IOWA CITY — On his first field goal attempt as Iowa’s No. 1 kicker, Miguel Recinos didn’t know the ball had been snapped. The only reason he knew things were in motion was seeing a Wyoming player on the rush from the corner of his eye.
“You can imagine my surprise,” the junior from Mason City said.
Recinos’ eyes were on the uprights when holder Colten Rastetter gave the signal to snap the ball. Recinos didn’t see the snap.
“It was a mistake where I kind of moved my head a little bit, because normally, I give Colten a little indication that I’m ready,” Recinos said. “He mistook that, which was my fault. I shouldn’t have been moving my head around.”
Recinos drilled the 44-yarder through the uprights. It gave the Hawkeyes (1-0) their 24-3 margin in last week’s victory over Wyoming.
All’s well that ends well.
“I saw the corner coming in, I flung my arms forward to try to get some momentum and just kicked it as hard as I could,” Recinos said. “It swung around and went through the uprights.
“Yeah, that was exciting.”
It was also a culmination of a ton of hard work and perseverance.
Recinos is a fourth-year junior and a walk-on. He lost a tough camp battle last season with sophomore Keith Duncan. All Duncan did was kick a 33-yard field goal in front of the 10 million people watching on ABC to beat Michigan on the final play of the game.
The competition reopened during spring ball, and Recinos made a move. He started with his head.
“I did a lot of work this season honing my mental game,” he said. “I could take a more objective view of certain things that were going well for me and some that weren’t and then ironing that out.”
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Not everyone can handle objective looks within. Recinos is a 22-year-old chemistry major. He carried a yoga mat into the Hansen Performance Center on Tuesday (he’s taking a yoga class at the UI). With the encouragement of strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, Recinos downloaded the app “Headspace.” He said it helps him sleep.
Recinos is completely aware of the mental calisthenics that come with his job.
“Sometimes, you’re going to find things you don’t like,” he said of the objective view. “But it’s the truth and you just have to deal with it.”
He found a lot of extra motion in his form and he edited it out.
“There were a lot of extra things I was doing and so I tried to get rid as much of that as possible,” he said. “Really simplify it as much as you can, because kicking is a simple thing if you really boil it down. You want to make it as simple as possible.”
Beyond avoiding disaster on the field goal, Recinos put in a perfectly clean afternoon on his first day on the job.
His kickoffs were outstanding. He recorded three touchbacks and put enough air under two others to help the kick coverage team pin Wyoming inside its 20-yard line.
“He was excellent,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He kicked off well to start with. That is important obviously. That’s an important job. And he looked really confident kicking the football, too, the place kicking part of it. Just really happy about that. That was a good start for him and hopefully he can gain a little confidence coming out of that.”
Recinos made all three extra points. The first one helped Recinos get into the flow. He called it was his best moment.
“The first PAT, honestly,” Recinos said when asked what he was most proud of coming out of Wyoming. “It was a situation I wasn’t expecting (Iowa converted a fourth down to score a TD). I was able to handle it. By the time the 44-yarder came around, I’d eased into the game. I had several kicks by then, not to say it was an easy field goal, but I had a lot of confidence going into it.”
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Recinos admitted last year was a journey for him. He entered 2016 fall camp as the favorite to win the job. Duncan arrived as a true freshman walk-on from North Carolina and snatched it away.
“Obviously, that’s tough,” Recinos said. “We all want to start. Keith gave me a good opportunity to learn. He came in and just went about his job. He’s a great guy and I’m good friends with him. I actually admired him when he first came in here, just at the way he handled himself.
“At the time, I was building myself back up into the specialist I wanted to be.”
In the end, maybe this makes Duncan a better kicker. Recinos is a different body today than when he stepped on campus in 2014. He said he came in weighing around 170 pounds on his 6-1 frame. “That’s being generous,” he said.
Recinos and Duncan don’t talk about the competition very much, he said.
“He’s a very good kicker and I have a very high opinion of him,” Recinos said. “I told him, ‘You never know, you’ve got to get ready in case anything happens.’ He’s young, too. Say if I do start for the next two years, he still has the opportunity to win the job again. There’s no shame. I think he kicked very well (in camp), in fact I think he improved from last year.”
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