Stanford kicker embracing failure, success


Stanford kicker embracing failure, success

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Jordan Williamson wears a Fiesta Bowl cap most places he goes now to remind himself and show the world just how far he has come since the worst moment of his life.

Not that anybody needs a reminder anymore.

The Stanford kicker, who kept a low profile for months after he missed a field goal at the end of regulation and overtime in that 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State in January, will no longer be remember on this quant Silicon Valley campus for just his biggest failure. Williamson's winning 37-yard field goal in overtime at top-ranked Oregon last Saturday night highlighted his road to redemption, and he's using both experiences to help others overcome similar setbacks.

``The Fiesta Bowl is something that I'll never forget,'' Williamson said. ``It's not something that I'm trying to hide. Obviously, it happened, and people know it happened. It's just something I use to motivate me to get better.''

Williamson said he received encouragement from people ``pretty high up'' - even from those outside of football - since that disaster in the desert.

The encouragement prompted him to contact kickers also going through trying times. Earlier this season, for instance, he reached out to Pittsburgh's Kevin Harper, who missed a potential game-ending, 33-yard field goal in the second overtime against Notre Dame before the Panthers lost 27-23 in triple overtime. Harper made the four other field goals he attempted.

``I told him, `Hey, look. You had a great game. Don't worry. It's not on you,''' Williamson said. ``He was handling it very well. He knew that he was fine and he had a great game. So it wasn't bad. But I am starting to try to reach out more.''

Williamson declined to name others he has contacted or those who have gotten in touch with him. Just the fact that he can openly discuss the Fiesta Bowl gives a glimpse of how much has changed.

Early in that game against Oklahoma State, Williamson missed from 41 yards and made from 30 yards. Stanford coach David Shaw chose to run out the clock on Andrew Luck's finale drive and set the stage for Williamson's 35-yard attempt with the game tied on the final play of regulation. He missed. And missed again - also left - from 43 yards in overtime.

After the game, Williamson wept in the corner of the locker room. Teammates shielded him from reporters, patted him on the head, tried to console him and offer words of encouragement.

``I'd say before the Fiesta Bowl I really had no idea what it was like to miss a do-or-die kick,'' Williamson said. ``I didn't really understand the aftermath of it all until the situation happened.''

He received nasty Facebook messages for months, and strangers would even walk up to him and tease, ``Laces Out!'' The reference is from the movie ``Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'' and a fictional missed field goal by a Miami Dolphins kicker in the Super Bowl.

Williamson, a psychology major, returned home to Austin, Texas, trying to get his mind off the misses during the winter break. His mother, Laura Burton, even sent a letter to the parents of Stanford players to ``express my utter sorrow for how things played out'' and thanking them for ``never in my life have I seen the kindness, maturity, and love that has been displayed by this Stanford family'' for helping her son.

``For him to go through some growing pains early, I think, was good for him,'' punter and holder Daniel Zychlinski said. ``Now he has a foundation to build upon. Going through that hardened him mentally to withstand any failure in the future. He knows what it feels like and he knows how it is to go through it.''

While Williamson said he wasn't nervous before his final kick at Oregon, those on Stanford's sideline were for him.

Williamson had missed a 43-yarder earlier in the game, saying he picked up his head too soon, which he often cites as reasons for most misses. Shaw stuck with Williamson anyway, as he always has, even though the redshirt sophomore kicker is now 13 for 22 on field goals this season.

Knowing what Williamson had gone through and what another mistake could do for his psyche, Shaw sent the kicker out in amped-up Autzen Stadium and said a prayer.

``The prayer wasn't for the team,'' Shaw said. ``The prayer was just for him, that he would be able to relax and do the job to the best of his ability.''

Williamson kicked the ball through the uprights. He sprinted around the field in a mad dash, embraced Shaw at midfield and ran to find his father in the stands for an unforgettable embrace.

``I don't think we could even measure how important that was,'' Shaw said.

Players shouted in unison, and the locker room walls rattled. The echo filtered to those waiting outside and all around the stadium's tunnel: ``JOR-DAN! JOR-DAN! JOR-DAN!''

``It was pretty great, I'm not going to lie,'' Williamson said. ``I started to tear up a little bit.''


Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP

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Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

Bradley Beal's phantom foul and the Wizards' most important rally of the season

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth and final foul with the score tied. 

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for.

He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.