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.''


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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).


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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.