Following the final college game in the career of kicker Kyle Major, on Nov. 26, 2011, the ThunderWolves were faced with what was to be quite the difficult transition.
A replacement was needed for the 2011 Daktronics second-team All-American who currently owns all of the T-Wolf scoring records.
Entering the fifth game of the 2012 season however, against the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, the transition to new T-Wolf kicker, redshirt freshman, Greg O’Donnell has been hardly noticeable.
O’Donnell has been the recipient of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week two times in his brief career, spanning four games; the most recent coming after a 30-0 victory against the Adams State University Grizzlies.
O’Donnell finished the game 3-for-3 in field goal attempts, making a career high 49 yard field goal, as well as 3-for-3 in point-after-touchdown attempts, scoring 12 points.
After four games, it has become more clear why Division I programs were interested in O’Donnell coming out of St. Mary’s High School, in Monument, Colo.
“I was recruited by Air Force and I got a couple of calls from the University of Washington, but they didn’t really talk to me as much as CSU-Pueblo did,” O’Donnell said.
In spite of his accomplishments thus far, O’Donnell refuses to be satisfied with his progress.
“It’s not like once I get it (the award), I’m happy about it, but from then on it’s just a label,” O’Donnell said.
One aspect of the kicking game that needs improvement, according to O’Donnell, would be his performance kicking on the road.
“I can’t just keep doing well in the home games, I got to do well in the away games too,” O’Donnell said.
After two games at the Neta and Eddie Derose Thunderbowl, O’Donnell is 6-for-6 in field goal attempts and 8-for-8 in point-after-touchdown attempts, scoring 26 points. In addition, he earned the RMAC Special Teams Player of the Week award following both of those games.
Entering the T-Wolves third game on the road, O’Donnell is 0-for-3 in field goal attempts and 8-for-10 in point-after-touchdown attempts, contributing with eight points.
“The home turf is a little more relaxed and at ease and calmed down,” O’Donnell said. “On the away games, it’s like a whole different feeling. You’re at a different place, you’ve never kicked there before, and sometimes the most minor things could go wrong and it just messes up the kick completely.”
Although Majors’ tenure with the T-Wolves ended last winter, his expertise has been passed down to O’Donnell, giving him a few tools to be a better kicker, following a difficult, yet beneficial season spent watching from the sidelines.
“He was really helpful in some aspects,” O’Donnell said. “He was a great teacher; he helped me a lot with nerves and what to think about when I’m going out to make a kick and some tips on getting height and distance on a ball when I’m kicking off the ground.”
Although Major has been able to mentor O’Donnell in his preparation of kicking in Division II, a few aspects of the game could only be discovered through live game experiences.
“I kicked off a one inch block in high school, and here it’s off the ground; if you make a mistake, it shows up a little more when you kick,” O’Donnell said. “It’s all about adjusting to stuff.”
Although O’Donnell is a little less than halfway through his first season as the T-Wolves kicker, his goals are similar to even the most seasoned of Division II veterans.
“I really want to shoot for the RMAC Special Teams Player of the Year, so we’ll see what happens,” O’Donnell said.