COLLEGE PARK ——Nick Ferrara can almost feel the sweat and hear the low thud of impact as his right leg swings through the football.
"Every time before a game you sit back there and you imagine a game-winning field goal going straight through," said the Maryland kicker, whose 2010 season was spoiled by a right groin injury. He's been rejuvenated — physically and emotionally — and tops the most recent depth chart at both field-goal kicker and punter in advance of Monday night's season opener against Miami.
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Byrd Stadium Complex, College Park, MD 20740, USA
But that's what kickers often do. They meditate. They try to clear their heads. Some use a technique known as "creative visualization" in which the subject imagines a scenario and outcome.
Back home on Long Island, N.Y., Ferrara was a devotee of hot yoga, in which the room temperature can be well over 100 degrees.
Asked to describe a typical reverie, Ferrara says: "I imagine two seconds left, 24-yard line, right hash. Very detailed."
His coach and teammates seem to enjoy Ferrara, whose accent — it seems a blend of Long Island and New York City — makes him sound like a cast member on HBO's "Entourage."
"Those kickers are different and Nick fits the bill — am I right?" Maryland coach Randy Edsall said during a recent fan event.
Said receiver Ronnie Tyler: "I think Nick's got one of the most fascinating personalities on the team. But he works hard."
Ferrara's visions never end badly — especially not in this promising preseason.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Ferrara — who briefly played lacrosse in high school — converted 18 of 25 field-goal attempts, including 7-for-10 from 40 yards or longer, during his freshman season.
But last season, he lost his field-goal job to the now-graduated Travis Baltz, who was also the punter.
Ferrara suffered the groin injury during the second week of training camp in 2010. He considered medically redshirting because of the injury.
"It got worse and worse," Ferrara said. "I was allowed to sit for like two days and then I tried to come back and it still was bad. It was just affecting everything — my power, my height, accuracy.
By the time Ferrara felt like himself, the field-goal job belonged to Baltz. Ferrara was still used on kickoffs.
Ferrara is expected to play an important role this season. His potential as a long field-goal kicker can be a big weapon, particularly in close games. He's an experienced punter as well. Subbing for an injured Baltz in 2009, Ferrara's first punt traveled 61 yards, pinning Clemson at its 4-yard-line. He's averaged 39.8 yards on 35 career punts.
Said Edsall: "The thing with Nick is just keeping his head on straight."
Ferrara said he's felt confident kicking this summer. That's important in an endeavor that he says is "99 percent" mental.
"You really can't have a lot of drama outside your sport," Ferrara said. "I have a great family. I have a new girlfriend. I've known her since I was like 4. Things are looking up right now."