MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Does anyone have more fun playing football than West Virginia kicker Casey Legg?
Judging from the ever-present smile on his face, it would be hard to pick someone out that does. It was there throughout his postgame interview following the Mountaineers’ 27-21 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, and it wasn’t just the final score or his two field goals, including a big 45-yarder, that put it there. No matter the situation, the redshirt junior finds a way to enjoy his surroundings.
That even extends to seeming pressure-packed moments on the football field, where he and his fellow specialists find ways to have fun in the moment.
I was talking to (long snapper) Austin Brinkman about it. We can’t stay locked in and serious all the time,” said Legg, who is 7-11 on field goals in his Mountaineer career, with a long of 51 yards. “We have to have a little bit of fun, and we all perform better when we don’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we have fun and joke around. We have a good time together.”
Specialists are, of course, a bit different from most others on the team, in that they don’t engage in the same drills or work with their teammates all of the time. They’re used to being a bit isolated, and can often be spotted in a huddle or group around the end of the bench near the placekickers’ net, where long snappers can also typically find some room for a couple of practice snaps during a game. They also endure a level of scrutiny that might not approach that of a quarterback or cornerback in terms of frequency, but definitely meets it when they go on the field. There, all eyes are on the snapper, holder and kicker as they perform their specialized routines.
“I definitely feel nerves, but I try to block all the outside stuff out,” Legg said candidly. “The pressure isn’t too bad when you don’t think about scenarios or anything like that. I just try to treat every kick the same. I do have some nerves, but it’s more ‘excitement nerves’ than pressure.”
The attention a football specialist gets is still new to Legg, who appeared in his first football game of any sort in 2018, kicking off once against Baylor and improbably enough making a tackle on the play. He appeared in five games in 2019, nailing his career long of 51 yards in WVU’s upset win over Kansas State and executing 21 kickoffs on the year. In 2020, he took on regular placekicking duties after Evan Staley went down with an injury, and although he was 5-7 on field goals and 9-9 on extra points, a pair of misses – one against TCU and one against Iowa State – led to his replacement for the last game-plus of the regular season.
True to his nature, however, he handled that setback well, and continued to work on a leg motion that was honed through years of soccer play in his prep year – one which was not immediately translatable to football.
“The soccer (leg) swing and the football swing are definitely different. I’ve had to learn that the hard way over the past three years since I’ve been kicking (a football),” said Legg, whose high school (Cross Lanes Christian in the Charleston, West Virginia metro area) did not offer football. “I think time has helped it, and it’s getting closer to more of a straight football swing, but it’s been an adjustment. I am still working on it, and it’s still not pretty, but it doesn’t matter what it looks like if it goes in.”
His work has paid off, as he won a spirited spring and fall camp competition for the starting placekicking job. The return of Staley and the presence of kicker/punter Tyler Sumpter has allowed each to have one of the three kicking jobs, with Staley handling kickoffs and Sumpter punting. That helps each keep their head in the game, and also to share some of the fun of the game.
“I like to enjoy the crowd when I’m on the sidelines, listening to them cheer,” said Legg, who also gets some attention on the road from enemy fans (especially students) who are attracted by his surname, which is perfectly suited to his position. “When I’m on the field, I completely block it all out. I try very hard not to notice them and focus on the kick, but that’s definitely easier when you are playing in front of 20 fans than 60,000.”