Van Winkle’s Season Is ‘Beyond My Wildest Dreams’
By Mason Kelley
Cameron Van Winkle’s freshman season was more about concern than confidence.
Washington’s kicker was forced to miss most of 2013 after being blindsided by a back injury. Instead of clutch kicks, Van Winkle was forced to focus on getting healthy.
It isn’t easy to watch and wonder.
Van Winkle turned his frustration into a challenge. He was determined to come back better than ever and, nine games into his sophomore season, he has become one of the nation’s most accurate kickers, making 11 of 13 attempts this year.
When asked to put his success in perspective, Van Winkle summed it up with one word: “Amazing.”
After taking some time to think after a recent interview, he followed up with a text message.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Van Winkle wrote. “Last year at this time with my back issues, I was having a hard time putting on my socks or even being able to tie my shoes.”
To be able to bounce back in a fashion Van Winkle described as “silky” is a testament to Van Winkle’s determination to prove his freshman season was an aberration.
“Even in high school, when I thought I was in my prime, when I hadn’t had any injuries, I wasn’t even able to get 90 percent,” he said. “Knowing I’m still in the top 10 in the nation right now, at times I’m still in disbelief.”
“It’s just that mental focus of being able to go out there and know what I have to do,” Van Winkle said.
The difference this season is preparation. He makes sure every kick counts. When he was in high school, he would just go out and kick “a ton of different balls.”
The longer the kick, the more fun it was to attempt.
These days, though, there is a purpose to every kick he attempts in practice. He gets one attempt from each spot, “because that’s what it really comes down to,” he said.
“It’s quality over quantity,” he said. “That is something I think really skyrocketed my season so far.”
But, while Van Winkle’s confidence is at an all-time high, he understands that a bad day lurks around the corner if he loses focus.
“I could be 100 percent all season long, but then miss a kick,”
Van Winkle said. “I try to stay down to earth knowing that every day I have to go do my normal routine of about 10 or so kicks from each hash mark.”
He has put his back injury behind him. He has established himself as one of the nation’s most accurate kickers. Like any successful athlete, he believes this is only the beginning.
“Even though I’m doing really well right now, there’s still a lot of room to improve,” he said.
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