Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Louie Sakoda has been getting into the swing of things throughout the offseason. Utah's All-America punter/kicker is preparing for the upcoming campaign by reading books about how golfers deal with pressure situations.
The techniques they use in terms of a mental approach, Sakoda explained, has helped with his kicking.
And that's not all.
Sakoda thinks it's something that can be applied to pretty much anything.
"I've always taken pride in being mentally tough," Sakoda said. "At this point in the game what really separates the best players is their mental game, and that's really what I've been focusing on in this offseason."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham isn't surprised, even if it does involve golf.
"He's always looking to make himself better. That's what the great ones do," Whittingham said. "They're always trying to find a way to get better. So that does not surprise me that he's studying that."
Quarterback Brian Johnson isn't taken aback by it, either.
"Louie is a very intelligent guy. It really doesn't surprise me at all. He's just trying to stay sharp.
Anything he can do to gain an edge he'll do that," Johnson said. "That's just his personality. It's just the personality he has and the way he goes about preparing himself."
After earning All-America accolades as a junior, Sakoda thinks he has room to improve as a senior.
"I still feel like I've got a ways to go. I feel like everybody should kind of have that mentality," Sakoda said. "As soon as a player feels like they've arrived they seem to go downhill after that."
And that, plain and simply, is just not how the two-time Mountain West Conference Special Teams Player of the Year rolls.
"Louie Sakoda is a student of the game. There's no question about that," Whittingham said. "He's a very driven, focused young man and shoot the results speak for themselves. He's done a great job kicking for us."
Besides closing in on several school records, Sakoda is building quite a resume. He's now a team captain and will join Johnson in representing the Utes at the MWC's annual football meetings in Las Vegas next week.
"Louie is very well received by his teammates. In fact, he's one of the more popular guys on the team," said Whittingham, who added that many of Sakoda's best friends are offensive lineman a rare union, to say the least.
"He's definitely one of the guys," said Johnson, who has never been on a team where a kicker has been one of the captains before. "He has the respect of the guys."
Even better, Johnson continued, is Sakoda is a tremendous competitor who wants to be the best.
"Louie is a team guy. As well as he's done individually, all he's really concerned about is the success of the team," Whittingham said.
"He's the kind of guy you want on your football team. Those guys that have that attitude. He epitomizes that."
When asked about his goals this season, Sakoda reeled off a couple of things. "Annihilating" BYU topped the list. Silencing the large season-opening crowd in Michigan was also mentioned.
So, too, was an even bigger prize.
"Being able to play a bowl game in January would be nice," said Sakoda, who believes the Utes are ready to do something big this season. "I'll do my part, but that definitely comes second to our team goals."
Utah's opportunity for success, however, is greatly enhanced by Sakoda's skills. Johnson admits it can alter the mindset of the offense knowing what you can do to put points on the board.
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