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At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking

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  • At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Oct. 13 2004

    Sean Landeta had just turned 9 when Jim O'Brien's last-second field goal gave
    hometown Baltimore a 16-13 victory over Dallas in Super Bowl V.

    "Me and every other kid in Baltimore, we wanted to be that guy, because he just
    won the Super Bowl," Landeta recalled. "So we went out and started kicking
    field goals over an old volleyball net."

    That's how it started for Landeta - on a playground close to home in suburban
    ****eysville, Md. Make a mark in the dirt with your heel, stick the ball in the
    ground, then take a running start.

    Still, the kicking and punting was all for fun - just playground stuff - until
    the summer before his senior year at Loch Raven High.

    "I was going to get my senior picture taken, I guess this was August of '78,"
    Landeta said. "As I was leaving, just by coincidence, the football coaches
    happened to be coming right by."

    They exchanged pleasantries, then one of the coaches, Ben Petrilli said:

    "Your friends say you kick pretty well. Why don't you come out and kick for

    Landeta accepted the offer. Over the years, Landeta has often thought about
    what would have happened, how his life would have turned out, had he not bumped
    into the coaches that day. What if he'd hit a red light on the way to school
    that day? What if the photographer needed to take another picture?

    But none of that happened. More than a quarter of a century later, Landeta is
    still punting. He parlayed that one season of high school kicking into a
    partial scholarship to what was then known as Towson State.

    He was an NCAA Division II All-American in 1982 as a punter, kicked three
    seasons in the old USFL for the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars and then signed
    with the New York Giants in 1985.

    He's been punting in the NFL ever since. The 2004 campaign marks his 20th NFL
    season, making him one of only nine players in the history of the league to
    have played 20 seasons.

    "I can't believe, with the USFL, it's been 23 years," Landeta said. "It just
    goes so fast. You blink your eyes. You just try and appreciate every one. You
    wish there could be another 23 ahead of you."

    At age 42, he may not be booming them like he did in 1986 and 1990 - his two
    Pro Bowl seasons. But he's still better than average. Five games into the '04
    season, Landeta's 43.4-yard punting average is tied for 13th in the NFL. If
    that average holds, it will be Landeta's second-best since the 1996 season -
    when he ended his first tour of duty with the Rams.

    Landeta was practically a pup at 34 back then. But new special teams coach
    Frank Gansz wanted a younger leg. Landeta ended up in Tampa Bay in 1997. That
    younger leg, rookie Will Brice, lasted six games for the Rams. Ironically, it
    then took 38-year-old Mike Horan to finish out that season.

    Horan, balding at the time, showed up at Rams Park wearing a T-shirt and blue
    jeans on the day he signed in '97. Some players thought he was a janitor.

    "I was one of them," said Jeff Wilkins, then in his first year as the Rams'
    place-kicker. "I walked into the players' lounge, and I saw (Horan). He was
    just kind of hanging out. I felt like saying, 'Dude, this is the player's
    lounge.' And then he introduced himself."

    The reception was a little warmer for Landeta in March 2003, when he returned
    to the Rams after the year in Tampa Bay, one in Green Bay (1998) and four in
    Philly (1999-2002).

    As he walked through the Rams Park facility that day, he saw a couple of his
    new teammates working out.

    "Hey Coach, how you doing?" the players said to Landeta.

    "Actually I was one of those guys," long snapper Chris Massey said. "I remember
    him from before with the mustache and kind of the long hair. When he walked
    through the locker room, I (thought), 'Man, we signed a new coach. Is this the
    special-teams coach?'"

    Uh, no. The new punter.

    A punter who has launched more punts - 1,342 - than anyone in the history of
    the NFL.

    A punter whose regular-season and postseason kicks in pro football have
    traveled 70,036 yards, or about 40 miles. That's roughly the distance from Rams
    Park to the Edward Jones Dome. And back.

    A punter who was kicking in his first Super Bowl for the New York Giants in the
    1986 season when Massey was 7.

    "He's probably the greatest punter in NFL history," Massey said.

