Justin Thomas talked. Andy Pappanastos took notes.
Pappanastos, Alabama’s senior kicker from Montgomery, spoke with the former Crimson Tide golfer, who won the PGA Championship this summer and has five PGA Tour wins this season, by telephone after UA’s season opener against Florida State.
He made 3 of 5 field goal attempts in that game. He hasn’t missed since, and now stands at 7 of 9 with six in a row. Last weekend he was good from 46 and 43 yards against Colorado State.
They didn’t talk about technique. Pappanastos wanted to know about the golfer’s thought process.
“I’ve talked with him several times, just kind of picking his brain about the mental aspect of it,” the punter said. “Since I’ve talked to him, I haven’t missed.
“I’m really fortunate for that. He’s really been over-the-top helpful. He just talked about where your mentality needs to be on the sideline: Like you want to have the ball, you want to have the opportunity to kick it. I’ve really been able to implement that and the results have been pretty good so far. I really owe him a lot for that.”
Pappanastos said he got in touch with Thomas through mutual friends. Jay Seawell, who has coached the UA men’s golf team to two national championships and four SEC titles, didn’t facilitate the connection, but he approves. He’s long believed kicking a football and playing golf were similar, mentally.
“I’ve always thought they were parallel,” he said. “There’s a final result in kicking and the pressure of that. In football if you don’t succeed on first down, you do have second down and third down and other parts of the game. In kicking there is a result, if you don’t make it or you make it, that’s it.
“I think it takes confidence, and you’ve also got to have a short memory. If you make the putt, you move on. If you miss the putt, you move on. You have to have a selective memory and realize that missing kicks is part of the game, missing putts is part of the game. When you make them, there’s the excitement and all and realizing this is a good time, and there are also going to be times you miss.”
Thomas, Seawell, believes, is the perfect teacher for the mental aspect.
“Justin’s really good at confidence and being comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” Seawell said. “I think that’s his greatest attribute. I think he has a lot of knowledge that he can pass along in that area.”
The evidence says it’s working. So well, in fact, that people are beginning to learn the name of the kicker who transferred from Ole Miss before last season.
“Slowly but surely,” he said. “It’s a lot of letters, but it’s starting to come around a little bit.”
And those letters fit on the back of his No. 12 jersey. That hasn’t always been the case.
“When I was a kid, it would usually be like stitched on my shoulders, they’d have to make the letters a little smaller,” he said. “They’re now the same size (as everyone else’s). Yeah, I measured them up.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.
No. 1 Alabama at Vanderbilt
When: Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville
Records: Alabama 3-0, Vanderbilt 3-0
Radio: 95.3 FM, 102.9 FM