Sean Slattery grew up with golf all around him, therefore it's only natural that the Illinois State kicker sees parallels between the two sports.
"Everything that goes into kicking is the same as a golf swing," Slattery said. "For me being a righty, if I leave my foot open it's going to go right. If I close my toe too much, it's going left just like a golf shot. It's funny how similar it is."
Slattery's father, Ed, played a key role on Dwight High School's 1980 golf state championship team and earned a scholarship to the University of Illinois. Today, the senior Slattery is the PGA Golf Professional at The Mauh-Nah-Tee-See Club in Rockford.
"We've all golfed, but once I started playing football, golf took a back seat," Sean said. "My younger brother (Kyle) plays at SIUE."
Though he only hits the links occasionally now, Sean Slattery sees the mental aspects of football in golf.
"A bad kick or a bad shot, you've got to erase it and go on," he said.
Slattery hasn't made many bad kicks this season. To date, the senior is 10-for-12 on field goal attempts and has connected on all 18 extra point attempts. He leads ISU with 48 points.
'Quality over quantity'
"Over time I've learned my preparation," Slattery said. "The biggest thing for me is focusing on quality over quantity for reps. It's not all about rapid-fire. I just warm up, relax and know that everyone is trusting you the whole time.
"I keep it as simple as I can. I think about it for one or two minutes and think about what I did wrong and move on."
Slattery has shown the ability time and again to do just that. Last year he turned a frustrating day into a memorable one against Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston.
"The underneath of that field was sand. It was almost like a golf course kind of thing that you divot in. That grass was so soft. It was nothing like I'd ever kicked on before. It looked a lot better than it was," Slattery said.
After missing an extra point earlier in the game, the ISU kicker had another chance.
"I got out there for a 49-yarder into the wind that was about my max range. Coach (Brock) Spack let me get a swing at it. I hit it good, but unfortunately it fell short," Slattery recalled.
Slattery and the Redbirds got a reprieve with a 33-yard field goal attempt in the game's waning seconds.
"Going to that last kick, I've done it a thousand times in practice so why should it be any different? I got through (the ball) a little too much and it ended up doinking off the left upright and through," Slattery said. "It was the best ball I kicked there all day. It was a weird situation. Hats off to whoever kicks well there because that's a tough place to kick at."
The field goal gave the Redbirds a 9-7 upset of the Wildcats, the first ever Illinois State victory over a Big Ten team.
Earlier this season, Slattery had two field goal misses in the same game against Eastern Illinois.
"It was just one of those days. I wasn't into the ball very well. I yanked a few out of bounds on kickoffs. The two I missed were just dumb errors," he said. "The biggest thing I fixed after that game was my alignment."
Then again, in that same game, Slattery kicked three field goals. Moreover, the Rockford Boylan Central Catholic graduate has made six straight field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder at Northern Arizona. He also handles kickoff duties, collecting 11 touchbacks this season.
Building blocks and beyond
Slattery is quick to credit those that have helped his success along the way.
"All of my coaches valued kicking," he said. "Not a lot of high school coaches fully buy into kicking field goals instead of going for it on fourth and five. One of my high school coaches was a kicker so he knew how it was. I was really fortunate to have that."
Boylan was also fortunate to have him. A three-year varsity kicker, Slattery was a key element of two state championship teams.
Slattery signed with ISU after meeting Spack at a University of Iowa football camp. Like Slattery, Spack grew up in Rockford.
"Coach played at Rockford East," Slattery said. "It's funny because a bunch of my dad's friends talk about playing against him. It's a small world."
Spack's son Brent, who graduated last year after playing linebacker at ISU, is one of Slattery's closest friends.
"We're both ag-business majors," Slattery said. "He's out working in the field now and I graduate in December and hopefully join him in the industry."
But for now, Spack and the Redbirds need Slattery more.
“I feel comfortable with him from 50 yards out these days, and that’s saying a lot,” Spack told the Rockford Register Star. “He’s going to be big for us, we know that, he knows that. We’re going to need him.”