    Which is far from what Landeta envisioned when he ran into Coach Petrilli that

    "If you stop and think about it, it's so much more than I ever thought it would
    possibly be," Landeta said. "I've always really appreciated the opportunity to
    do it, and realized how lucky I was to be doing it. You never think you have it

    "Because of that, you know the old saying - stop to smell the roses - that's
    something I've very seldom done. But I think it has to be that way. I don't
    think you can ever rest and think everything's OK. Because everything may be OK
    at that moment, but there's no guarantee it will be - later that day, or the
    next day - as your career goes."

    Landeta's practice routine has remained the same for years. During the regular
    season, he'll hit about 40 to 50 balls on Wednesday; on Thursday, about 30; on
    Friday, about 25. He rests his leg on Saturday, then boots about 25 to 30
    during pregame on Sunday.

    Even now, he practices like he did back at Towson. He'll carry two or three
    footballs out to the practice field, punt them to one end of the field; walk
    down, pick them up, and punt them the other direction.

    "Every year, you just try to do the same thing," he said. "Stay healthy. Do
    everything that's necessary. Stretch. Lift. Run. Practice."

    Hot tub, cold tub. Massage. Chiropractor. Nothing magical. Nothing mysterious.
    Year after year after year.

    "It just doesn't seem like his leg ever gets tired," Wilkins said. "He's not
    thinking about shutting it down any time soon. The way he's punting, I could
    easily see him going a couple more years - three, four, five years. You've got
    to figure after 20-something years, he's got something figured out."

    When Landeta returned to St. Louis after his six-year hiatus, he found not much
    had changed at Rams Park. The players are better; so the team is winning.
    That's about it.

    "All the people upstairs are the same," he said. "It's just the perception of
    the team, and just the result on game day. For the most part, everything else
    is kind of the same."

    Including Landeta's friends. He still hangs out with some of his St. Louis
    cronies from the mid-'90s. ... Tony Catarinicchia from Gian-Tony's; Bart
    Saracino from Bartolino's; Charlie Gitto; Mark Cusumano from Kemoll's; Dave
    McNutt of Laclede Cab; Charlie Fazio from the Fazio bakery family; and Gus
    Torregrossa of Gus's Fashions & Shoes, to name a few.

    "During the season, I'll see every one of them once or twice a week when I'm
    not here (at Rams Park)," Landeta said. "It's nice to have places to go.

    "And these guys, three or four times in the six years I was gone, they came to
    Green Bay, they came to Philly, they'd all come out for a game," Landeta said.
    "They've stayed in touch. And I've stayed in touch. Just great people."

    In a way, it's almost like Landeta never left.

    20-Year Club

    Rams punter Sean Landeta is one of nine players in NFL history
    to have played 20 or more seasons in the league.

    Seasons Pos. Player Teams (Years)

    26 QB-K George Blanda Chicago, Baltimore, Houston, Oakland
    (1949-1958; 1960-1975)

    23 K Morten Andersen New Orleans, Atlanta, N.Y. Giants,
    Kansas City, Minnesota (1982-2004)

    23 K Gary Anderson Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San
    Francisco, Minnesota, Tennessee (1982- 2004)

    21 QB Earl Morrall San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Detroit,
    N.Y. Giants, Baltimore, Miami (1956- 1976)

    20 CB Darrell Green Washington (1983-2002)

    20 P Sean Landeta NY Giants, Rams, Tampa Bay, Green
    Bay, Philadelphia (1985-2004)

    20 DE Jim Marshall Cleveland, Minnesota (1960-1979)

    20 WR Jerry Rice San Francisco, Oakland (1985-2004)

    20 OT Jackie Slater Rams (1976-1995)

  • #2
    Re: At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking

    Look. It was a nice obituary by Thomas. Didn't know he had been demoted from Sports Journalist. Didn't know till recently either that Dicck Vermeil was the 1st Special Teams' Coordinator to be hired in the NFL and he started that position with the Rams. Wonder if there is more than coincidence to that and his STs having success in Stl. and KC? Don't be shy Mike, steal some KRs and PRs from the past.

    Anyway, still think that Landeada's experience should telling him to be kicking line drives, for greater distance, directly out of bounds ... but, hey, that is me ... I don't have to roll over in my grave ...


    Related Topics


    • RamWraith
      Ram's former punter is back just for kicks
      by RamWraith
      By Kathleen Nelson

      Sean Landeta has been gone only a year, but he has too much catching up to do.

