Seahawks' Coutu set to battle Mare for starting job

Brandon Coutu knows about patience.

After a stellar high school career at Collins Hill didn't yield a single football scholarship, the kicker walked on at Georgia. He redshirted his freshman year in 2003, but over the next four seasons became one of the top kickers in Bulldog history.

Coutu would like for that scenario to play out again in the NFL.

After battling veteran Olindo Mare last season for the Seattle Seahawks starting kicking job, Mare won the position and Coutu never saw the field. Call it a redshirt season in the NFL.

"It was very similar to that," Coutu said. "I watched every game from the sideline and I wanted to be out there."

With Seahawks' training camp starting Monday, Coutu would like to see the field this season just like he did his second year at Georgia. But he'll have to beat out Mare, one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL over the last 13 seasons.

"There's definitely competition," Coutu said. "But we hang out all the time. Some people don't understand that, but it's one of those things where you know you have to compete year in and year out. They bring in a younger guy every year and right now it's me. It's something that happens every year."

Coutu was back home in Suwanee earlier this month, training with one of the NFL's all-time greats, Morten Andersen. The former Atlanta Falcons kicker, who is the NFL's all-time leading scorer, has worked with Coutu on the mental preparation of kicking, field goal accuracy and kickoffs.

"I think we have a lot of similarities in how we train for the game," Coutu said. "If you can kick in the league for 25 years then I think he knows some things."

Coutu was a standout soccer and football player in high school. The 2002 Collins Hill grad never missed a PAT or field goal as a senior, eventually turning down soccer scholarships to walk on at Georgia.

In Athens, he hit a 58-yarder as a sophomore, which is the third-longest in school history, and also hit from 51 and 56 yards that season. A first-team All-SEC selection and third-team All-American, Coutu helped Georgia to the SEC championship in 2005.

A torn hamstring hampered him his junior year, but he still managed to make 10 of 11 field goals that season.

Throughout his entire college career he never missed a PAT, making 109 consecutive extra points. Coutu earned All-American honors and was a Lou Groza Award candidate, which goes to the nation's top kicker, as a senior.

Coutu was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft, one of only two kickers taken.

"I never imagined I would have made it this far," Coutu said. "I just wanted to play at Georgia. When that opportunity was over I wanted to get to the next level."

Coutu battled with Mare during the preseason, making 7 of 7 field goal attempts. He was 5-for-5, including a game-winning 36-yarder in overtime as Seattle beat Chicago in a preseason game.

Despite his accuracy and strength on field goals, it was on kickoffs where Coutu struggled and Mare won the job.

"One thing I've been working on is kickoffs," Coutu said. "At Georgia we had a different scheme than we have here. Olindo is one of the all-time greats in kickoffs in the NFL. I felt I was consistent with my field goals, I felt like I had a strong leg, but I just need to work on my kickoffs."

Coutu was on the active roster every week, but at game time he was placed on the non-active roster. He dressed out every game and watched from the sidelines as Mare made 24 of 27 field goals last season.

"It helped me realize how much it takes to compete at that level," Coutu said.

Coutu flew back to Seattle on Thursday, four days before the training camp where he will try to beat out Mare begins.

"We're going to compete," Coutu said. "I'm going to show what I can bring to the team."

It will be his second year in the pros, but Coutu still doesn't feel like he's arrived in the NFL.

"I still feel like I have a lot to prove," Coutu said. "I still haven't played in a game yet. In a preseason game I made five field goals, so I know I can do it. It still hasn't felt like I've made it to me."