Steven Hauschka, a 16-year-old soccer and lacrosse player, was a huge Patriots fan. He wasn't playing football, though, concentrating instead on other sports and the trombone.
Thirteen years later, Hauschka is facing his once-favorite team in the Super Bowl. Hauschka is a kicker for the Seattle Seahawks, bidding for his second Super Bowl title in a row.
"It's very fitting to play your childhood team," Hauschka said. "I grew up rooting for the Patriots. When they won that first Super Bowl on Vinatieri's foot … that was the craziest thing."
What's crazy is that Hauschka is a kicker on one of the best teams in the NFL. His path to the NFL took him from a Division III soccer program to a Division I football program.
Hauschka went to Middlebury College in Vermont to play soccer, but he was unable to keep his spot on the varsity roster. As a sophomore, he tried out for the football team. Over the next three years, Hauschka developed into an All-NESCAC kicker and punter — even though he never played football before college.
As a senior in 2006, Middlebury was 6-2. One of the losses came Oct. 28 at Trinity's Jessee/Miller Field. Hauschka's 31-yard field goal was Middlebury's only score in a 34-3 loss.
After graduating from Middlebury, Hauschka had one year of eligibility left. He went to graduate school at North Carolina State and tried out for the football team.
"They just told me I'd be a kickoff guy," he said. "They didn't tell me I would be a field goal guy. I ended up winning the job there and was applying to dental schools at the same time."
He won a job and was 25 of 25 on extra points and 16 of 18 on field goals. His 42-yard field goal in overtime at Miami lifted N.C. State to a 19-16 victory and NFL teams took notice.
Hauschka, whose brother and mother are dentists, was accepted to dental school at UCLA and Boston University. But NFL teams were showing strong interest.
"I realized that I should give this a shot and see if I could make it a career out of this," Hauschka said. "I put dental school on hold and started training for combine-type stuff and was picked up as an undrafted free agent for the Minnesota Vikings."
And that began his professional football journey. He was released by the Vikings before the 2008 season and signed by the Baltimore Ravens. He would also play for the Falcons, Lions, Broncos and the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives. He joined the Seahawks in 2011 and has been their kicker since, appearing in 64 games while establishing himself as one of the most depending kickers in football.
Dental school is no longer in the plans.
"I don't think so," Hauschka said. "I've moved passed it now. I don't really want to go back through six years of school at this point."
The Patriots skipped the traditional Saturday walk-through practice, as the team spent the day resting. Center Bryan Stork, who missed the AFC Championship Game because of a knee injury, was upgraded from questionable to probable. … former New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi will serve as honorary captain for the Patriots. The Seahawks chose former safety Kenny Easley as their honorary captain. … The Seahawks did hold a walk-though and safety Kam Chanceller, who injured his left knee at the end of Friday's practice, was deemed healthy by coach Pete Carroll. According to the pool report provided by the Pro Football Writers of America, Chancellor was not favoring his knee. "He looked pretty good today," Carroll said. ... The Patriots will wear white Sunday. The teams wearing white have won nine of the past 10 Super Bowls and are 30-18 overall. The Giants wore white in their Super Bowl victories over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. The last team to win a title in a non-white jersey: the Packers wore green four years ago. … Pete Carroll, 63, and Bill Belichick, 62, will be the first opposing Super Bowl coaches at age 60 or older, and are the second and third oldest coaches in the NFL behind 68-year-old Tom Coughlin of the Giants. The winner Sunday will be the second-oldest Super Bowl-winning coach behind Coughlin (65 years, 158 days) and Dick Vermeil (63 years, 92 days). Carroll was 62 years, 140 days when he won last year. … The eight combined Super Bowl appearances — Belichick with six, Carroll with two — are the most of any Super Bowl coaching matchup. The previous high was seven (Belichick with five, Coughlin with two) in Super Bowl XLVI. … This is the fourth time a coach has faced a team he previously coached (Carroll is a former Patriots coach). Jon Gruden coached against the Raiders, Dan Reeves against the Broncos, and Weeb Ewbank against the Colts. … The 48 Super Bowl coin flips have been an even split, 24 heads and 24 tails. The coin flip winner has won four of the past five Super Bowls. The Patriots are 1-6 in Super Bowl coin flips and lost the coin flip in each of their three Super Bowl victories. … Of 34 predictions from ESPN analysts and personalities, 18 went with the Seahawks and 16 the Patriots. Among those picking the Patriots: Bruschi (23-20, Pats)