Tuesday December 1st, 2015 1:24PM

Ex-UGA kicker Walsh making a splash with Vikings

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Legend has it that Minnesota Vikings rookie kicker Blair Walsh made a 68-yard field goal in practice before the season started.

To hear Adrian Peterson tell the tale now, it was even longer.

``I've seen this guy make a 70-yard field goal during training camp,'' Peterson said.

After Walsh bailed the Vikings out so dramatically in his NFL debut last weekend against Jacksonville, Peterson can be forgiven for stretching the truth just a little bit. And if the former Georgia Bulldog keeps banging through 55-yarders at the end of regulation to tie games and drilling 38-yarders in overtime to win them, the fable of that big kick will probably only grow over time.

Playing a position that is often regarded with tolerance, if not disdain, by the rest of the team, Walsh has already earned himself a loyal fan in Peterson. The face of the franchise said he has been bragging to friends and family about Walsh's big leg. When the 55-yarder went through at the end of regulation on Sunday, Peterson immediately looked for an uncle sitting in the stands at the Metrodome.

``I'll find him when I get downstairs and say, `I told you about that guy,''' Peterson said after the game. ``He's good; he has a good leg.''

Walsh is the only player to win his NFL debut by sending the game into overtime at the end of regulation and kicking a field goal in overtime, and is one of just three along with Matt Bahr in 1979 and Todd Peterson in 1994 to win his first NFL game with an overtime field goal.

So in his first professional week of work, Walsh has hit kicks that tied and won a game, been named NFC special teams player of the week, had Peterson brag about him and even had Vikings owner Zygi Wilf give him the tie off his neck.

``Like literally off his neck and threw it at me,'' Walsh said. ``I didn't know what to expect. I was like, `Alright.'''

Wilf has on occasion given his tie on game day to a player he felt contributed largely to the victory. But to give it to a rookie, and a kicker to boot, was no small feat.

``It's a nice thing to have, and it is a nice one,'' Walsh said. ``I couldn't even read whatever the brand was. That's usually a good sign.''

The designer neckwear, and the kicks of course, went a long way toward validating the Vikings' risky decision to cut rock-steady veteran Ryan Longwell in the offseason and go with Walsh, a sixth-round draft choice who struggled with accuracy in his senior season at Georgia. He missed 14 of his 35 attempts last season. But the Vikings loved his leg strength and felt that with a few mechanical adjustments, he could get back on track.

From the moment he arrived in Minnesota, the Vikings have worked on his timing, approach and follow-through. The results are hard to argue with, but special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said there is still plenty of room for improvement.

``He's still not polished enough for me,'' Priefer said. ``He's still not consistent enough for me on kickoffs or field goals.

``We're going to continue to work just like we've been working. For a young guy with his youth, because of his youth, he'll be able to work extremely hard to get to where we need him to get to and to be the total, consummate kicker that the NFL needs, to win at the NFL level going forward.''

Peterson may also want to work on his technique for encouraging Walsh before he attempts a big kick going forward. As the 5-foot-10 kicker trotted out for the critical 55-yarder, Peterson slapped him on the head with his powerful paw. Perhaps a little too amped up, Peterson actually knocked Walsh's helmet off kilter, just a few seconds before the kick.

``I was laughing when I was running onto the field because I couldn't believe he just did that,'' Walsh said. ``Most people don't even want to touch the kicker or talk to him or anything. Christian (Ponder) just gave me a little low high-five as I walking by, and he went and slapped my helmet. I don't think he knows how strong he is.''

Maybe Peterson knocked some sense into the kid.

``I didn't know I hit him that hard,'' he said. ``But I said to him, `I know you're going to make this kick. You're going to make this kick.'''

For all the celebration, gifts and pats on the helmet Walsh is receiving this week, he knows that kicking for a living can be a fickle trade. A few shanks on Sunday at Indianapolis and all of his first-week achievements will be forgotten.

That was one of Longwell's biggest attributes. What he lacked in leg strength he made up for in steely reserve and dependability in the clutch. And he did it for 15 years.

``It's nice to get those opportunities, though, and nice to try and prove your worth to this team and you can be dependable,'' Walsh said. ``There's 15 more games to go and I've got to show that for 15 more games and beyond.''
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Williams, Horford pace Hawks past Indiana
Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and the Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight, 109-100 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
10:19PM ( 2 years ago )
Gwinnett wallops Greenville, 6-2
Five different Gladiators racked up multiple points, as Gwinnett dominated the Greenville Road Warriors 6-2 Saturday night at the BI-LO Center to move into a tie atop the South Division with Greenville.
10:05PM ( 2 years ago )
Teague leads Hawks past Cavaliers, 102-94
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 27 points and the Atlanta Hawks scored the game's final nine points to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 on Friday night.
10:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
(VIDEO) Commerce football heading on road with confidence
Commerce football may be nicknamed the Tigers, but, for this season at least, they might as well re-name themselves the Road Warriors.
6:14PM ( 4 hours from now )
Three semifinal showdowns take center stage, two on air Friday
One newcomer and two veterans from northeast Georgia will put their playoff credentials on the line on Friday, as the GHSA football semifinals get underway around the state.
6:00PM ( 4 hours from now )
New GHSA region alignments due to be revealed Tuesday
On Tuesday schools across the state, and plenty here in northeast Georgia, will learn their region foes for the next two years, as the GHSA releases its new alignments for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:54PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Coach Dan Quinn looking for ways to end Falcons' freefall
Coach Dan Quinn knows the Atlanta Falcons' playoff hopes are going dim after a 5-0 start.
10:46AM ( 2 hours ago )
Branch's Shewbert provides one more shining moment in championship season
Weeks after winning a Class AAAAA individual title, Flowery Branch High cross country standout Jake Shewbert kept up his impressive fall by finishing 15th at the Footlocker South Regional race in Charlotte, N.C.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:21AM ( 4 hours ago )