He is the Michigan career scoring leader, career field goal record holder, PAT record holder, and also tied the record for career field goals made from 40 yards out. He is also responsible for many game-winning plays during his four year career. Not to mention selected to numerous All-Big Ten teams. All of this glory and success occured from a position that doesn’t receive enough attention from the media and football fans alike.
Garrett Rivas, one of the best kickers to ever wear the winged helmet, took some time to answer a few of my questions.
TBHR: Filling a four-year starters shoes is tough for any college team to do, but filling someone’s shoes like yours is even harder. Since you left Michigan, their kicking game has been less than stellar. Talk about your thoughts regarding the state of the Michigan kicking game, especially through the Rich Rod era.
RIVAS: I think any time you talk about kicking, you have to talk about consistency and being able to deliver under pressure in practice. In high school I had a coach that put me in those types of situations on a regular basis. When I got to college, Coach Carr did a great job of always putting pressure on us. If you talk to any other former Michigan kickers, they’d say hitting a kick in practice is much harder than hitting them in the game. I don’t know what scenarios they were put under with Rich Rod, but I’m sure it was similar.
TBHR: A lot of people make the argument that kickers are “head cases”. How much does the mental aspect go into kicking in combination with the natural ability side of things as well?
RIVAS: Obviously having that ability will get your foot in the door, as far as learning to kick under pressure that’s something you learn to develop over time. It depends on your training. But certainly having the skill going through high school really gets your foot in the door.
TBHR: It’s safe to say that you’ve made some pretty clutch kicks in your career at Michigan. Your game winner in 2003 against Minnesota comes to mind, especially considering you were a true freshman at the time. How do you prepare yourself for potential game-winning kicks in comparison to an everyday field goal?
RIVAS: I think if you can put yourself in the position to go through your normal routine, it’s something that will have a calming effect on you. Like I said, having Coach Carr put me in those positions every day in practice helps significantly. He would throw out a game-time situation, down by two with 20 seconds to go, he’d call or field goal. Or we’d often end practice with a two-minute drill that was live. If we missed all our drives, he would call for the field goal kicker to come through. Being in that scenario a lot helped me to be comfortable. I’ve had an ability to not worry about the situation in the game, because as far as I’m concerned, the uprights are the same distance away, the ball is going to be snapped seven yards, it’s got to be put up in the air, and has to split the uprights. Thinking of something that simple helped me, not worrying about the situation and sending one right down the middle.
TBHR: After kicking his game-winner in the Sugar Bowl, Brendan Gibbons mentioned thinking about “brunette girls” to help him concentrate. During your kick routine, what was your happy place, so to speak?
RIVAS: (Laughs) No, like I said, I tried to not let the severity of the situation become a factor. How that’s done, to me, is through repetition and routine. With those you find your comfort and confidence. But, whatever works is fine. There’s no right way, whatever makes you comfortable to hit the kick when your number is dialed is all that matters.
TBHR: What do you feel is your most memorable moment as a kicker at the University of Michigan?
RIVAS: There’s two of them. The first was during my senior year, during senior day when my parents were able to come on the field with me and tied in with the football bust. Being able to publicly thank them and those who supported me along the way. My parents had to travel a long way every week (the Rivas’ are from Florida) and they never missed a game. I missed two games in four years. So being able to thank them and having them on the field during a game was the highest points of my life.
TBHR: When you broke the Michigan record of career scoring, you surpassed the previous record holder who just so happened to be named Anthony Thomas. How does it feel to break a record previously held by someone so important to Michigan football history?
RIVAS: I think having any record at the University of Michigan, considering how long football has been around there, is truly a very humbling honor. It’s something I truly hold very close to my heart. Because I know how the amount of work it took to get there. It’s an incredible honor to have your name is mentioned. Even with guys like Anthony Thomas, Remy Hamilton, Mike Gillette, and Ali Haji-Sheikh. All of those guys who were phenomenal athletes and kickers. So having your name mentioned with them in truly humbling.
TBHR: Finally, you’ve been to numerous bowl games, hold Michigan records, and have been selected to many All-Big Ten teams. Would you trade any of it for a national championship, or at least even compete for one?
RIVAS: It’s something Coach Carr always told us, I know it’s not an exact answer to your question. But Coach always told us to never be embarrassed for what we’ve done. Of course everyone’s goal is to win a national championship, but I never took anything that happened in college for granted. I don’t regret any of it whatsoever. it was an amazing experience. With choosing Michigan and having the experience I had, it almost seemed surreal to me.