By Chris Gasiewski, Delaware State News
Chris Boniol, right, a former NFL kicker, shows Indian River High kicker Andrew Cordell Carey a technique during a kicking camp at Wesley College Wednesday. Delaware State News/Daniel Korup
DOVER — Nerves came over Chris Boniol during the warm-up session.
Not only was the former Dallas Cowboys kicker about to compete in the biggest game of his life, but it was on the grandest of stages — Super Bowl XXX.
The problem was, Boniol is a hash-mark kicker and Super Bowl logos covered up the marks in Arizona's Sun Devil Stadium.
"I was about as nervous as you can get," Boniol said. "When I kick, I just had to kick between the hashes as a visual reference.
"Well, you have all these x's going on, dark blue and yellow and brown. Everything is going in different directions. My visual reference was gone."
Boniol felt out of place. He didn't make a single kick during practice.
But when it came down to performing on the first drive of the game, Boniol used a visualization technique.
It worked as he drilled a 42-yard field goal. He then added another from 35 yards in the second quarter as Dallas went on to beat Pittsburgh 27-17 for the title in 1996.
"I felt relieved afterward," Boniol said of his first Super Bowl kick. "It was nice to get first one out of the way."
Now retired from the NFL, Boniol has included the technique in kicking camps. This week, Boniol has been holding camp at Wesley College.
A day at Boniol's camp in Dover, which he has been hosting primarily in southeastern states, typically includes a half a day of kicking. Boniol critiques technique as well as teaches stretches to the campers.
A training session breaks up the day, and there also is a session with Wesley sports psychologist Dr. John Muczko, who worked with Boniol during his junior year at Louisiana Tech.
"The beginning of the camp is very intense," Boniol said. "There is lots of instruction and getting the kids out of their comfort zone.
"How does a kicker deal with a timeout with a pressure kick? We work on that kind of stuff."
Boniol knows how important mental toughness is for a kicker. After all, he was splitting the uprights just 56 percent of the time before he met Muczko.
The work with Muczko paid off for Boniol as he converted 76 percent of his field goals thereafter. He then signed with the Cowboys.
"One of the other aspects of this camp is sports psychology," said Boniol, who also played for the Philadelphia Eagles for two years. "(Muczko) just taught me tremendous visualization, technique, imagery. He is the mind coach.
"It helped me a lot as a pro."
Muczko added, "I meet with the guys developing their concentration skills, visualization skills — just incorporate that into their physical routine. Once they do that, they become more consistent."
While the camp is been open to all kickers, Wesley's Chris Carlton (kicker) and Christian Cattanea (kickoff specialist) have benefited after three days of the week-long program.
Carlton, a McKean High product, already has Wesley's record for most field goals in a game, most attempts in a game and career points. But since Monday, he has upped his longest field goal from 41 yards to 50.
"He's just showing us a lot of different things, a lot of different stretches, lifting and routines when you are kicking," Carlton said. "This (the stretches and routines) involved a lot of core strength. He has showed us tons of different stuff that helps that."
Cattanea has been sending kickoffs into the opposite end zone, which would be touchbacks, since Monday — something he wasn't doing prior to camp.
"I find satisfaction watching a kid who has natural ability but something he is doing is hindering it," Boniol said. "To watch him actually give it effort, even if it takes him a while and see he is trying, each day that goes by it gets a little easier."
One kicker that stuck out in Boniol's mind was Kevin Miller.
Miller, who Boniol coached after he graduated from East Carolina, didn't make it straight to the NFL. But he looks to be on his way after he converted 17 of 21 field goals for NFL Europe's Berlin Thunder, which fell in the World Bowl on June 13.
"He had a good year," Boniol said of Miller. "But he wouldn't have had a chance if he hadn't improved his kickoffs. Not that I had anything to do with it. But I find satisfaction being that I helped him figure out a way to get in that position."
Staff writer Chris Gasiewski can be reached at 741-8231