Brett Maher's first kick in the NFL was just inches off, but it is what he has done since then that has put his season right through the uprights with the Dallas Cowboys.
After opening his NFL campaign with a 47-yard missed field goal against the Carolina Panthers, Maher's confidence never wavered, despite the passionate fan base of the 2-3 Cowboys already showing displeasure.
“Nothing changed for me,” Maher said after his first field-goal attempt of the season. “I thought I actually hit that ball pretty well. I didn't start it quite on the line like I wanted to, and in that situation it cost me by a few inches there.”
The 28-year old Kearney native has since quieted critics, making his next 11 field goal attempts of 37, 29, 50, 35, 32, 43, 22, 38, 27, 43 and 48 yards, including a 38-yarder as time expired to give the Cowboys a 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions in Week 4.
“I didn't feel like I needed to change anything or feel like I needed to do anything different in my preparation." Maher said. “It was just get back to work and be ready when my number was called.”
So what has changed since Maher left the Nebraska football program with accolades after the 2012 season and then bounced around from team to team with stints in the CFL and on a few preseason NFL rosters?
“I think I've steadily gotten a little bit better (over the years),” Maher said. “I was able to get another opportunity down here and take advantage of the situations I was in and put myself in a good spot.”
Kicking is a lot about approach, and Maher's has changed the past few seasons since going undrafted and being cut by the New York Jets and Cowboys in the 2013 preseason. He also spent time with the Ottawa Redblacks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL before landing in Dallas as an NFL starter.
“I've done a few things different the past few years. I've got a mental guy, a peak-performance guy that I've been working with, that has been very beneficial for me in terms of my prep work and different situations to do the best that I can.”
Andy Gillham, a South Dakota sports psychologist, helps bring the best out of the former Husker kicker with a series of mental routines.
“As confidence goes, I've been confident ever since I was a little kid,” Maher added. “I don't think that was the issue, but I feel like I got incrementally better the last few years. That got me an opportunity and I was able to take advantage of that."
That opportunity helped Maher back with the Cowboys and winning the starting job over Dan Bailey, the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history.
“I was excited for me, my family, and it has been quite a journey to get back down here and get another shot,” Maher said. “After that it switched to getting ready to do whatever I could to help the team.”