Saints Hall of Famer John Carney hosted a Kicking Challenge camp at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Saints Kicker Wil Lutz served as an honorary coach at the camp.
Throughout his 21-year NFL career, John Carney ranked among the NFL's most productive and accurate kickers. He took his considerable skills to a new level when he joined the New Orleans Saints in 2001 and became one of the best kickers in club history, being inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame in 2014. Today, Carney runs a plethora of kicking camps year-round including a pre-season training camp for professional kickers in Carlsbad, Calif., called "The Launching Pad."
"What The Launching Pad is, is a one week intense training session for NFL specialists only to prep themselves mentally and physically for training camp and the season," Carney said in a video conference call with local New Orleans media Wednesday. "Professional athletes, kickers and punters, NFL players in a normal, regular offseason, which we know we're not in right now, in July, knowing that it's the last opportunity for them to go on family vacations, take care of honey-do's around the house, go to the DMV, get that last vacation in with the family and friends, they get a little bit off their cycle, their system, their routine, as far as training is concerned and they can end up at training camp, not quite tuned in mentally and physically the way they would like to be. So this Launching Pad week, I created this eight years ago, it's intentionally about a week and a half to two weeks out prior to training camp for the NFL guys that come in and really fine tune themselves, physically and mentally, learned from me.
"We gave presentations this past week, presentations on longevity," Carney said. "I know a couple of things about longevity and we had a nutrition presentation. We also had a presentation on game time routine and pregame routine. So, so important that a player's routine, especially a kicker and punter, they're doing the right things in pregame to prepare them for the game, their understanding of the conditions and the challenges of that field and stadium. And then during the game, what are they doing to keep themselves mentally and physically on point and not getting themselves emotionally pulled into the game where they're following the ebb and flow of the game, win or lose, and they lose their own even keel focus on their swing thoughts and their method of their madness to get the job done."
Now that his eighth annual Launching Pad camp is in the books, Carney is preparing for the "Specialist Preseason Combine," where he works with free agent specialists that are on the short list of a number of NFL teams.
"Many of these guys have NFL experience or they're right there on the edge of making a team and they're on the short list of teams around the country and they need an opportunity to get in front of scouts and get in front of personnel people right before the season starts," Carney said. "So all 32 NFL teams have an updated list and a correct list of what these specialists look like in August going into the season. It breaks my heart when I see a team that has a need for a kicker or punter or long snapper because their starter gets hurt or is underperforming and I see the guys that they call up and fly in for that workout and they're the wrong guys. They're just out of shape, or they're not punting or kicking or snapping well, or there's somebody better that they could have brought in and they missed on it. So I want to make sure these NFL teams have their list and the correct players and, for me personally, when I'm training these guys that come through Carlsbad that come through Carney Training Facility that I see during the course of the year, I want to make sure our guys have an opportunity again, to get in front of those personnel directors and show them, hey, it's time they're ready to go and they should be on that list as things get started for the season."
In addition to helping professionals continue their NFL careers, Carney mentors college and high school prospects. His camps have provided an opportunity for student-athletes to hone their skills and put together film for scouts and recruiters during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have some college kids here (at the Carney Training Facility) that are still floating around training, high school kids, high school football here in California was just postponed to the winter," Carney said. "We have a lot of high school kids that are available now for lessons. We're doing lessons and clinics with those guys. It gives them an opportunity, another three, four months to tune in their game and then to improve and of course the challenge for them is the upperclassmen. How can I get some exposure with the colleges when I'm not having a season this fall? We're going to address that this fall and try to get these kids connected with some colleges, even though they're not having a season, but get some good film out to those colleges and start that dialogue with those special teams coaches so these kids can feel like they can get recruited, even though they're not having a season this fall."