Everyone knows Sam Ficken’s Penn State story. The placekicker went from goat (missing 4 of 5 field goals against Virginia in 2013) to hero (game-winning kicks against Wisconsin that year, in Pinstripe Bowl and Croke Park Classic) in his time in Happy Valley.
But what’s Ficken up to now? After latching on with the Kansas City Chiefs in the preseason and being cut a month later, is he still keeping that NFL dream alive?
Ficken explains that and more in this week’s “Five Questions.”
Q: At this point, are you still trying for a shot at the NFL? What’s your mindset with approaching that?
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A: Through last year with Jacksonville and this year in Kansas City, from those experiences and from seeing the guys one the same team or across the sideline, I feel like ability-wise and talent-wise I’m right there. Without a doubt, I’m still leaving that door wide-open. Obviously every day you hope for a call. One of the benefits of being a specialist is that call can come at any point in time. With other positions, if you don’t get in right away and put a couple years in before you get cut or waived, you’re facing an uphill battle. Here, it’s kind of a war of attrition. If you have the talent, it’s not always an immediate thing. It’s one of those things that’ll work itself out. Some people get that shot, and some people don’t. My mindset is that door is wide-open.
Q: How do you stay physically in-shape and ready for that? For example, how many balls are you kicking per day? What’s your routine, and how do you keep yourself mentally and physically prepared for something like that?
A: I was very fortunate I was able to find a job within the field of study that I went to school for, that the hours made it attainable where I could work a full day and then train in the evenings. My routine has been to kick two or three times per week, and I’ll work out five or six times per week. I’ve certainly benefitted from a good work environment in which they’re very supportive of my dream to play in the NFL. At the same time, I’m taking it step-by-step toward my career in finance. It’s the best of both worlds for me right now.
Q: Who are you working for, and what are you doing within finance? I remember with the Pinstripe Bowl, you were the one who rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
A: I work for a company in Greenwich, Conn., called Weeden & Co. It’s a broker dealer. Our specialty is block trading. I actually just passed my Series 7 (license to trade exam), and I’m taking a couple more Series tests and I’ll be a full-fledged stock broker. Learning the basics of that world, it’s a very detailed area. But it’s something I have a lot of interest in. It’s great to have something you have interest in during the day, and then still push for that dream of making it to the NFL. It’s a great situation.
Q: When you’re removed from football, are you watching every Sunday?
A: I kind of have to pay attention to see where, hey, maybe this guy got injured in this game. Or that guy is struggling. You have to keep a head’s up on it as far as who maybe your agent should be reaching out to or whatever it may be. I’m certainly paying attention. I know my co-workers do a great job of keeping me up on if there’s a missed field goal here or there, which has been pretty funny. I’m in touch with the game, and then obviously there are some guys who I played with who are playing on Sundays. That’s pretty cool to see, as well.
Q: Now in your time at Penn State, a lot of crazy games: Pinstripe Bowl, four-OT win against Michigan, Croke Park Classic. What was your favorite moment or game if you can think back on that? You’ve had some time now to reflect on your Penn State career.
A: It’s hard for me to pinpoint one game. It was a roller-coaster experience over my four years. I think for me, it’s hard to say. That overtime win against Wisconsin my sophomore year, which it was very well-known my struggles that season. To finish the year on such a strong note, sending that senior class — a big reason as to why we’re sitting here at No. 2 — those guys laid the foundation and stuck with a program that was very much in need. To be able to get that game back and help provide the winning points there, that was great. At the same time, you have the four-overtime win against Michigan. White Out. I had about three heart attacks during that game. And then the Ireland game, the final kick, I mean, there are just so many good memories. ...With the Pinstripe Bowl, to go out on such a high note with that group of guys who really fought through the sanctions. We were there for the bulk of the tough times. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say I enjoyed one more so than the other, because they were all such incredible memories for me.