James Chandler misses a field goal, then starts hearing voices.
The Wild kicker isn’t crazy. The voices are what help him make the next one. They belong to the people who doubt he can become an accomplished kicker at a high level professionally.
Sometimes the voices are attached to no one in particular — the agents who refuse to represent him and the scouts who aren’t interested in watching him.
Chandler turns his misses and those doubts into excellent production. He made a 62-yard field goal at Omaha last month and last week he helped the Wild beat Allen by one point with a 55-yarder.
"I like having that chip on my shoulder, especially with these long field goals," Chandler said. "It’s a me-versus-everyone-who’s-ever-doubted-me kind of mentality. I expect to make them and I feel comfortable at that distance. My mentality is that, even if I miss, I want to show that I have more than enough leg to put it through."
Chandler moved to the United States from England as a high school sophomore, when his dad’s job was transferred to California. "Football" had a vastly different meaning to Chandler then, but his soccer skills translated to place-kicking immediately.
The transition was difficult for a proud Chandler. Even though he was a natural on the football field, he was only interested in kicking a soccer ball. He briefly quit football before realizing he could make a career in it.
"Naturally, it came easy for me," Chandler said. "The technique is a little bit different, but a lot of the mechanics are the same."
If Chandler had taken up the sport sooner, it’s possible he might have been discovered. His limited experience, though, took him first to a California junior college, then to West Texas A&M.
Chandler developed range quickly, routinely making 50-plus-yarders. He also learned to play the climate in Texas, where the wind affected most of his kicks. Getting a better feel for the game caused Chandler to develop professional aspirations.
"I could have pursued soccer in college, I believe, and kind of gone that route," Chandler said. "But I just decided I want to play (football). I think right there and then, when I was recruited by my junior college, I thought it was something I wanted to do. ’Let’s make a living out of this, let’s try and pursue this long-term.’”
There’s no wind in arena football, but the conditions can be just as difficult as in the outdoor game. A 62-yard attempt outdoors would have the kicker near the middle of the field, while indoors, with a 50-yard field, he is backed up in his own end zone and against the wall with the defense bearing down.
Goal posts indoors are about half the width of outdoor ones, and though there is no wind to affect the flight of the ball, precision is equally important. Chandler prefers kicking indoors because accuracy is a strength.
"You can make an argument that it’s more challenging because the field-goal posts are a lot skinnier," Chandler said. "But if you hit it true down the middle, it doesn’t matter how skinny those goal posts are, it will go in."