Think the pressure of competing for an NFL job will wear on Brandon Coutu? Think again.
He's been through the rigors of having to prove himself before and he's come out on top. I fully expect him to do it again with the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted him in the seventh round of Sunday's NFL Draft.
His first test came after his senior season at Collins Hill. Despite going 9-for-9 on field goals, making 19 of 19 PATs and averaging 40.5 yards per punt, he wasn't a huge recruiting target, which befuddled his high school coaches.
Believing in his ability, Coutu chose the school he wanted - Georgia - but he had to join the team as a walk-on. The Bulldogs had signed Athens, Tenn., kicker Andy Bailey, who never developed into a go-to college player, partly because Coutu became so good.
With his strong leg and exceptional accuracy, Coutu kicked his way right into the Bulldogs' starting role. He won the competition for the starting job and never gave it up, in the process earning the scholarship he should have been given coming out of high school.
At Georgia he showed the ability to make the pressure kicks (his first college field goal was a 44-yarder in a close game with Georgia Tech) and the long kicks (a 58-yarder). Except for a torn hamstring his junior season, he remained one of the nation's best kickers, making 51 of 64 career kicks (79.7).
Now the pressure comes again. His job isn't guaranteed since Seattle, despite losing the proven Josh Brown at kicker, added free agent Olindo Mare in the offseason. It's another competition, but Coutu feels healthy and ready.
The Seahawks could have easily used the draft pick on a position player and signed a kicker as a free agent like many teams choose to do. Instead they showed their confidence in Coutu by drafting him.
"When they pick you as a kicker it's a good thing, it means they believe you can do the job," said Coutu, one of only two kickers selected in this year's draft.
The process of wondering which team will sign him is over for Coutu. Now it's all on him to prove himself. And he's prepared.
"I think having been through the competition will definitely help me," Coutu said. "I'm ready for it."
Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. His column appears on Thursdays.