How to Kick a Field Goal

Last November Northwestern kicker Jack Mitchell nailed a career-long 46-yard field goal and then blasted a game-winning 41-yard kick in overtime to beat the Irish at Notre Dame. (Watch all four of Mitchell's field goals from the win over Notre Dame.)

We asked Mitchell, who also plays outfield for the Wildcats baseball team — and his field goal unit teammates, holder Christian Salem and center Chris Fitzpatrick — to give us a step-by-step on the kicking game.

1. On a field goal attempt Salem, the holder, measures out 7 yards from the ball, minus 6 inches. At that distance, “Fitzpatrick usually can get the laces out every time without me having to spin it,” says Salem. Meanwhile, Mitchell lines up with Salem, then takes two steps back, three steps to the side. “I look at the goalposts and make sure I have my target,” says Mitchell. 

2. When Fitzpatrick snaps the ball, “I try to get the ball down as fast as possible, spinning the top of the ball to get the laces facing out,” says Salem, who plays receiver in addition to special teams. “I usually try to tilt the ball roughly a couple degrees toward me and a couple degrees forward. That opens up the back of the ball, like the sweet spot. … It’s all about Jack and how he likes it,” Salem says of his roommate and fellow Californian.

3. After Salem places the ball, Mitchell goes to work. “I focus on staying smooth, keeping my body as upright as possible so my leg can get through the ball [like a pendulum]. I like to keep in mind keeping my foot down, my toe down, so that I’m kicking the ball on the sweet spot of my foot, and to swing up and swing through.” The whole sequence, from snap to kick, takes fewer than 2 seconds. “It’s kind of one motion,” Mitchell says. “Once you get that perfect kick, you know it’s up there and you know it’s good.”

Jack Mitchell and Christian Salem
Jack Mitchell (8) and Christian Salem at Notre Dame. Photo by Stephen J. Carrera Inc. 2014/Northwestern Athletics.

Jack Mitchell connected on four field goals in the win over Notre Dame. Watch all four.

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