Kicker Joel Monroe, all about the competition

Senior kicker Joel Monroe is a bit of a competition junkie. Whether heâÄôs walking on at Minnesota, winning the starting job from Jason Giannini or just playing a game of Horse field-goal style against the other Gophers kickers, Monroe is always seeking a challenge. So, naturally, his attitude on Saturday before nailing a 38-yard field goal to put the game out of reach against Indiana with 22 seconds left in the game was this: Bring it on. âÄúThatâÄôs where all the fun comes in,âÄù Monroe said. âÄúThatâÄôs what itâÄôs all about.âÄù The entire second half against the Hoosiers was all about Monroe. He was the only man to put points on the board, nailing three field goals, and none more important or pressure-packed than the one that made the score 16-7 with less than half a minute to play. Or so one would think. âÄúI didnâÄôt feel any extra pressure,âÄù Monroe said. âÄúIt was essentially the same kick as all the other ones; youâÄôre just out there kicking a field goal. The first two were just as important as the third one, you just didnâÄôt know it at the time.âÄù ThereâÄôs a sense of confidence in that response âÄî confidence that Monroe has earned during his tenure at Minnesota. Monroe wasnâÄôt recruited by former Gophers head coach Glen Mason. Nevertheless, he made the team as a walk-on, redshirted as a freshman in 2004 and took the post of backup to fellow redshirt freshman Jason Giannini, who was on scholarship in 2005. MonroeâÄôs playing time during the 2005 season was spotty at best; his performance yielded nine extra points and a field goal . He kept working. In 2006, his mammoth leg was put to use on kickoffs. He handled all 69, made two of his three field goal attempts and all nine point-after attempts. He kept working. And in 2007, the work finally paid off. It started before the season even began when Monroe was awarded a scholarship. Then Giannini, who had struggled toward the end of 2006, continued underperforming, and after missing all three of his field goal attempts against Miami (Ohio), Monroe was given the nod . Or better yet, the challenge. And as they say, the rest is history. Monroe grabbed the place-kicking reins the following week and never let go. Through MinnesotaâÄôs remaining 10 games, he made seven of nine field goals and booted 28 point-after attempts. In 2008, heâÄôs already up to seven field goals and 21 extra points in six games. For his three field goal effort Saturday, Monroe was named Big TenâÄôs co-Special TeamâÄôs Player of the Week. Walk-on in 2004, Big Ten Player of the Week in 2008. While fielding a flurry of questions about SaturdayâÄôs game-clinching kick, Monroe paused for a moment to relish how far heâÄôs come. âÄúItâÄôs a great feeling to be here five years later as the starter,âÄù he said. As for how he made it to where he is now, âÄúItâÄôs all about believing in yourself.âÄù Monroe has a team that believes in him too. âÄúHe just hit those last three field goals to win the game for us,âÄù senior defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg said of the GophersâÄô 16-7 victory against Indiana. âÄúBut thatâÄôs what we expect from a senior and a guy like him.âÄù And sophomore quarterback Adam Weber said itâÄôs an immense help to have faith in your kicker. âÄúEvery time you get close to the end zone you want to put six points up,âÄù he said. âÄúBut itâÄôs nice to know you have a kicker that has one of the strongest legs in the country and is very accurate.âÄù And one thatâÄôs good at Horse.