Camden Lewis has had many ups and downs since coming to Oregon, from making the game-winning kick as time expired to keep Ducks' playoff hopes alive in 2019 vs. Washington State to getting benched after kicking struggles last year.
But now, after grinding out an offseason where he and last year’s starter to end the season Henry Katleman battled for the starting job, it was clear in the coach’s eyes that Lewis had earned the opportunity to be the starting kicker again. For Lewis, this meant a long road of improving his game as well as the mental side of kicking was all worth it for another opportunity to kick for the Oregon Ducks.
“You just can't give up, you can't ever just give in.” Lewis said. “I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I can do. And I really just came down to believing myself and believing in my abilities, because you go through some rough things on the field, you start to kind of forget what you're capable of.”
When did Lewis get that confidence back? It was never one eureka moment, but after going 37 of 40 on kicks in fall camp according to Mario Cristobal, that certainly gave the third-year sophomore the confidence that he had the capability to be successful.
“I wouldn't really say one particular moment, but I would say a culmination of a bunch of really good practices, and just getting back to myself, just...doing what I knew I could do.” Lewis said. “It definitely wasn't one specific moment, because you need to build up confidence over time. It doesn't just happen one day.”
The mental side of being a kicker is really unlike anything else in the game of football. It seems so simple, right? If kicked high and straight enough there isn’t much a defense can do to stop it. But there are so many mind games and pressure situations kickers can find themselves in that one missed kick or one small injury can change everything. And it can take time to get that mental side of the game back.
“It really does just take one [kick to go in] because I went into 2020 as confident as I could have been. I felt awesome.” Lewis said. “I had a great fall camp, and things just didn't fall into place. Things just didn't work out. And the same thing happened this fall camp. I felt great again, and it's falling into place. You can't make them all, but you can make more than some. So I think I definitely didn't have the start I wanted and that hurt my confidence for sure.”
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I asked Lewis what he feels like his range is today and where he would be comfortable trotting out and kicking from if Cristobal needed him today.
“Depends on the wind, I would say 50 yards, no matter what the conditions are, I'd feel pretty confident.” Lewis said. “[If] We got a wind at our back, I'm bringing it back to 65, and I'm going to unload that thing. But I don't know if Cristobal’d do the same thing! I would love to get a 60-plus yarder. I would say inside of 50, I feel really confident.”
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