Winning Field Goal A Highlight Of Kicking Career

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Michael Geiger

Twenty or 30 years from now, every die-hard Michigan State football fan will be able to tell you where they were on Nov. 21, 2015, when the Spartans traveled to Columbus to face second-ranked Ohio State.

"Friday we had a walk-through (in Ohio Stadium) to see what the conditions were," said Michael Geiger, the Spartans' junior kicker that season. "We were all in shorts and T-shirts. It was 55 degrees and sunny. Then Saturday rolled around and the temperature was below 30 with a high chance of precipitation. It was cold and wet and rainy. The first half was mostly rain and it was still cold."

Geiger, a 2013 Ottawa Hills graduate, became a hero that day. Mentally, he had no choice but to block out the cold and the swirling wind, along with the thought of 11 Ohio State defenders who would be attempting to redirect his kick. There was also the 50/50 possibility of failing in front of a national television audience.

Geiger stepped onto the field, lined up at the right hash mark, and calmly kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired, allowing the Spartans to snap the Buckeyes' 23-game winning streak with a 17-14 victory.

"When he kicked that winning field goal against Ohio State, it made me proud he was a former Green Bear," said Ottawa Hills Athletic Director Tim Erickson. "It was great for our school that one of our own got that recognition and when the heat was on, he pulled through. Ottawa Hills has a little part in that development of him and it makes me very proud."

Images of the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Geiger sprinting down the field, making a one-armed windmill motion, were splashed all over TV and the Internet for several days following the game.

"It was a good, hostile environment," Geiger recalled. "It was a live environment, very exciting, just because it was a top-10 match-up and the different weather that was being thrown at us. At halftime it seemed like the wind picked up. That's why I asked for the right hash as opposed to down the middle.

"I had to pick up my kicking net three or four times because the wind was blowing it onto the field, which had never happened to me during my career."

Geiger has never been a fan of Ohio State football. He grew up rooting for Michigan all the way. His father, Dr. James Geiger, is a doctor at the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. Dr. Geiger and his wife, Mary, never missed one of their son's games - home or away - during Michael's four years in East Lansing.

"My parents' support has always been incredible," said Geiger, 22, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection.

Geiger's game-winning kick against the Buckeyes helped the Spartans win the Big Ten title, when they beat Iowa in the championship game. Geiger said he realized the impact that field goal would have on his life.

"You think about it on the sideline, but you remember what you have to do," he said. "By the time it came down to just the kick, in my mind I thought the job was already done. The team put us in that position. I tip my hat to my teammates for such an incredible performance. Just to know that the result of the game could be decided on a field goal gave me added confidence to be out there."

Geiger said he received inspirational messages and social-media videos from friends and also strangers, posts that thanked him for showing courage under pressure and how his performance inspired their children to succeed under difficult circumstances.

"From the kick itself, my life has changed dramatically," Geiger said. "The celebration and the publicity that followed me has been very rewarding."

In 2015, Geiger was coming off an inconsistent sophomore season in which he converted just 14 of 22 field-goal attempts, including a crucial miss against Ohio State in a 49-37 home loss to the Buckeyes. Geiger said he learned very quickly when he stepped onto campus as a freshman that the program was much bigger than him. Every practice, he said, was like going in for that first job interview and may the best man win.

"I had to show I deserved to play at this level," Geiger said. "I had some trying times and I have Coach D (head coach Mark Dantonio) to thank for helping me."

Last season, Geiger connected on 15 of 19 field goals and was perfect on 30 extra-point attempts. He led MSU in scoring, with 75 points, and he kicked a career-long 52-yard field goal, against Michigan no less. For his career, Geiger was 56-for-76 (73.7 percent) on field goals and 189-for-193 (97.9 percent) on extra points.

"He was probably one of the hardest working athletes we've had come through Ottawa Hills," Erickson said of Geiger, who also started at wide receiver and safety for the Green Bears. "He was a machine, constantly working out, constantly working on his kicking. He knew what it took to get to the next level in high school, and he did it. He put the work in to become a Division I athlete."

The Spartans finished a disappointing 3-9 and 1-8 in the Big Ten last season, when it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Still, Geiger made a 28-yard field goal in the second quarter at home against Ohio State, giving MSU a 10-7 lead, but the Buckeyes still prevailed, 17-16.

"Obviously for our standards we have created here, especially during my time, we had three 11-win seasons so I was really spoiled," Geiger said. "When you raise the bar, anything less is hard to deal with. To go through that my senior year was difficult, but you find out a lot about your teammates and yourself during times like that."

Geiger said he intends to give the NFL "a shot," but for now he is on track to graduate in May with a degree in applied engineering sciences, with a concentration in packaging engineering. He said he struggles with exactly how much focus he wants to put into attempting to become an NFL kicker.

"I'm pretty realistic about my talent," Geiger said. "I don't know if the NFL is going to be a lifestyle I want to do. There are 32 (kicking) spots and some of those guys have done it for 15 years, so I like to put it in perspective. For the past eight years or so I've focused on kicking, but I'm pretty comfortable with that aspect of my life coming to an end."

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