April 8, 2010
SEATTLE - As the rest of the student-athletes hustled off the field at the Dempsey Indoor, Erik Folk set about his routine. The Huskies kicker grabbed a few of his cohorts from special teams, pulled up the kicking net and began to boom one ball after another through the uprights.
This spring, everything has been about as perfect for Folk as the kicking conditions inside UW's bad-weather practice facility - free of the outside elements. Buoyed by the confidence that came from a spectacular 2009 season, Folk has been able to focus on improving his game rather than fighting pressure in a protracted kicking competition.
Last year, Folk was in a markedly different position. The role of placekicker was up in the air, and Folk was an unknown variable after missing both the 2007 and 2008 seasons due to a myriad of injuries. But after landing the role in fall camp, Folk demonstrated the team's trust in him was not misplaced. He simply responded with one of the greatest seasons in Husky history.
"The consistency that Erik Folk showed last year in the field goal game was fantastic," Sarkisian said.
Overall, Folk hit 18-of-21 field goals and all 35 of his PATs. The .857 accuracy rate ranked up there with Chuck Nelson and Jeff Jaeger, both of whom were All Americans at the UW. But as much as he would like to sit back and relish his place on the mantle of Husky placekickers, the junior knows he has to move forward. That's a big part of his pre-kick mantra, where he puts himself in the present and avoids letting one kick - good or bad - carry over to the next one. One statistic he was pleased to report was that he was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts after a miss last season. This was a welcome change for Folk, who would let a bad kick manifest in the past.
This doesn't mean Folk has entered spring football complacent. He knew that his boss, Sarkisian, had discussed the Huskies need to showcase more muscle on kickoffs. This was priority No. 1 in the offseason. Folk dusted off his old high school tapes, where the Woodland Hills, Calif., native had fashioned a reputation for his leg strength, subsequently sapped after a surgery that required a medical redshirt.
"I wasn't getting good height or distance on my kickoffs, especially after the hip surgery," Folk said. "So I started looking at my old tapes and comparing the two. I definitely noticed some things mechanically I can fix."
Another work in progress is the holding situation on field goals and extra points. His previous holder, Ronnie Fouch, is no longer with the team. Same with the now-graduated Danny Morovick, who was Folk's long-snapper. In the meantime, Folk has been working with WR Cody Bruns (who is new to holding), P Will Mahan and Brendan Lopez, who has been doing the long-snapping. This has thrown a temporary, minor hitch into Folk's mindset, where he has to think about not only the kick but the hold as well.
"That's the biggest thing," Folk said. "Both Cody and Will have been doing great, but it's more me getting comfortable with everybody."
No worries. That all comes with reps, and the Huskies have ample time to coalesce until the kicks start to mean something again on Sept. 4 at BYU.
Folk still recollects on a few of the moments that made 2009 special for him. Two of the biggest takeaway moments from the season were the kick at Notre Dame in the waning seconds to send the game into overtime, and the kick he'll remember for the rest of his life - the game-winner against No. 3 USC at Husky Stadium. After the game, he got a congratulatory call from his brother, former Cowboys and current Jets kicker Nick Folk. And the football is still stashed somewhere in his house, though he's not quite sure it's THE ball.
"I have a ball from that game," Folk said, grinning. "That's all that matters."