      The Rams' former punter said he hoped to see some of his non-football friends when he returns to St. Louis with the Philadelphia Eagles for their game with the Rams on Sunday.

      "These guys I've known since '95," said Landeta who lived in St. Louis for a pair of two-year stints with the Rams. "They made my stay so great. They really made you feel welcome."

      He mentioned Gus Torregrossa of Gus' Fashion and Shoes and restaurateurs Charlie Gitto, Charlie Fazio of the Joe Fazio Bakery, Mark Cusumano of Kemoll's and Tony Catarinicchi from Gian-Tony's. Even for a bon vivant like Landeta, that's a lot of food and shopping in 24 hours, especially when he has to squeeze in a football game.

      "He might know just about everybody in every city, as long as he's been playing," Rams punter Bryan Barker said. A 16-year veteran, Barker delivered the line with a grin, a backhanded complement to Landeta's longevity.

      Landeta, 43, is in his 21st season in the NFL and is one of only nine players who have spent at least 20 seasons in the NFL. He ranks second on the all-time list with 1,379 punts, trailing Jeff Feagles of the New York Giants, who has punted 1,425 times. Landeta also is second in career punting average: 43.3 yards. He was a member of both the All-1980s and All-1990s teams and made Pro Football Digest's All-Time All-Pro team.

      Landeta had little time to bid adieu to friends because of his abrupt departure from St. Louis last year. He entered his last game with the Rams on Nov. 21, 2004, ranked second in the NFL in net punting average. After the Bills returned punts 53 and 86 yards, Landeta was the fall guy. He was released five days later.

      "I was so disappointed that I wouldn't be there," he said. "Everybody there, the coaches, players and the organization were so great to me."

      Landeta was replaced by Kevin Stemke, who lost the job in camp to rookie Reggie Hodges. The youngster lasted five games before being replaced by Barker. Landeta spent two weeks in the Eagles' camp before being released but continued to train on a high school field near his home in Manhasset, N.Y.

      The injury bug that plagued the Eagles at key positions also hit punter Dirk Johnson. The Eagles signed Hodges, who lasted three games before being replaced by Nick Murphy on Nov. 22. Landeta was signed the following week.

      "I brought a lot of young guys in and tried them out," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I figure Sean might not kick it the furthest, like he used to, but I at least know it's going to be the same depth every time."

      Considering the short leash on which most punters are kept, longevity...
      -12-17-2005, 07:26 AM
    • RamWraith
      Long shots make their mark with Rams
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas
      Of the Post-Dispatch

      Long shots, like CB Dwight Anderson (above), are taking full advantage of their chance to try and make the Rams roster.
      (Chris Lee/P-D)

      MACOMB, Ill. - NFL players come in all shapes and sizes, and from all kinds of colleges. But whether you come from South Carolina, or South Dakota . . . Colorado, or Colorado School of Mines . . . Washington, or Eastern Washington . . . Arizona, or Akron . . . if you're good enough to get a chance, you just may get a job.

      With three exhibition games remaining, and cutdown days fast approaching, here's a look at four roster long shots trying to latch on with the Rams:

      CB Dwight Anderson: Traveling Jamaican

      Anderson didn't grow up dreaming of the NFL in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Heck, you couldn't even watch it on television.

      "It was either cricket, soccer, or track," he said.

      Anderson's sports were soccer and track - even after he moved to the United States in 1992 at age 11. But one day at Bloomfield (Conn.) High, he watched the football team practice and was intrigued.

      "I want to try that," he told himself.

      Not surprisingly, he was a kicker as a freshman.

      "Sophomore year, I started playing wide receiver and DB," Anderson said. "The (varsity) coach saw me playing JV, and he was like, 'All right, we're going to move you up. See what you can do up here on the varsity level.' And from there, it just exploded."

      Anderson, who now lives in Queens, N.Y., played junior college ball at Arizona Western in Yuma. He finished college with the South Dakota Coyotes, and now he's been to Macomb and St. Louis trying to make the Rams' roster as an undrafted rookie.

      "I've been going across the country," Anderson said. "I've almost done all 50 states now. I'm having fun with it."

