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Padecky: Petaluma grad Nick Marsh itches to keep kicking


An interview is a river of words. It changes direction, speed and volume. Vistas change. Moods fluctuate. A surprise is always possible. Sometimes you never see it coming, the moment when the interview, that river, takes your breath away.

And so it was Monday when I felt the need to cheer up Nick Marsh.

Don’t misunderstand. Marsh wasn’t morose, didn’t ask to be cheered up. Pain didn’t color his words. It was more like a bewilderment, a confusion actually, why he isn’t in a NFL training camp right now. Why someone in the NFL couldn’t see what he saw.

If the NFL only knew what Marsh has done to put himself in this time and place. That’s what I was thinking. Sweat equity, Marsh may have it over anyone who has kicked or will ever kick a football. Remarkable, the road he has traveled.

Marsh began kicking field goals at age 6. When he was an All-Empire kicker at Petaluma High School, Marsh would spend his lunch period kicking to his father, Scott, at the Trojans’ football field. Scott, a software salesman, would take time off from his work to shag balls.

“I wouldn’t hang out with my friends,” said Marsh, 22. “I would kick.”

Marsh kicked year-round. When he played baseball for the Trojans, he’d still kicked three times a week.

He went to his first kicking camp at 13, at Berkeley. By the time he graduated from high school in 2008, Marsh had gone to 17 Chris Sailor kicking camps, Sailor the former UCLA star being the guru who supplied colleges with recommendations.

By his estimate Marsh had 30 paid sessions his junior and senior years at Petaluma, all of them conducted by kicking experts. Marsh went to kicking camps at Cal, Stanford, Louisiana State, Utah and Washington.

“To be the best at something,” Marsh said, “always intrigued me.”

Marsh got a full ride to Utah, was a redshirt freshman, and spent his last year of eligibility kicking for Rutgers last fall. This January he moved to the Phoenix area to work with Gary Zauner, a former special teams coach with the Vikings and Ravens who, among others, counted Gary Anderson as one of his success stories.

For four months, for five days every week, Marsh devoted his life to Zauner and his improvement of his craft. Zauner would charge $300 an hour, that’s the kind of clout he has. Retrieve kicks, whatever Zauner asked, Marsh complied.

Pre-draft, Marsh went to the New York Jets and a punting tryout.

He went to the Seattle Seahawks facility to placekick and punt. He went to sub-regional combines which earned him a spot at the Super Regional Combine in Detroit April 12 and 13.

The Jaguars, Colts, Dolphins and Bucs called for detailed information.

A prominent sports agent who specializes in handling kickers, Sean Stellato, called Marsh to represent him.

The NFL Draft from May 8-10 came and went. No calls.

“I was freaking out,” Marsh said. “I didn’t think I would get drafted but I was sure I’d be invited to a camp.”

Four days after the draft Marsh thought his luck had changed. He went to the New England Patriots’ facility to kick in the team’s rookie mini-camp.

It’s been silence since then. All those NFL teams who worked out Marsh said the same thing to him. Stay in shape. Things can change quickly. Be ready. With this unspoken but the all-too-real implied message: Don’t call us. We’ll call you.

Waiting, hoping, not giving in to pessimism, Marsh still works out four days a week. He keeps his weight at 205 pounds.

It was at this point in the interview, it had been going on for about an hour, that I felt I wanted to cheer up Marsh. I’m not sure exactly what prompted it. Yeah, part of it was that he was a good kid. I appreciated his work ethic, his thoroughness to his craft. I have found very few athletes to be so determined.

I imagine you have some incredible memories, I offered rather carefully.

And out they came. The river was very much in full flow.

“I got to play Notre Dame twice,” he began.

“One was in Yankee Stadium. The other time was in Notre Dame. Our team bus had a helicopter hovering over it, guiding us to their stadium. I played at AT&T Park, the Rose Bowl, the Oakland Coliseum. I got to see some of the best quarterbacks in college football, like Teddy Bridgewater. I got to play in three bowl games.”

The current was picking up speed.

“Two memories really stand out. In my first college game, on my very first kickoff the kickoff return guy from Pitt fumbled the ball on the 10-yard line. The ball rolled forward 30 yards. Through everybody. Right to me. I fell on it. One of our linebackers fell on top of me, put his arms around me, and took all the hits. It was incredible.

“The second one was a designed play out of a punt. I ran 15 yards for a first down against Arizona State.”

“And . . . ” I asked. I was leading Marsh on. Clearly. The mind that burned a 3.93 grade point average at Petaluma High School caught on and responded quickly.

“I got to shake Rex Ryan’s hand,” Marsh said. “I got to shake Bill Belichick’s hand . . . I’ve been to the most of the states in this country because of football.”

Marsh spent four years at the University of Utah, one of them as a redshirt freshman. He spent his fourth year of athletic eligibility at Rutgers.

According to Utah’s website, the non-resident cost per year for living on campus is $42,328. At Rutgers, the non-resident cost is $39,391.

If you are keeping score at home, that’s $208,703.

“The first question I always get is this: How much student debt do you owe?” Marsh said. “I feel a little awkward when I say I don’t have any debt.”

No debt and a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has completed one quarter of the work he’ll need to get his master’s in labor and employment relations. The journey he has taken has inspired his father to write a book on a realistic view of how to get a college athletic scholarship.

“I need to be productive,” Marsh said. “I don’t want to waste my life waiting for someone to call.”

To that end Marsh flew to Salt Lake City Wednesday to begin a two-month interview process as a financial analyst with Goldman Sachs, a global investment firm. If the NFL does call — Stellato did email Marsh a few days ago that the Cowboys wanted his bio — Marsh will be on the first plane out of Salt Lake.

Marsh will work out four days a week in Utah. His dream is not dead. He’ll turn 23 on Sept. 5. He has time. Plenty of it. To wonder what’s ahead. To appreciate what’s behind.

“I think you got it pretty good,” I said to Marsh.

“Yes,” Marsh said, liking the view, “it’s been awesome.”

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.