Daily Egyptian: Early in the year you struggled, but you developed into a strong team asset as the season progressed. What did you do to improve?
Austin Johnson: In the beginning of the season, I was a true freshman and kicking was really nerve-wracking for me. It was just kind of hard to go out there and step up. One night, I had a talk with some of the guys on the team and I told them the next time I stepped on the field I wasn’t going to let them down. That’s what I’ve been trying to prove. I’m doing what I know I can do.
DE: Talk me through your 42- yard field goal Saturday, which bounced on the crossbar twice before rolling through the uprights.
AJ: I kicked the ball, and then my holder (junior punter Austin Pucylowski) and I were standing there thinking, ‘This thing needs to squeeze through. It’s going to be close.’ I saw it hit the post and thought it was going to kick straight down. I started walking off the field because I thought I missed it, and then I heard the crowd cheering and realized I made it. I did a Tiger Woods-fist pump afterward. That is the luckiest field goal I have ever had. It’s also the weirdest.
DE: The 42-yarder was the longest of your collegiate career. How far can you kick a field goal?
AJ: In practice, with the right conditions, I can kick a 55-yarder … I had the wind in my face Saturday, so that is the reason why it did that. I can go close to 60 yards with the wind on my back.
DE: You played kicker and wide receiver in high school, and you have showed some speed on the field. Is a fake field goal in the team’s arsenal?
AJ: We tried it at Youngstown State (Oct. 27). Sadly, they knew it was coming because I lined up for my field goal and our lineman heard the defense talking about watching for a pitch. (Pucylowski) and I were sitting there debating whether or not we should call timeout, but we decided to see what happened and the defenders all fanned out and stopped it. It’s definitely in the arsenal.
DE: Your kicking coach is former NFL kicker Billy Cundiff. How did you get connected with him?
AJ: Billy was trying out for the Kansas City Chiefs, and my high school coach called Billy up and asked if he could help me out. Billy came over to my high school and practiced with me two or three times a week. He’s made me into a really good kicker, and we’ve been best buds ever since then.