Mental game toughest of all

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Duncan O'Mahony the psychology major and Duncan O'Mahony the B.C. Lions placekicker/punter agree on one crucial topic.

The greatest test this season for Calgary Stampeders rookie placekicker Sandro DeAngelis and first-year punter Burke Dales will take place inside their helmets.

Succeed there and they could enjoy long and prosperous CFL careers. Fail and they'll be just a footnote to the Stampeders 2005 season, replaced by someone else.

"It comes down to mental toughness and everyone's different," O'Mahony said.

"Some people can handle that. Other people can't. They live in the past and the future while they should be living in the present.

"A big question is how mentally tough are these kids? That's what pro sports is all about. Physically they're all quite similar but mentally, where are you? That's where you have to take your game up, especially at the kicker position because that's all it is. It's a repetition you do thousands and thousands of times, so that's why I say you have to have that confidence in your ability. Believe in your swing, believe in your mechanics.

"I've always prided myself on mental toughness. I never let other people get into my head or let my game change because of it. You just have to stay on your mission, stay in the present, don't get ahead of yourself and if you have a bad kick don't dwell on the past, just keep living in the moment and that will be the key question. I don't know how they'll handle that and that will be the big test, of course."

O'Mahony should know.

He broke into the league as a punter with the Stampeders in 2001 after being drafted in the second round (14th overall) that spring.

The UBC product earned the reputation as one of the best punters in the league and, although failing to succeed in both roles in a late-season bid in 2003, he eventually earned both spots with the Lions after signing as a free agent before last season.

DeAngelis, 24, a Niagara Falls, Ont., native, is making the big-league jump after four seasons at Nebraska.

Dales, 28, is a Collingwood, Ont., product who plied his trade at Concordia and has mutual friends with O'Mahony, although the two had never met prior to last night's pre-season game.

O'Mahony suggests that although kicking at both the college and CFL levels is essentially the same, quicker athletes in the professional game sometimes forces young rookies into making costly errors.

"The biggest aspect I noticed was the speed of the game and how there was less room for mistakes to be made and that was probably the biggest adjustment to be made," said O'Mahony, who turns 29 later this month.

"You may be a great punter on the amateur college level, get rid of the ball and do well, but now all of a sudden you have to cut off an extra tenth here or there. That was my biggest challenge -- speed myself up without having to change your mechanics."


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