MADISON, Wis. - Despite how it might seem to the outside world, being a college kicker can be a hard job. Almost every field goal or extra point comes with pressure, and woe to you if the game comes down to a missed field goal or extra point. So it probably helps if a team's kicker has a short memory, and as Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema puts it, "a little off-center."
"I guess you kind of have to be," Badger kicker Philip Welch said. "I don't think I'm crazy, but I guess some people think I am."
It's been a trying season so far for the senior from Colorado, who missed a significant part of fall camp and the entire non-conference slate with a quadriceps injury. Welch said he knew something was wrong as the Badgers prepared to start the 2011 season.
"I knew about a month before camp [something was wrong]," Welch said. "I tried to not kick and rest it up, and then I ended up hurting it again."
Welch spent most of his time rehabbing his leg by icing it and going in for massages, but in the end the best medicine is to do nothing.
"[The] main thing that works is just rest and not kicking," Welch said.
"I knew that it was going to be bad [and] it was going to be a little bit till I got over it, so it's good that it's healed up, because I was getting a little bit worried there."
Nobody would blame Welch for worrying, either. The redshirt senior is in his final season of eligibility and his replacements were doing a serviceable, if not perfect, job in his place.
Kyle French and Alec Lerner split the kicking duties during the Badgers' first four games, and both freshmen showed some growing pains. French made 26 of 27 PATs, but only converted two of four field goal attempts. Lerner averaged about 60 yards per kickoff, but Welch has been more consistent through his career.
After several weeks of waiting, Welch was ready to take over on extra points. Coming back for his last night game at Camp Randall, he made six of seven PATs against Nebraska, and even made the tackle when his second PAT attempt was blocked.
"It was awesome. I would have been pretty mad if I missed probably the last night game in Camp Randall [for me]," Welch said.
When asked if he's going to resume kickoff duties this season as well, Welch sounded optimistic about his chances.
"I'm hoping to, but I'm not going to push it right away," Welch said. "I'm going to see how I feel after this game, because after each game it takes a few days to recover."
For now, Welch will make do with handling field goals and extra points. He hasn't attempted a field goal yet this year - thank the efficient Badger offense for that one - but when he does he'll be ready for it.
"It'll be exciting," Welch said. "Field goals are fun - with PATs they're almost scary because they're really easy to hit."
No offense to Welch, but the rest of the Badger offense is probably hoping to make him kick more extra points instead of field goals - even if it does spoil his fun.
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