Iowa kicker Miguel Recinos manages tricky winds, extreme pressure to find success
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Things are going so smoothly for Miguel Recinos that the Iowa placekicker can even drop “symbiotic” into a conversation with sportswriters without seeming pretentious.
“That’s a little bit of my biology background,” the Hawkeye senior explained, after it was pointed out to him that it’s a word not normally encountered during football interviews.
Recinos was explaining the reasons for his recent success, which amounts to nine consecutive made field goals topped by a career-long 49-yarder Saturday at Penn State. The symbiosis he spoke of involved long-snapper Jackson Subbert, holder Colten Rastetter and himself each becoming so attuned to their roles that they are able to function as a single organism, even during high-stress activities such as trying to propel a football through stiff winds and between goal posts that are 18 feet, 6 inches apart.
Recinos made a career-best three field goals despite winds gusting up to 40 mph two weeks ago against Maryland. He has made all 28 of his point-after attempts. He leads No. 18 Iowa (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten Conference) with 64 points heading into a 2:30 p.m. game Saturday at Purdue (4-4, 3-2).
Recinos has done all of that with a quiet confidence that he’s had to learn through four trying years after arriving here from Mason City as a walk-on in 2014. The life of a kicker is a solitary exercise, the eyes of 70,000 fans fixing on you only when the team needs you the most.
The role is not for the mentally weak, and Recinos, an exceptionally bright student, has become well aware of that.
“He’s very determined,” said Rastetter, a junior punter who is Recinos’ best friend on the team. “If he fails at something, he comes back twice as hard trying to improve and show the team that he’s dedicated.”
Recinos beats back early struggles with new Kinnick winds
Recinos missed three of his first six field-goal attempts this season. (He had made 11 of 13 as a junior, so this was a bit of a surprise.) All of those 2018 attempts had come in Kinnick Stadium, and Recinos said he was perplexed to discover that the wind patterns in his home venue had been dramatically altered by the new construction in the north end zone. Recinos said the wind seemingly comes from a different direction every 15-20 yards when one is down on the field.
That much was apparent when he lined up for a 50-yard attempt in the second game, a 13-3 win over Iowa State.
“You’ve got planes of wind, basically,” Recinos explained. “It’s really hard to read. You can’t just look at the flags anymore. You have to feel it.”
On the 50-yarder, Recinos thought he noticed a pronounced crosswind, so he kicked it toward the right goalpost, assuming the ball would blow safely through the uprights. The winds were a mirage, however, and Recinos watched in dismay as his kick stayed perfectly straight and just wide right.
By the Maryland game, Recinos had made the adjustment, with the help of Rastetter, who is also a keen observer of wind direction. Recinos was true from 23 and 25 yards early, then had to handle a tricky 36-yarder.
Rastetter was spot-on with some meteorological advice.
“It’s almost like an out-of-game experience. It feels like you’re out in the back yard with the guys,” Recinos laughed, painting a picture of Rastetter standing on the field trying to “feel” the wind currents.
“You might as well have backed that up 20 yards in terms of the difficulty of it,” he added of that 36-yard kick. “Because I had to punch it through three planes of wind.”
A lonely position, an 'extremely strong sense of self'
Growing up, Recinos was a goalkeeper in soccer in Mason City. That’s another solitary position, but one where his natural intensity was an asset, he said. He’s had to learn to control that emotion as a kicker.
Athletes who play goalie or kicker tend to be a little off-center in terms of personality. Recinos took that observation and ran with it.
“It’s an interesting combination of very costly mistakes, the fact that it’s for the most part really you out there,” he said. “You just need to have an extremely strong sense of self. They’re not afraid to be themself because they’ve already been out there with 70,000 … people watching their every move. You kind of get over that, and you get a sense of comfort of like, ‘Well, you know, it’s really not that bad. Everyone’s watching me and, quite frankly, blank them. It’s me. I’m going to do me and they can all deal with it.’”
Yes, Recinos really did say “blank them.” He has an extensive vocabulary, but it doesn’t extend to vulgarities.
Not your typical football interview, indeed.