WSU kicker Furney rounds into a weapon

Portly kicker belts 60-yard field goalin WSU victory

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PULLMAN -- Andrew Furney is one of the better field-goal kickers in college football, but he looks like he's one of the better beer drinkers on the company bowling team.

If you think comments like that annoy Furney, you don't know Washington State's affable kicker. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior is the first to poke fun at his ample belly.

"I always enjoy the way people have fun with my body type," Furney said. "I don't mind. I am who I am."

Furney's easy-going, facts-are-facts manner has impressed coaches and teammates alike. The Cougars are even more impressed with Furney's booming right leg, the one that pounded a 60-yard field goal Saturday as time expired in the first half of WSU's 24-20 win over Eastern Washington.

"I wasn't really nervous at all," Furney said, "because going into that kick, nobody is really expecting me to make it.

"So the way I look at it, I just go out there and have some fun and just enjoy the moment. If it goes in, it goes in. If not, oh well."

Furney ran wild -- literally -- after nailing the kick. He was mobbed by teammates and received a thunderous ovation from the sellout crowd at Martin Stadium.

"I said, 'One thing you should have done, you should have done the Heisman pose right after you did it,' " said Alan Bond, Furney's kicking coach at Burlington-Edison High School. "That would have fit him perfect. He's a great kid."

Furney's field goal ranks second in school and Pacific-12 Conference history to the 62-yarder that WSU's Jason Hanson kicked in 1991 at UNLV. The Cougars play Friday at UNLV, so . . .

"I knew I'd get some crap about that," Furney said good-naturedly.

Furney said he was surprised "a little bit" to get the call from 60 yards out, partly because kickoff specialist Mike Bowlin is also capable of hitting from long range.

"The kid's got the strongest leg I've ever seen," Furney said.

The ease with which Furney compliments Bowlin -- a junior college transfer brought in to challenge for the job -- supports Furney's reputation as a team-first player.

"I'm really glad they did bring him in, because it did push me," Furney said.

Football coaches often regard kickers as necessary evils. However, WSU coach Mike Leach describes Furney as "a very engaging individual," and Leach said he was pleased when players voted for Furney as one of the game captains for the season opener at Brigham Young.

"He has a real good sense of our team and kind of the pulse of our team," Leach said. "There's quite a bit more dimension to his mentality and his importance on the team than you would expect from a kicker.

"He's one of those guys that kind of holds things together. Very common sense, very level headed and kind of really does a good job of seeing things for what they're worth."

Furney, a business management major who hopes to play pro football, takes pride in going through all off-season conditioning drills with his teammates.

"I'm only a kicker," he said. "I'm sure I don't have to be in great shape to go out in a game.

"I don't have to do all this extra stuff for the team that everyone else does, but I'm going to go out and do it because I want the team to be able to rely on me when the game is on the line."

Furney received no scholarship offers despite holding Washington high school records of 33 field goals in his career and 14 in one season. He tied the latter mark as a senior at Burlington-Edison, where he says he learned to kick with plenty of support from Bond.

"I worked with him and worked with him," Bond said. "There wasn't a kid that I've had . . . he worked harder than any of them at everything he did."

Furney turned down walk-on offers from Boise State and Hawaii to walk on at WSU, where he landed a scholarship after taking over as the No. 1 field-goal kicker midway through his freshman year.

Furney drilled 14 of 16 field-goal tries last season, when he was one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award as college kicker of the year. He's 3-for-4 on field goals this year and is on the Groza Award watch list.

Interestingly, Furney initially balked at kicking when he turned out for football for the first time as a freshman at Burlington-Edison.

An accomplished soccer player, he tried to make it as a tight end and defensive end before a wiser head prevailed.

"I didn't get too much playing time," Furney recalled, "so my mom was like, 'Hey, you should try kicking.'

"I was like, 'No.' I didn't want to kick. Well, my mom's on my butt about it, so I'll just try it to kind of keep her quiet.

"Sure enough, it worked out."