      If the Rams keep five corners, he has a chance. If not . . .

      "I think I've got a chance," Anderson said. "If I just keep working hard, something's going to pay off. I'm not really thinking about getting cut."

      Anderson looks the part. He has 4.35 speed and doesn't seem overwhelmed on the field. What he needs is work on technique and focus. And no more silly penalties, like his costly holding penalty last week against Chicago.

      "It was an iffy call," Anderson said. "But you know the refs, they're cutting down on a lot of that holding."

      WR Brian Sump: Building a career

      With about a semester's worth of additional work at the Colorado School of Mines, Sump will earn his degree in civil engineering. He's in no hurry. Before he starts building dams and bridges, he'd like to build an NFL career.

      -08-20-2004, 06:12 AM
    • RamWraith
      Rams long shots bring hope to practice
      by RamWraith
      By Jim Thomas

      Every morning, safety Andre Kirkland shows up for work at Rams Park, walks into the locker room, looks into his locker stall and gazes upon his jersey sporting No. 43.

      He tells himself: "OK, I got another day. Thank you, Lord, for another day."

      Kirkland earned second-team Mid-American Conference honors last season at Kent State but did not get drafted. The Rams signed him as a rookie free agent May 2, and ever since he has received a steady stream of calls and text messages from friends. They want to know anything and everything about the Rams.

      "Like, 'How big is Steven Jackson?'" Kirkland said. "Or, 'Who's better? Torry or Isaac?'"

      Kirkland faces an uphill struggle, to put it mildly, trying to make the squad in St. Louis. Corey Chavous and Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe are firmly entrenched as the starting safeties. Jerome Carter and Todd Johnson appear to have a stranglehold on the backup jobs. At best, Kirkland is fighting for the No. 5 spot, but there's a chance the Rams will keep only four safeties.

      "I try not to look at the numbers," Kirkland said. "They say when you do, that's when you're out the door. I just try to do my job. If I don't make it here, hopefully, I'll make it somewhere else. All the veterans say that you're auditioning for all the teams, all 32."

      In the meantime, Kirkland is trying to enjoy every moment in the NFL.

      "It's everything I've dreamed about and prayed about," Kirkland said. "I walk in there every day, and I'm like, 'Man! I'm an NFL player.'"

      Kirkland is one of several long shots trying to make the Rams' roster. Some others:

      Last season, John David Washington was a novelty. Undrafted out of Morehouse College, he attracted lots of attention during training camp, but not because he's the only player in Morehouse history to rush for 1,100 yards-plus in two seasons. He's the son of Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.

      But this season, Washington is just another of the guys. A football player trying to earn a job in the NFL.

      "I feel comfortable here, definitely, with my teammates," Washington said. "They understand that I'm here to play ball. I'm not here to act like I'm playing ball. I'm not in Hollywood. This is what I've been wanting to do since I was a little boy. So I do feel a lot more comfortable with my dad out of the picture, so to speak."

      His father, the famous actor, still attends as many Rams exhibition games as possible. In fact, he attended the team's preseason opener last week in Minnesota. But Denzel Washington has a way of avoiding attention.

      "I don't think he really understood, either, until...
      -08-17-2007, 07:15 PM
    • GroundChuck
      Even more publicity for our kickers. Long article
      by GroundChuck
      From Les Carpenter @ Yahoo Sports:

