Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott was there for all of Blair Walsh’s kicks last season — the makes and the misses. Now, he has the duty of working with a new face in Kai Forbath. But it’s a reunion as McDermott, Forbath and punter Jeff Locke were all specialists for UCLA in college. McDermott chatted with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand after Walsh was let go and Forbath was brought in as the new kicker.
Q Football specialists are a tight group — what’s it like in those meetings when it’s just a few of you and things are struggling like they have?
A First of all, it brings a group closer together when you have adversity, especially when you have somebody who is a great leader like Coach [Mike] Priefer. He never wavered in his belief in Blair and his belief in Jeff and I. He has the ability to motivate us, to keep us on a straight path to, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do and here is how we need to do it.’ Whenever there is adversity, sometimes it just takes a little to get over the hump.
Q How often do you think about the kick against Seattle?
A I don’t think about it.
Q How did you move past it so quick?
A Our business is such that there is always one in the back of your mind that you always want back. Like a golfer: There’s four rounds and there’s 18 holes and one shot on one hole isn’t going to be the end-all, be-all of your whole weekend or your whole career. The ability to reset and repeat and forget about it is part of the mental makeup that makes us good at our jobs.
Q It’s pretty interesting that this team now has three former UCLA guys as specialists.
A First of all, it speaks to the level of special teams recruiting at UCLA. It’s not like these are just three people from the same school. The guy who snapped before me at UCLA, Christian Yount, snapped for the Browns for four years. And Ka’imi Fairbairn, who followed up Kai, won the Lou Groza [Award as college’s best kicker] as well. And he’s in Houston on their injured reserve; he was competing for a job in camp. There’s a lot of guys who have come through UCLA that have had success on special teams. It speaks volumes. It’s a source of pride at that school. But it is very rare to have something like this. I mean, it was rare for just Jeff and I to be on the same team let alone Kai coming in as well. That familiarity allows us to build a rapport really quickly and very easily.
Q Are you and Jeff going to be that bridge for Kai in the whole locker room as a guy they can trust?
A The thing about the NFL is that it’s a such a small fraternity. When I came in, I had been on two other teams, so I knew [Alex] Boone and a few guys in the locker room other than just Jeff. Kai started in Dallas his rookie year and was there when Terence Newman was there. He was on the Redskins; I’m sure some people crossed paths with him. It’s our job to be able to make him feel as comfortable as possible in all situations. If that’s helping him integrate him into the locker room quicker, that’s part of the job.