Austin MacGinnis’ career as a Kentucky Wildcat is complete, but his time in Lexington is not over…for now.
The former University of Kentucky placekicker that holds the school’s all-time scoring record is searching for an NFL home. After competing in the Chicago Bears’ three-day mini-camp, he has returned to Lexington. While waiting for a call from the NFL, he’s working a bank job and training twice a day. Beginning next weekend he’ll assume a new role as a mentor for aspiring kickers in the community.
Over the next two months MacGinnis will hold two-hour training sessions for specialists at Frederick Douglass High School. To give everyone a chance to work on their craft, or for those who want to try kicking for the first time, the first session is free.
“I just want to give kids the opportunity to come out and see if they like kicking. They might have never done it before,” MacGinnis told KSR. “I’ll see where they’re at and just have some fun. There’s no pressure or anything for the first camp, just come out and see if you like it.”
Campers will be trained to punt, kick field goals and kick off. Former UK long snapper Kelly Mason, who spent a preseason as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, will be in attendance to help train long snappers. MacGinnis was inspired to create the kicking camps by those who helped him become the nation’s third-ranked high school kicker.
“For the kids that sign up, it’s not just for the day they sign up. It’s going to be mentoring. Anytime they can shoot me a text, pick my brain about the mental side. I’m here to help the kids at the end of the day because I had people that helped me get to where I went to, and hopefully can play in the NFL. I just want to give these kids the best chance to be the best kicker they can be.”
The first session on June 3 is already full, but there are plenty of other dates still available. You can sign up to train with Austin by reaching out to him on Twitter, Instagram or e-mail him at [email protected]
You might not be interested in kicking camps, but you’ll be interested to hear what MacGinnis told KSR about his time at Kentucky (including why he dabs) and what his NFL future looks like.
KSR: How is life since you finished school?
MacGinnis: Things have been going well. I had a tryout with the Chicago Bears. I was up at their mini-camp for three days and that went well. They signed a veteran in Cody Parkey. Now I’m just training, working at Central Bank as a credit analyst, training in the mornings and afternoons, staying ready.
KSR: Was it weird since they just signed a kicker for a ton of money?
MacGinnis: No, not really, because things can happen. If he gets hurt, they want to know who there options are if something else happens. It’s just really good to get your foot in the door anywhere. At my position as a placekicker, there’s only so many opportunities, so many teams looking for kickers, so you kind of just gotta stay ready. It could take some time to get the right opportunity and take advantage of it.
KSR: How does it work to be a free agent kicker? Do you just have to play the waiting game?
MacGinnis: You just gotta stay ready. Let’s say a kicker gets hurt or has a bad game, whatever, they’ll fly four or five kickers in to have a workout that next Monday. Basically, whoever they like the best out of that workout they’ll keep around. You just gotta stay sharp. It’s a weird position where you kind of don’t necessarily lose value the older you get, where at other positions, the older you get, the worse you’ll perform. As a kicker you can play for a long time so you gotta stay ready.
KSR: Does that mean you’ll be cheering against guys?
MacGinnis: No, I’m not (laugh) But if the opportunity presents itself, I won’t be mad if they call me up. I can’t though. That’s not good karma. In good conscience I can’t wish bad on anybody. I’m sure some things will happen this season. I just hope I’m going to be on the short list to get called. I’ll go to some competitions to stay releveant and keep my name out there so they know I’m still one of the top kickers.
KSR: What about training camp, will they bring in multiple kickers or is much of the same?
MacGinnis: How training camp normally works, you have a kicker, punter and snapper. They’ll bring in one extra guy for only one of those positions, so a total of four specialists. If a team’s punter didn’t do good last year, they’ll bring in a punter. If they’re all solid, they might not bring anyone, because you know in the NFL it’s all about a numbers game. They don’t get that many roster spots. Also, if another one of the players gets hurt, let’s say an offensive linemen gets hurt or something, prior to the season they’ll bring in a bunch of extra offensive linemen to try out, get someone to fill the gap and take that number from the speciailists. The specialists’ numbers are the first to go.
KSR: You Probably can’t pick a favorite game-winner, but what goes through your mind before a big kick?
MacGinnis: I love it because you work so hard throughout the season to get that opportunity to be the deciding factor. It’s what you dream about, especially knowing you can have that much control of a game. I just love it. I’m here to win games.