      ST. LOUIS – John Fassel is dying to try. Oh how he wants to try. The St. Louis Rams special teams coordinator, and son of former NFL head coach Jim Fassel, has a dream in mind.
      He can see it now. The ball will be somewhere on the horn of the Rams' insignia in the middle of the field. The goal posts will look like a pair of luminous toothpicks lost in the roaring fans. And Rams head coach Jeff Fisher will glance at Fassel and nod his head.
      Send in the kid.
      It will be a record field goal, no doubt. Maybe 64 yards. Maybe 65. Something rarely ventured. And the ball will be snapped, the holder will put it down and Greg Zuerlein will plant his left leg and swing his magnificent right foot. In one mighty swoop, shoe will smack against ball sending a tiny brown streak climbing toward those distant poles …
      "Oh yeah, I definitely want to know if he can make it," Fassel says. "And he does too."
      His rookie kicker, this kid no one much has heard of – from a place called Missouri Western State – is blasting footballs from remarkable distances. Wherever the Rams have the ball and the call goes for him, he jogs out, takes his step and a half, and pounds the ball so hard through the goal posts it often smacks against the netting, no matter the distance. This is making him the most talked-about player on a team with a former No. 1 overall draft pick (Sam Bradford), a seven-time 1,000-yard rusher (Steven Jackson) and a swarming defense. His kicks in preseason games made news, each seemingly longer than the one before, until the regular season came and it was all but expected he would make everything he tried.
      And so far he has. He's hit all 13 of his field goal attempts in the NFL. Last week he set a team record by kicking a 58-yard field goal and then broke it by hitting a 60-yarder. Both sailed over the crossbar as if they were extra points.
      With his sudden fame comes the nicknames. Sobriquets like "Greg The Leg", "Legatron" and "Young GZ". Each has its own Twitter hashtag. All for a kicker nobody knew just seven weeks ago.
      Meanwhile, Greg the Leg or Legatron or whatever, seems embarrassed by all of the affection. The best young kicker in the league, the one who can't miss from halfway across the field, laughs nervously.
      "I don't know," he says."I mean it's kind of a cool thing and at the end of the day it can come and go and I can miss a bunch of kicks and be out of here."
      Hardly the thing you'd expect from a man called Legatron.
      o where does it come from? This power to routinely kick a football through goal posts some 60 yards away?
      Zuerlein laughs. "I don't know, I just do it," he says.
      The best young kicker in the NFL is an unassuming man. Not big but not small. He wears shorts and a Rams t-shirt and walks into a room at the team's practice...
      -10-12-2012, 03:56 AM
    • RamWraith
      Stemke's Dream Comes True
      by RamWraith
      By Nick Wagoner
      Staff Writer

      Most young football players dream about getting a chance to play in the NFL. An opportunity to put on any NFL uniform is good enough to make any kid drool. But, what if you had the chance to play in your hometown on Monday Night Football after a few years of bouncing around?

      Put more simply, what if you were new Rams punter Kevin Stemke? He lived out his childhood dream of playing in the NFL after signing with St. Louis on Friday. Stemke replaced one of the league’s most well known punters in Sean Landeta, who was released Friday.

      He traveled with the Rams to his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., to play in front of his friends and family against the team he grew up rooting for, on the field (Lambeau Field) he fantasized about playing on and all of it happened on Monday Night Football.

      Stemke’s debut was a solid one. He had just two punts, but dropped both inside the 20, with a long of 39 yards.

      “That’s just about my dream come true,” Stemke said. “This is about as good as the opportunities get. I’ve just got to go out and perform and convince them they made the right decision.”

      Perhaps the most amazing part of all of it is the distance Stemke had to travel for the opportunity.

      The Rams contacted him early lat week, asking him to come in for a tryout. It was getting him to St. Louis that was the hard part. Stemke has been living in Mulhouse, France with his wife Elizabeth, who is a professional volleyball player there.

      When the Rams called, Stemke was living with his wife and working out in case he got an opportunity with an NFL team. Stemke played in two games with Oakland in 2002, averaging 42.4 yards per punt. That came after a training camp stint with the hometown Packers in 2001 and time with the Rams in 2002 after an impressive career at the University of Wisconsin.

      There he earned the first Ray Guy Award as the NCAA’s best punter. He spent this preseason with Washington. He punted against the Rams in their preseason game on Aug. 27. He had one punt in that game, a booming 58-yard kick that landed inside the Rams 20. That wasn’t enough, though, and Stemke was cut.

      He was then left with a decision to make.

      “I stuck around for a while and had a few workouts, but I didn’t get a call for a couple of weeks,” Stemke said. “I said, ‘I’m going to join my wife in France and live off her for awhile.”

      Stemke arrived in St. Louis on Thursday after struggling to find a flight out of the tiny city in northwest France. When he finally located one, he hopped on the plane, had a layover in London and was in the Gateway City in time for Turkey Day.

      Rams coach Mike Martz said the team has had its eye on Stemke for awhile, from the time Stemke spent with St. Louis and his performance against the Rams in the preseason.

      -12-02-2004, 06:30 AM