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NFL draft analysis: Rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser joins the Patriots with plenty of confidence

Related: Patriots rookie Dalton Keene prides himself on being a versatile tight end

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl - Marshall v South Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The writing was on the wall ever since Stephen Gostkowski’s release earlier during the offseason; and yet, when the New England Patriots’ fifth-round draft pick was announced, there was some confusion among fans and media members alike: the team decided not to invest in one of the top-rated place kickers available such as Rodrigo Blankenship or Tyler Bass, but rather to put its faith in under-the-radar candidate Justin Rohrwasser.

The Marshall product does bring plenty of experience to the table, though. Rohrwasser spent two years at the University of Rhode Island before transferring to Marshall in 2018 and was successful on 77.5% of his field goal attempts (48 of 62) as well as on 96.7% of his extra point kicks (118 of 122) throughout his four-year college career. Rohrwasser also saw time as a kickoff specialist, and in 2018 registered a pair of fumble recoveries on kick coverage.

He also possesses a strong leg — he was a perfect two-for-two from beyond 50 yards during his 2019 season — and something else that should help him make the transition from the college level to the NFL: confidence. Rohrwasser not lacking any of it became evident during his introductory conference call with the New England media shortly after the Patriots picked him with the 159th overall selection during last month’s event.

“I’m confident that whatever the coaches would like me to do this season, I’m going to perform well at it,” he said. “Every kicker can kick a ball straight and hard over 55 [yards]. Almost all college kickers can do that, but it’s the ones that can do it consistently under pressure in situations like a pro day or during the season. In practice, most guys are great. It’s when the lights are on, that’s when you’ve got to show what you’re made of.”

Rohrwasser did just that during his final season at Marshall, when he made 18 of his 21 field goal tries (85.7%) and connected on all but one of his 36 extra points (97.2%). One kick stands out in particular: during the Thundering Herd’s game against Western Kentucky in late October, Rohrwasser lined up for the potential game-winner in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. His kick was perfect and he secured the victory from 53 yards out.

“You’ve got to make sure that every kick is the same kick,” Rohrwasser said about his mindset in high-pressure moments. “You never want to go into a kick thinking that it’s a big situation. Everything’s routine. It should be routine. You’ve done it a hundred times. You block out all the nerves and you rely on your fundamentals. I think that just comes from training yourself mentally to be ready for big-time situations.”

“I’ve been fortunate that I was a goal keeper when I played soccer, so it’s a high-pressure position. Transferring over to kicker was a smooth transition, so I can use a lot of the same skills to block out nerves and just rely on what I know how to do, which is kick,” the 23-year-old continued. “I’m just focused on doing the job I was brought in to do, and that’s kick the football through the uprights.”

Rohrwasser has shown that he can make the big kick, but the question will be how he can adapt to working in one of the most difficult environments in all of football. Gillette Stadium, the Patriots’ home field, has it all: inclement weather late during the year ranging from rain to snow to fog, as well as difficult cross winds on the open end of the stadium that can carry both kickoffs and field or extra point attempts off the mark. Once again, however, Rohrwasser does not see much of a problem due to his experience and training regimen.

“That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past month and a half because I’m out in Buffalo, New York, training and we don’t have the best weather every day here,” he said. “We can’t really get into indoor facilities, so it’s been training outside in the high wind and the rain and sometimes snow. I did spring ball outside in Rhode Island, so I’m very well-versed in bad weather and bad conditions for kicking, and I’m confident I can excel in it.”