The Trojans#039; secret weapon

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

No position in football is as lonely as that of a kicker.

From the moment he steps on the field, all eyes rest on him and wait for the moment he will send the ball spinning through the air- a moment that will either end in triumph or despair.

Troy University junior punter/kicker Thomas Olmsted has seen both sides of the coin.

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Last week in the Trojans' 24-14 upset of the then No. 19 Missouri Tigers, Olmsted punted the ball seven times for an average of 45.7 yards. Olmsted backed Missouri up inside their own 20-yard line four times Thursday night, including a 61-yard punt that pinned the Tigers on their own 2-yard line.

Olmsted's performance earned him Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

A week earlier Olmsted punted five times for an average of just 29.4 yards, pinning Marshall inside their 20-yard line just twice.

The Lake City, Fla., native also missed a 45-yard field goal attempt.

"It's nice to be recognized for doing well," Olmsted said. "As a punter or kicker you usually only get recognized when maybe you don't do so well. I'm just glad I could help the team, and help or defense out. Those guys love it when you can help them out by backing the offense up."

According to Troy University head football coach Larry Blakeney, Olmsted's contribution to the Trojans' upset of Missouri was invaluable.

"Our punter and special teams really won the Missouri game for us," Blakeney said. "Thomas did a great job of keeping them backed up. As a unit they really did a good job of keeping the momentum on our side."

The special teams unit will once again be a key for the Trojans Saturday when Troy plays their first Sun Belt Conference game against New Mexico State.

"Special teams is an important part of the game," Blakeney said. "Everyone wants to talk about offense and defense, but the truth is every time the special teams steps on the field their either going to win the game or lose the game for you. They're kind of your secret weapon."

That is a role Olmsted relishes.

"As a kicker those are the situations you play for," Olmsted said.

"You play for the moments when all the pressure is on you, and you have to make a big play. I love it. I love the challenge of having to step up and make plays when the team needs it."

For Olmsted this week's goal is crystal clear.

"I want to help our team take that first step toward a conference championship," Olmsted said. "It'll be kind of tough to put last week's win behind us, but we have had three days to settle down. Now, we need to get focused and get ready to take that step toward winning the conference."

This week Olmsted will be kicking to a relatively inexperienced returner in the Aggies' Steven Smith.

Smith has just one punt return this season for six yards.

"I just want to do what I can to help us win," Olmsted said. "I don't think too much about who I am kicking to. The rest of the guys do a great job of getting down there and covering the kicks."

"Missouri was a big game, but New Mexico will be the biggest game we've played so far," Blakeney said.

"This is our first step toward conference, and we need to play a better game this week than we did last week. We need to be better on offense and defense and in the kicking game. Boy, that kicking game can win or lose a game for you quick."

The Trojans and the Aggies will square off at 7:05 p.m. CST at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces, N.M.