ISU kicker embodies unique blend of carefree, prepared


Cole Netten poses at football media day.

Max Dible

Cole Netten has a lot of down time — both during fall camp and during games — but he doesn’t spend it worrying. 

It is perhaps a surprising revelation from a man with one of the most pressure-packed, mentally straining jobs on the ISU football team: that of the kicker. 

“You just can’t really worry,” Netten explained. “Once you learn to stop worrying about ‘What if I miss?’ and stuff like that … then a lot of good things will happen.”

Because Netten may be called upon in an instant to trot onto the field and asked to execute a play that could decide the outcome of a 60-minute game for his team in a matter of only a few seconds, a carefree attitude must permeate his entire life. 

How else can someone perform in such a tense scenario unless he knows how to relax?

The redshirt junior out of Ankeny, Iowa, who earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors last season, fosters his “hakuna matata” outlook in part by dominating FIFA video-game tournaments among special teams players during downtime at fall camp. 

While the rest of the team sweats under the hot, August sun, he’s jogging or casually riding the exercise bike or working on his physique in the weight room. But don’t get it confused; when it comes to his job, he prepares as intently as any member of the ISU football team. 

And when his number is called, he’s ready to deliver. 

“I’m always prepared, even when we’re on defense,” Netten said. “I’m always aware of the situation … Before the game, I’ll talk to Rhoads and I’ll say ‘Hey, I’m comfortable from this far out going this way,’ based on the wind.”

Preparation will be even more key in 2015 as the South End Zone Project has altered the landscape at Jack Trice Stadium for kickers to a greater extent than for any other position group. 

Netten said the wind tended to swoop through the stadium out of the south and into his face when he kicked in that direction. But with such major construction, the wind patterns have changed. He’s had successful practice sessions from 50-plus yards kicking south and has also struggled from as close as 35 yards because of swirling gusts.

And ISU coach Paul Rhoads has set the standard for Netten himself. From 40 yards and in, Rhoads expects his kicker to be perfect. 

“Hopefully, (the construction) will block (the wind) off,” Netten said. “Hopefully, it doesn’t make it tunnel more and down, and make it swirl a little bit, but I’ll get a couple more times out in Jack Trice before the season (starts).”

Rhoads said he believes Netten, who hit 11-of-14 field goals last season along with all 35 of his extra-point attempts, can be one of the best kickers in the country. 

The coach based those expectations on Netten’s consistency, his physical knowledge of where a kick went wrong and his mental fortitude to correct and move past the mistake. 

“If you don’t have that, you’re in trouble,” Rhoads said.

Netten, who described the skill-set ratio at his position as 80 percent mental to 20 percent physical, will be tested more heavily in both aspects this season in a now fully-enclosed Jack Trice Stadium.

Those tests will come as 61,000 fans look on, and the wind attempts to play tricks on him.

The biggest special teams question of the season is: Will Netten figure it out before the season begins?

“Yes,” he said. “Hopefully.”