If nothing else, one would expect the name to get a bit annoying.
It seems a cruel burden for a collegiate placekicker to bear from birth, akin to being a quarterback named Bobby Interception or a shooting guard named Joey Brick. It doesn’t help that it’s the name of a kicker who has had more than his fair share of on-field difficulties, a key component of one of the more maligned special teams units in Ivy League football history.
But ask Anders Blewett about life with a built-in epitaph, and he’ll respond the same way that he does to virtually any other question about pressure and the game of football. He’ll smile intensely and say that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The name is great,” Blewett says, wide-eyed. “I couldn’t ask for a better name. I love people yelling it out there. I love being in the spotlight. I love the trash talking. I love the intensity. More power to me for having that name. It’s just one more thing.”
Blewett’s answer typifies his approach to football. It is an approach that knows nothing of fear or passivity. It is an approach that does not include running from past failures—including a 2000 season in which he hit only one of six field goal attempts and faded from the placekicking mix as the season progressed.
And it is an approach that he is more than willing to talk about.
“Bringing The Thunder”
Blewett seems to relish the opportunity to be called upon in pressure situations. When asked about his desire to face such challenges despite his past shortcomings as a kicker, Blewett is quick to invoke what has become his life motto, something he calls “bringing the thunder.”
“I guess that’s just symbolic of my mindset, you know?” Blewett says. “‘Bringing the thunder’ means kind of asserting myself out there and just bringing it, whatever you have. Hell or high water, I’m gonna be putting out 100 percent out there. You don’t really care what’s going on, you’re just bringing it. You have a one-track mind, you’ve got your eye focused on the target, you’re bringing the thunder.”
Blewett wasn’t always quite so confident. He emerged from the shadow of Mike Giampaolo ’00 to take over the kicking duties in the fall of his sophomore season. He missed one of his two field goals against Holy Cross in his first game—a 32-yarder that would have brought the Crimson within a touchdown in a game it eventually lost, 27-25. Blewett went on to miss his next four field goals that year, and looking back, chalks it up to his psychological state.
“Last year, I was out there and I don’t know if I was quite focused,” Blewett says. “I wasn’t attacking the football, and that’s the type of mindset you have to have as a kicker. If you don’t have the mindset of attacking the football—making it your game, your field goal to make—then fear of failure enters the equation.”
Blewett’s outlook changed only after a gradual reflection on the more unpleasant aspects of his sophomore season. He credits his mental turnaround to an exercise in positive thinking.
“I asked myself, ‘Why did this happen? What can I do to make myself the kicker I know I can be?’” Blewett recalls. “And when I asked myself those questions, I decided I needed to be more concerned with the positive results than the negative results.”
The focus, Blewett insists, is more than just a matter of overall reflection. Rather, it must be realized with each and every attempt.
“It’s all about concentrating on what’s going to happen and what I can do,” he says. “I can focus on everything good in life, and it’ll result in my kicking the ball better because it’s the body’s natural reaction to the mind. You visualize yourself performing successfully, your body’s going to kick the ball where your mind says it should go.”
Interestingly, Blewett focused exclusively on the mental aspect of his recovery from the 2000 season, never really questioning his technique—a technique that had gotten him through four years of high school football and won him Special Teams Player of the Year honors in his native Montana.
“It was just kind of like, ‘Boom,’” Blewett says of his attitude adjustment. “This is what I need to do. I don’t need to worry about my form, because I know I can make the field goal—I’ve made it a thousand times. And all it comes down to is how I’m feeling about myself, how I’m feeling about where I want to kick it, and that’s where it’s going to go.”
Blewett’s newfound mental toughness has not gone unnoticed by his coaches and teammates, particularly Harvard Coach Tim Murphy, who has found it difficult not to stick with the junior.
“When those things happen, especially in pressure-filled situations, you really find out what kind of character a kid has,” Murphy says. “Anytime he has a bad practice or a bad game, he is the first one down in my office saying, ‘Coach, I can do it. You can count on me.’ I always respond the same way: ‘I know I
can [count on Blewett].’ He has that sense of confidence you just can’t fake.”
Sophomore punter Adam Kingston has watched that confidence develop from season to season.
“He’s a lot more confident this year,” Kingston says. “[In his sophomore season], he basically figured he’d be second-string. This year, he came in and thought, ‘I’m going to be the kicker.’ And when he’s up there, he thinks he’s going to make them all.”
If “bringing the thunder” and the subtle nuances of mind-body communication don’t seem like concepts one would generally associate with the average kicker, it is because Anders Blewett is, athletically, anything but an average kicker.
His 6’0, 175-pound frame speaks to his broader athletic background. While Blewett was putting together an impressive placekicking resume in high school, he also was a four-year member of the wrestling team and a three-time letter winner in golf. Blewett’s wrestling career was particularly remarkable—he was an All-State selection each of his four years in high school, and capped off his senior year by winning the state title in the 160-lb. weight class, becoming his school’s first state champion in almost three decades.
“Wrestling is definitely the thing that has defined my character more than anything in life—more than kicking, more than anything,” Blewett says. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Despite his well-publicized adventures at the Stadium, Blewett calls wrestling his biggest athletic challenge.
“I got beat up on a lot, and I did my fair share of beating up on others,” he says. “The things I did in high school were probably much more difficult just from a physical standpoint than anything I ever will do.”
His wrestling prowess attracted recruiting offers from Stanford and Brown. Blewett says that his dedication to kicking—combined with his desire to live a relatively normal physical life—led to a decision in favor of Harvard and the gridiron.
