Schneider: An appreciation of Camden Lewis' remarkable turnaround
After two years of struggles, Lewis is kicking with confidence, trusting his swing and letting the rest take care of itself.
Aidan Schneider is the co-host of The I-5 Corridor podcast and a former All-American place kicker at Oregon. This is a free story from The I-5 Corridor. Learn more about The I-5 Corridor here and consider a subscription for access to all stories and podcasts.
Camden Lewis hit the best field goal of his career on Saturday. It was from 46-yards out, on the road and into heavy wind at Husky Stadium.
He’s 9-of-9 now on the season and one of just six kickers in the country with at least nine attempts and no misses. His coach trusts him. His teammates trust him. He’s been nearly — save for one extra point — automatic.
It’s been a truly remarkable turnaround for Lewis, who came to Oregon as the No. 6 kicker in the 2019 class and won the starting job as a freshman, only to lose it as a sophomore.
“Very few kickers I’ve ever met are as resilient as him,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal told reporters last month. “He completely attacked the process to make himself better. He didn’t say a word, just went into camp and competed.”
Lewis came to Oregon from Cornelius, N.C., choosing to play for Cristobal instead of coaches at Minnesota and East Carolina. And while nothing is guaranteed in football, it was Lewis’ job to lose before he ever stepped foot on campus. But his career had an ominous start despite winning the job out of camp.
He missed his first two attempts, both under 30 yards. The second miss — in the fourth quarter against Stanford in 2019 — was rightly blamed on a bad snap. Still, being four games into your college career without seeing the ball go through the uprights on a field goal try is less than ideal.
Reps are essential, and it is impossible to replicate the experience gained from making kicks in a game. You saw that with Lewis, who improved but never really found his rhythm as a freshman, finishing the year converting only 65 percent of his attempts — ranking eighth out of 10 eligible kickers in the conference.
Lewis kept the starting job for three games in 2020, missed three of four attempts and was ultimately benched in favor of Henry Katleman. The walk-on didn’t miss a kick for the remainder of the season and I thought that was it for Lewis.
But after he hit 37 of 40 attempts during preseason camp, Cristobal gave him one last shot. After Washington, he’s now converted 49 of his 50 field goal/extra point attempts and is a perfect 4-of-4 on kicks 40 yards or longer.
This isn’t common.
Kicking opportunities are few and far between, and a single mistake holds more weight than at any other position. The most impressive part about the season Lewis has put together is that he’s done it under the pressure of needing to win back the confidence of the locker room. When things aren’t clicking for you as a kicker, you can have all the confidence in the world that you can turn it around, but when your teammates don’t have faith in you, you can feel it.
When you miss a few kicks as Lewis did early in his career, it is easy to start second-guessing your swing and slowing things down to avoid misses. This ends up having the opposite effect, causing inconsistencies that make it hard to find a rhythm.
The difference I see in Lewis has little to do with technique and everything to do with mindset. He is kicking with confidence, trusting his swing and letting the rest take care of itself.
“It just really came down to believing in myself and believing in my abilities,” he said last month. “You go through some rough things on the field and you start to kind of forget what you’re capable of.
“It really just came down to believing in myself… smiling more, being happy, looking around and seeing where I am and just being grateful for what I have.”
With the Ducks (8-1) sitting on top of the Pac-12 North and third in the College Football Playoff rankings, having a reliable kicker is a must. Lewis has shown his coaches, teammates and fans alike that he can be counted on when he is needed the most.
— Aidan Schneider