MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – From the pitch to the gridiron. Casey Legg’s journey to becoming a Mountaineer is anything but traditional.
Legg grew up a soccer player. That’s the sport he always envisioned playing in college but one simple question asked during a match in 2017 led to a future he never thought was possible.
“At the game, an opposing team’s parent or grandparent asked my mom if I had ever kicked footballs. She said ‘no, he’s never kicked.’ I had a couple of days off of school so we thought might as well go try it,” Legg said. “I really don’t think I would have ever tried it if that parent wouldn’t have asked my mom that question.”
He still remembers that first kick so clearly. It was a Wednesday night in October at Laidley Field, the University of Charleston stadium.
Legg had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t even have the proper equipment which made the outcome even more surprising.
“We had to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods and buy footballs. I was completely out of it. I had one of those old, orange tees. Not the kick-off tee but almost the metal field goal tee. I brought it out and kicked at Laidley Field,” Legg said. “I loved it. Loved it. I kicked well and that was probably out of complete beginner’s luck because I had no idea what I was doing. I just looked at the ball and kicked it.”
It’s that same simplicity behind his first ever attempt that Legg carries with him on the field today. The pressure that comes with making a kick can often lead to overthinking. As Legg stated, “games are won and lost by kicking.”
That pressure isn’t something that Legg is shying away from, but if he lets it consume him, his on-the-field production will suffer. Once he takes the field for a kick, he tries to completely ignore the outcome.
Stand tall. Stay smooth. Swing to the target.
That’s all that goes through Legg’s mind after he takes his steps back. He puts the pressure of his kick to the side and remembers the three objectives he’s built his game around.
“I have a tendency to really crunch on my field goals so that’s why I stand tall. If I swing too hard, I’ll shank the ball. Swinging to my target, well, I think makes sense,” Legg said.
It took Legg quite a few years to develop this mindset. Every time he looked back at a kick that was successful, those three things were present every time. He noticed their absence on kicks that did make it through the uprights.
All of these techniques, both physically and mentally, were learned through years of trial and error.
Legg didn’t grow up going to football camps or watching videos on correct form. He didn’t know what it was going to take to be a successful kicker on a football team. He didn’t even know how to get his body to make the correct swing.
“I do think it’s been catch-up for me with form in mind. Ever since I got here, it’s almost all been about making kicks. I felt that pressure my true freshman year and I feel it today. Whatever form I have to use to make kicks, I’m going to use that form,” Legg said.
“When you change your form, there’s a process of you get worse before you get better. I don’t feel I’ve had time to do that since I’ve been here. That’s part of maybe the negative side of not having a coach early on in high school to build form lime you would a golf swing.”
So, if he could go back and do it all over again, would he have played football school?
“I would. I think that would relieve some of the form issues I’ve had and some of the transition. I think it would have been easier to start even in 9th grade, but I didn’t,” Legg said. “I’m thankful for how it worked out but looking back, I think even in 9th grade I’d say ‘okay, you know what, I’m going to kick a few footballs and see where this could go.’”
When you consider Legg has only been a kicker for five years, it makes what he’s accomplished at WVU even more impressive.
The Charleston native was a semifinalist for the 2021 Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the nation’s best placekicker in college football. He was named to the award’s 2022 preseason watch list in July.
He started the season with 13 made field goals, just two shy of the program record. He also ranks No. 8 in program history in career field goals made with 24.
Legg hit 19-of-23 field goal attempts last year, putting him in a tie for No. 6 in single-season program history in field goals made. He also connected on all 35 extra point attempts.
Not shabby for a guy who had no prior kicking experience, now is it?
“I try not to think about it when I’m on the field,” Legg said of his success. “Off the field, I take the time to appreciate it with my family. I’m thankful for how it worked out.”
The West Virginia native has been representing his home state on the field since 2018. He still remembers “blacking out” on his first kickoff as a true freshman that year.
He’s since earned himself a scholarship and a place among the nation’s best at the position, proving his passion for the game led to more success than any extra years of preparation ever could.