"...this is a new year, a new team and this is still our time." - Garrett Hartley
A couple of days ago I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Saints kicker Garrett Hartley over the phone for a few minutes before he headed off to Seattle. Today I present to you the results of that conversation.
Garrett was very well-spoken, down-to-earth and honest with all of his answers as we discussed the playoffs, his troubles earlier this season, his relationship with veteran kicker John Carney and Justin Bieber. I think you'll get a "kick" out of some of the more personal information he was willing to share with us.
I would like to thank Garrett for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us, especially right before the teams all-important Wild Card playoff game against the Seahawks.
Canal Street Chronicles: Were you watching for a Rams/Seahawks game hoping for a Rams win so you guys would be playing in a dome?
Garrett Hartley: I was obviously watching the game but I guess at this point it doesn't really matter where we play. I just know our team is battle-tested and it doesn't matter if we have to play outside in the elements or if we have the privilege of playing in a dome. At this point in the season we've proved that we can play outside or inside. From that standpoint it really wasn't a concern of mine. Whoever we're playing I just want to prepare accordingly.
CSC: Are you looking forward to playing a certain team more than any other in the playoffs this year?
Hartley: No, not really. It's just a matter of who are opponent is this week and this week we have Seattle. Whatever happens after this week we'll prepare accordingly. I'm not looking forward to playing someone else in particular again. We just have to take care of our opponent and then worry about the next after we take care of business.
CSC: As you head into the playoffs, does this season feel any different than last year and how?
Hartley: There's always a difference but then again it's a different team. I don't think there's any lack of confidence, by any means. We're in the playoffs and whether it's a first seed or a wild card, we're going to take care of business. Last year was great and there is nothing that will ever take that away from us however this is a new year, a new team and this is still our time. We understand that this is going to be a dog fight, week in and week out. As I said before, we're battle tested and we'll be ready.
CSC: Do you make any special preparations for the playoffs or is it just another week?
Hartley: It's just another week in the season. Just another work day. As far as all of that goes, it's all the same.
CSC: Are there any bad kicks that linger in your memory or really stick with you long term? Or do you really have a short memory?
Hartley: You learn from your mistakes and your missed kicks. I'm sure everyone wants to talk about the Atlanta miss in Week 3 that could have potentially had us fighting for the number one seed. But there are also awesome kicks like those against the 49ers. So I just have to try to take the positive with negative and try to stay on an even keel just knowing that the next kick is the most important up to this point. My attitude is: that's my job. I'm going out there to put three points on the board. As long as you learn from your mistakes and try to become a true professional.
CSC: You hit a bit of a rough patch earlier this season and the team brought in John Carney for a few games. What's the conversation between kicker and coach at that point? Is Payton re-assuring or does he give you the evil eye and say you better shape up and ship out?
Hartley: Well obviously actions speak louder than words. Rather than going out and signing someone that they would want for the future they bring back John, who has been such a tremendous help for me. Just to work on some technical aspects as well as the mental game. I don't think there was any evil eye. At the same time, he [Payton] doesn't have to do that; I'm my worst critic. I know I should make kicks that I've missed and the main is that you learn from your mistakes and not have them happen again.
CSC: What does Carney help you with?
Hartley: Just trying not to over-rush the kick. Just to have a couple of thoughts in my head: coming straight to the ball, don't try to over swing and just trust yourself. Everything you do in practice just take it over to the game. Since I've been starting again, it's paid off. We've been rather productive out there anytime we're needed.
CSC: When you hit that rough patch is it mental or mechanics?
Hartley: At that point it was actually more mechanics. We went 8/8 in the pre-season than started off the regular season 0/2, one of them being a 46-yard FG in a dome so obviously you should make it. And then we had the shorter one which we we missed left. Then we hit the one to send it to overtime against the Falcons - we were feeling confident - and then, for whatever reason, went to our bad habits and missed the 29-yard field goal.
You want to correct those mechanics, understand what you're doing wrong, understand how you need to correct them. That's something I took to heart when I sat down in the film room with John and going out to practice. Working on it day in and day out with him and still continuing to make sure my mechanics are where I need them, especially going in the post-season.
CSC: I know fans can be fickle. Do you notice a difference in fan reaction based on your performance from week-to-week?
