June 6, 2008

Buehler out to break the mold

David Buehler is a kicker.

Specifically, he's the Trojans' placekicker.

But, he isn't a single-bar-on-his-helmet kind of kicker. He isn't a Gramitica-loving, no-tackling, no-lifting kind of kicker.

He's 235 workout-loving pounds, and even his own size caught him by surprise.

"I stepped on the scale one day and was like, 'Oh, Jesus. I'm 235,'" he said. "If was back playing safety or fullback, this weight would be fine. As long as I'm kicking, I just need to stay flexible and not get too bulky, and I think I'll be all right."

This 'accident' didn't come from too many trips to the kitchen. It came from one of the best kind of problems.

"I was kind of lifting hard going into summer," Buehler said. "There's really no need for a kicker to be 235; I just really like lifting. I like pushing myself."

Buehler's coming off a productive 2007 season, where as a junior, he knocked 16-of-19 field goals through the uprights. He also hit on 52-of-54 PATs.

By entering summer workouts stronger and bigger than ever, Buehler said there are some inherent worries.

"If I cut 10 pounds or so, it should help me get rid of some of the bulkiness," he said. "It can kind of hinder you as a kicker."

To counteract the added mass, Buehler has spent much of his time focused on stretching the same muscles he's been strengthening.

"I think I'm actually more flexible because I've been concentrating a lot on that," he said. "I've been lifting heavy, adding muscle mass, but the flexibility is the key thing I've focused on."

The lifting and stretching is more specialized for kickers. It's not about just sheer power.

"If you have a cyclist try to lift really heavy, he might not be able to," Buehler said. "If you have a bodybuilder get on a bike, he won't be able to do what a cyclist will do.

"Leg strength, doing squats, certainly helps, but it's more about strengthening the leg while in the kicking motion."

Buehler said he's picked up some training method from strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle, but largely, it's trial and error.

"I've been taking a lot of dry swings," he said. "I was thinking about using weights on my leg. Who knows? I'm just trying some stuff out early in the summer."

Mostly, though, it's about getting on the field for extra reps kicking a football.

"The more you kick, the more comfortable and confident you feel," Buehler said. "I just have to keep kicking."

A week before summer workouts began, Buehler began his preparation, kicking for the first time in some time - testing his bigger frame.

"The leg strength is there. I felt good," he said. "I was just a little bit rusty because I hadn't been out that much, but I'm getting back into the groove of things, getting ready for fall camp."

Buehler's now kicking twice a week and will soon be kicking four days a week. But it's just not physical preparation. Kicking puts as much strain on a player's mind.

"Kicking's a different world. It's like nothing else," Buehler said. "There's so much mental focus that goes into it, and it's so specific. All you have to do is kick a ball between the uprights.

"People might think it's easy, but the mental focus it takes is pretty extraordinary."

With mental and physical strength, Buehler's set on changing the connotations that come along with being a 'kicker.'

"I want to be the new breed of kickers - be an athlete first," he said. "I've become a kicker now because it's what I have to be, but I don't want let go of my athleticism.

"I don't want to be a scrawny, little kicker."

At 235 pounds, he's not.

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