“I think it was going to be Stanford wrestling or Harvard football,” Blewett says. “But wrestling didn’t appeal because of the work I’d put into kicking. I also thought it would coordinate better with a college lifestyle—not having to cut weight, not having the same intense workout—and being a college placekicker was my dream since I was about ten years old.” He adds that he does not regret his choice.
According to Blewett, there is a very clear link between his less physical kicking experience and his battles on the mat. And, as one would expect with Blewett, the similarities he cites are entirely mental.
“I think that the same ideas and mindgames went into preparation for wrestling matches as they do for kicking,” he says. “Wrestling allowed me to go out there and overcome those fears, to experience failure and success.”
He also likens his return after his struggles last year to his ability to come back after a lost bout.
“I lost wrestling matches—a lot of wrestling matches,” Blewett says. “But I always came back to win wrestling matches. I lost close matches, heartbreakers, state championship matches, everything there was, and I always came back to win another big match. You’re not going to win them all, but I feel it’s important to experience both the failures and the victories along the way.”
Blewett also uses his background to reinforce his self-image. He says he feels that a number of his problems last year were caused by a lack of confidence in himself as an athlete, and that realizing his own worth in that regard helped him immeasurably.
“Coming in here, you get stereotyped immediately as a non-athlete, an amateur kicker,” Blewett says. “That was difficult for me to cope with—just coming in as a third-string kicker when I was Johnny Football Hero back at home was definitely a humbling experience, and it took my a while to break out of that.”
He singles Kingston as one of his closest friends on the team, chiefly because the two of them have shared the need to establish themselves as athletes, not merely as kickers. Kingston, for his part, agrees.
“Usually, kickers don’t get very much respect,” Kingston says. “We establish ourselves so that we are respected, even just in the way we consider ourselves athletes. And we’re more of a presence on the field than more kickers are, not just sitting by and watching but being a part of it.”
Blewett makes himself a part of every interaction he has on the football team, and does it in the most quirky manner possible.
“Anders Blewett is larger than life,” Kingston says. “You never know what to expect. Like in practice after he hit a field goal against Dartmouth. He hit another one and just started running all over the field, his hands on his helmet. You never know what he’ll do.”
The kicker is fully aware of his own eccentricities. “I wouldn’t say I’m one of the more vocal guys on the team,” he says. “I would say I’m the most unpredictable. I’m kind of spontaneous; I like to mix it up sometimes. I don’t even know half the time what’s going on.”
And how do his teammates react to the kicker who won’t just blend into the background?
“I think people are loving it,” Blewett says. “When people break out of the rut and you create some noise, I think people like that.”
Murphy certainly does.
“His presence benefits the team not only because of his ability, but also because he adds to the chemistry of the team with his personality,” Murphy says.
Blewett feels that making his presence known is an important part of “bringing the thunder,” and sees it as one of the things that separates him from his immediate predecessor, Giampaolo.
“If you don’t assert yourself, if you don’t respect yourself, no one else can respect you,” Blewett says. “I’m not saying that [Giampaolo] didn’t, but what he needed to do is different than what I needed to do. I look back right now and I’m still inspired by his performances. But I just feel like my needs differ from his.”
Blewett is also more outspoken than fellow placekicker Robbie Wright, who has also experienced a somewhat turbulent career on fourth down. The sophomore missed five of his eight tries last year, and lost the starting job to Blewett this year after his struggles continued. Blewett says he and Wright get along well, despite their immediate competition for kicking opportunities.
“We get along great,” Blewett says. “We have a mutual respect, and we wish each other luck out there. I think the competition we’ve had has benefited both of us. We’ve spent quite a bit of time together, we’re definitely supportive of each other. We just try to come together to win games for the Harvard Crimson.”
Wright agrees. “We’ve had a fine relationship,” he says. “There’s never been any animosity.”
But despite their closeness and the fact that they share a position, the two can only do so much to help each other out of the doldrums. Wright maintains that Blewett and Wright use different kicking techniques, and Blewett believes that, even given any similarities, the road to recovery must be traveled alone.
“The whole thing comes down to you looking at yourself in the mirror and solving the problem yourself,” Blewett says. “No one can do it for you, no one can kick the ball for you and no one can make you feel confident when you’re out there. For me, obviously others got me thinking in the right direction, but it came down to me wanting to consciously change my thought process. I had to change my self-perception, accept myself for who I was and know that I need to assert myself in different settings. You have to do that in order to overcome any sort of failure—in life, not just kicking.”
Blewett’s approach has paid off so far. He has made two of three field goals this season, including a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter against Dartmouth that capped off a Crimson comeback from 21 points down. That kick prompted a wild, gyrating celebration from Blewett that will not soon be forgotten.
It is pressure situations of that sort that Blewett will miss once his playing days are over.
“The thing I’m going to miss is walking out into a packed stadium hearing the shrills of the crowd and just having your whole body overcome by this tingling sensation,” Blewett says. “And then just going out there and knowing that you’re just motivated to your highest level. You know it’s a moment when you have to perform, and you can trust your body to do what you know it can do. It’s just getting out there and conquering any sort of fear and just being motivated, motivated by positive results.”
Like so many members of this Ivy League champion team, Anders Blewett will be especially motivated this Saturday at the Yale Bowl. One suspects that he might be the only member of the team who wouldn’t mind a close game. He might enjoy having his number called with the game on the line once more this year.