I think we did pretty well in my four seasons that I actually played. We had a .500 record. I’m hoping that Coach Stoops and them can keep the ball rolling and get to another bowl game this year and not regress.
KSR: People forget that UK has actually been pretty good the last four years.
MacGinnis: We’ve been good, we’ve been competing, we’ve been right there. I’m happy with where I left from when I got there. My redshirt freshman year we were 2-10. That’s not fun for anyone.
KSR: Where is toughest place you had to kick?
MacGinnis: I think the toughest place I’ve ever kicked is Florida in The Swamp. The fans are right on top of you. They can almost reach out and touch you. They’ll yell and heckle you until you’re blue in the face. That’s a tough place to play, especially when it gets rocking.
KSR: You are now UK’s all-time leading scorer; do you ever use that as a trump card in an argument?
MacGinnis: One hundred percent, yes. It’s my go-to. I’m the all-time leading scorer, throw me a bone.
KSR: Why did you use the dab out as your go-to celebration?
MacGinnis: It was for the kids in the stands. There’d be some kids behind my kicking net dabbing, so I’d dab for them. They would love it. And I can’t dance, so it worked.
KSR: In these upcoming kicking camps, what are the things you can teach the common person might not know?
MacGinnis: It all comes down to technique at the end of the day. The more consistent and pure you can get your technique, the better you’re going to be. I think just having this training as a weekly, bi-weekly training session, it’s goig to instill these drill-works that I do everytime I go out and kick. There will be film review that they might not be able to get when they go out kicking by themselves. Also, they’re going to get competition from kids that will be kicking with them. They’re going to create bonds with those kickers. It’s the same way that I came up coming out of high school as the third ranked kicker on Rivals. I would go to all of these camps.
Iron sharpens iron at the end of the day. I think these kids that are enjoying it and liking it, they’ll have a blast out there. It’ll be something that they’re grateful for.
KSR: Is there anything significant;y different about kicking in the NFL instead of the college level?
MacGinnis: I think the biggest difference that I took away from being in the NFL is that you have to be very efficient. When you go out to kick in college, you’re kind of by yourself. You have all of the time, you’re on your own clock. When you’re in the NFL, you go out to kick and you have the special teams coach with you. They’re going to get film and they’re going to chart everyday’s kicks. You’re going to get 10 or 12 kicks and it’s all going to be filmed. For me the biggest thing was just getting a consistent routine and getting into my A-balls quicker. Instead of kicking ten balls to be at your best, you have to be at your best from kick No. 1. Every kick matters.
As for as game-wise, it’s the same. It’s almost easiesr because the hash-mark is closer. The uprights are the same width. You have a great snapper and holder in the NFL. It’s just hard to get your foot in the door, so I’m just going to be ready to pounce on the next opportunity.
KSR: Chance Poore has to play right away, you at least got a year to redshirt, what advice will you give him when he arrives on campus?
MacGinnis: It’s hard to say just one thing. I’m going go and work with Chance and try to help him out, see where he’s at, give him some advice. A lot with kicking is how you approach your training. I’m sure where there will be times when I get Chance to come out to these training sessions, just because it’s going to be easier to coach….It’ll be good because that puts pressure on him as the big dog. He’s the only college kid there. The more you can simulate game pressure and situations like that, the quicker you’re going to develop. Because when you get in college, it’s tough to play that first yar at any position because the game is so much faster and pressure wise, it’s just a different atmosphere…And the uprights move in from college to high school too.
KSR: You’ve been around the team since Stoops got to UK, does anything feel different this year?
MacGinnis: There’s different players that are going to have to step up that haven’t played nay, but from being around spring ball, it seems like the team was clicking. Everyone was supporting each other. I saw players putting in extra work when I was in there training for Pro Day.
Players would be out there throwing, catching, doing seven-on-seven. That stuff is always good to see from my perspective. The more time they’re spending at it, the better they’re going to be as a team. You gotta put in those hours that aren’t required because everybody in the country is doing their required workouts, lifts, runs, seven-on-seven. It’s what the players are doing beyond that that’s going to separate them from the rest of the pack.
KSR: Finally, the question everyone is asking: who’s going to be the starting QB?
MacGinnis: I’m going to keep my mouth shut on that. I don’t know, but I have a feeling both quarterbacks will play in game one, if I had to guess.