming out you and having the snapper snap it bad with guys coming off the edge at me and the whole team screaming at me. That really helped turn my veins into ice.
He also had me kicking with the 2nd team. They don't block as well and you have to get use to that kind of environment where guys are flying across you or close to you. He also taught me directional punting. Meyer was one of the first to do that.It didn't exist in 1988, but he had me directional punt from the numbers to the sideline.
What's the hardest aspect of transitioning from high school to college?
MM: Mental. It's all mental. Fundamentals are 10% of it and 90% of it is mental. At that point, they're gonna think of failure, or they're gonna think 'I'm gonna take this thing right through the uprights and be successful and think of how many I can make in a row.' So we work on the kids' psychologically all the time to motivate themselves in nay pressure situation and any game situation to succeed.
And if they fail, which we all do at times, to not worry about it and to overcome it, and that's what makes a professional. We forget about that bad punt or kick, and we've got a new one coming, and we've got to make the rest. So that transition from high school kid is tough. It's a faster game.
We also use foghorns, music, whatever could make the kid screw up. We work on that mental capability on being successful. That's what Urban Meyer did to me in college. He was great. He's a great coach. We're great friends, and it was an honor being his first All-American.
Thanks again to Coach McCabe for taking the time to talk with ASOB.