The last time Owen Pochman kicked a ball in New England, he was named Most Valuable Player of the Nantucket men's soccer league and contemplated a college career in that sport at either Washington — where he hails from — or Brown.
But a funny thing happened on the way to his soccer career.
No, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick didn't see something special in Pochman as he vacationed at his own Nantucket, Mass. home, perhaps at the same time the kicker was booting the ball around the island. Instead Brigham Young University saw something it liked in the left-footed kicker, and suddenly a soccer career turned to football.
Nantucket is a meaningful place for the Pochmans. It's where Owen's parents met and where his uncle, who has lived on the island for 33 years, manages the yacht club. But what does that have to do with football?
After spending the summer of 1995 in Nantucket, Pochman flew to Provo, Utah to spend some time with his brother, Ethan, who spent two years playing soccer for the Cougars before switching over to kick for the football team. Before long, Owen had a kicking job of his own.
"I walked out to kick in the spring and they told me I could kick for four years," Pochman said. "I got my brother's scholarship."
He also got the whole family's kicking genes. Before Owen joined BYU, his brother set the school records for consecutive extra points made (61) and most field goals made in a season (20). Not to be outdone, his sister earned All-PAC 10 soccer honors at Washington. So all Owen did was go out and tie his brother's record for field goals in a season and break every other Cougar kicking record on his way to getting drafted by the New England Patriots.
"You get people telling you things and everybody tries to get kickers as free agents so this is a pretty big honor," Pochman said of hearing his name called in the draft."
But Pochman knows he's coming to a team with an established kicker in Adam Vinatieri and he just wants to kick well and let the cards fall where they may.
"I'm not focusing on what the scenario in New England is. All I can do is kick as good as I can," he added.
Apparently, he does it well. "He won a lot of games for us," BYU special teams coach Barry Lamb said. "He's got a lively leg, he works hard and doesn't miss much. In fact, he's more of a football player than you think. He's made some touchdown saving tackles and earned the respect of his teammates.
Strengths — Competitiveness, work ethic and consistency; kicked in windy, snowy weather in college
Weaknesses — Hard on himself; doesn't always pick himself up after a miss; inexperience
Personal — His father is from Albany, N.Y., and his mother from Utah, but they met in Nantucket
Comparable NFL player — Matt Stover, Baltimore Ravens — Not left-footed, but similar in stature and consistency
What They're Saying...
"Fairly accurate and has kicked in bad weather and pressure situations. Improving leg strength and range. Still does not have a big leg. Must remember he has benefited from the altitude in which he is kicking. Is not a Mr. Automatic type. Lacks some consistency. "
-Joel Buchsbaum, author of Pro Football Weekly's 2001 Draft Preview