Hartley: It's funny because people want to come up and say "Hi" or want an autograph or picture. They might want to ask "What's going on? Why are you missing?" Honest people have honest questions. I try to answer everything accordingly. When thing's weren't going well that means stepping up and talking with the media. Facing the wolves, as some people call it. It's always nice when people say they're behind you, that they believe in you and that other great kickers of the past have hit rough patches here and there. Whenever you come out and have a good game there might be more people that want to hop on the bandwagon. I know the true fans out there are always supporting and always believing while other fans are week to week with how well you do. But I don't hold any bad feelings toward them, that's how they are and that's fine. The bottom line is that I know what I have to do being the starting kicker for the Saints, going out there to do my job and ultimately helping my team win another championship.
CSC: If you could play another position, what would it be?
Hartley: I would say running back.
CSC: You sure you want to say running back given how beat up the team currently is at the position?
Hartley: I was a running back my freshman year in high school until I got to start on varsity soccer and my dad didn't want me to get hurt.
CSC: That was a wise move.
Hartley: Yeah. At the same time I haven't grown any taller since so I guess that was a smart move.
CSC: Who are some of your closest teammates?
Hartley: Thomas [Morstead], for sure. Jeff Charleston, Anthony Hargrove and now Justin Drescher now that he's on the team. And Chase Daniel. All being from the same high school - me, Chase and Justin - it's a rare commodity.
CSC: So you guys played together in high school? Were you there at the same time?
Hartley: Me and Chase played together. Justin got brought up but didn't actually play with me until my senior year.
CSC: Do you have any tattoos?
Hartley: I do. I have one tattoo.
CSC: Do you want to tell us what it is or is it personal?
Hartley: It's a cross with the trinity interwoven on the back. I actually designed it myself and got it done in college as part of an art project. Being Catholic it has symbolic value to me.
CSC: Do you consider yourself an artist?
Hartley: I used to draw and paint when I had time. Over the past couple of years I haven't really done a lot of sketches or paintings.
CSC: Who was your favorite player growing up?
Hartley: I grew up in Dallas watching the big three - Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. I would have to say Emmitt Smith. He just struck me as a guy that I'd love to follow.
CSC: Do you have any pre-game rituals?
Hartley: It's subtle things. I don't listen to music blaring out of my headphones. I just kind of mellow out. I walk the field then come back in. I drink 3/4 of a bottle of Spark energy drink then after my warmups I come back in before team prayer and finish it. I always make sure I tie my left shoe before my right. That's it. I try not to get too crazy about it.
CSC: Speaking of music, what would we currently find on your iPod?
Hartley: It really just ranges, whatever mood I'm in. It can be anything from rap to country to rock. Everyhting from Eminem, Dre to your different country stars. There are a couple of female performers that are growing on me. You go to rock and it's the classics like AC/DC or alternative like the Kings of Leon. If you looked at my iPod it would be a complete mix and you'd say, "Wow, what is this guy listening to?"
CSC: No Justin Bieber?
Hartley: No Bieber on my iPod.
CSC: You don't have Bieber fever?
Hartley: Unfortunately not. I think I outgrew that phase quite a while ago.
CSC: Favorite place to eat in New Orleans?
Hartley: There are so many of them. I don't have a particular favorite type of food it just depends on what mood I'm in. From Chinese to pizza to Italian. I go to Impastato's. They have amazing Italian food. For steak I go to Morton's or Ruth's Chris. At the same time it's hard going out to eat the food that New Orleans has to offer just because you do try to manage your diet somewhat so a lot of the places are off limits. Acme Oyster House is also great. Like I said, it just depends on what mood I'm in.
CSC: I know it's still early in your career but have you given any thought to life after football?
Hartley: I'm a big outdoors man. I love hunting and being in the elements. I would like to do anything from being a kicking consultant to owning my own ranch to possibly being a sports analyst. I've seen [Jay] Feely do it on ESPN. I took marketing and journalism in college and really enjoyed it. a lot. I think I have the right personality and attitude for it but at the same time I want to keep this ball rolling as long as I can.
CSC: Are you involved in any charity work?
Hartley: My charities are going to be set up this off-season. My mom is an elementary special ed teacher dealing with everything from Autism to Downs Syndrome. I haven't really quite gotten it set yet but it's definitely going to be towards that. Otherwise I'm thinking about going the other route - my dad was in Vietnam with the Marine Corp as a sniper. I'm with Under Armour now and they do something with the Wounded Warrior Project. I think that would be a good fit and I think I understand with my dad being a vet and listening to him and his friends talk. It's something that hits home.