Oct. 22, 2013
By Jason Pearson, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
For the past four seasons, Michigan State has not been able to start a game without him. History and records may recall the memorable winning plays, but the game would not have started without Kevin Muma teeing the ball up at the 35-yard line and booting the ball deep into the end zone. The fifth-year senior is in the thick of his fourth year starting as the team's kickoff specialist.
"It's definitely a rush," Muma said of kicking off to start a game. "It gets pretty loud especially because everyone is all hyped up and ready. There's nothing like it."
Muma is the lone senior on the specialist unit and has been a mainstay on the kickoff team since his red-shirt freshman year in 2010. Not only as the single senior in the specialist room, but as one of 18 seniors on the team, Muma holds himself accountable to being a leader on and off the field.
"As a leader, just someone to go to if any of the younger players are having trouble with really anything on or off the field," he said.
Self-describing the specialist group as "more laid-back and goofy," he also notes how he has tried to take some of the younger specialists under his wing and show them the way business is handled inside and outside the MSU program.
Muma certainly has been able to handle his business on and off the field throughout his five years in Coach Mark Dantonio's program. The hospitality business major has post-school plans involving working in the food and beverage industry and has dreams of owning his own restaurant someday down the road.
His on-field business includes handling all of the kickoff duties, amounting to 252 - and counting - kickoffs. Over his career, he has been recognized by College Football Performance Awards as its National Kickoff Specialist of the Week and earned honorable mention accolades from them as well. For his career, he is also 5-for-7 on field-goal attempts and 12-for-13 on point-after touchdown attempts.
Kicking has become a natural motion for Muma ever since the third grade. Muma started playing soccer in the first grade, but it was in third grade when his father, Bruce, noticed the strong leg Kevin had on the soccer field and wanted his son to try something.
"He took me out to some football field somewhere and had me try and kick an extra point and I made it," Muma said. "That's where the initial thought was that I could be a kicker."
On his middle school team, during seventh grade, Muma beat out the eighth grader on the team and his kicking career was underway. He was named a PARADE All-American as a kicker and also started at quarterback his senior year for Troy High School in Troy, Mich. Playing quarterback in high school is something not too many teammates know about him, Muma said. Teammates are also probably unaware that Muma is a skilled pianist and an avid online chess player.
"I have never been able to play the song in its entirety, but Chopan's Heroic Polonaise," Muma said of his favorite tune to play on the piano.
As for the chess playing, Muma said a teammate probably could not compete with him. "I'd like to get a challenge though," he said.
Muma's recognized high school kicking career led him to receive a scholarship offer from the Green and White. He notes the location of East Lansing as not being too distant from home as well as the to-the-point demeanor of the coaching staff as reasons for enrolling at MSU. Muma has played in a Big Ten Championship Game and three bowl games, but still lists beating Michigan on the road in 2010 as his favorite game to have taken part in.
Muma notes his personal best game also came in 2010. During his red-shirt freshman year, the NCAA had not yet changed the kickoff rule, so kickoffs were still being held at the 30-yard line instead of the current 35-yard line. Facing Illinois, Muma booted four touchbacks on seven kickoffs and was named by College Football Performance Awards as its National Kickoff Specialist of the Week.
Kicking may have become natural to him, but that does not mean Muma has lost his edge in staying on top of his game.
"Going out and trying to have as much fun with it as I can," Muma said of staying motivated. "Just challenging myself to be better and better."
Also contributing to staying on top of his game is Muma's unique pregame ritual. On the bus trip to the stadium or right before the team begins their walk to Spartan Stadium from the Kellogg Center, depending on if it's an away or home game, Muma puts Dream Theater's "Dance Song of Eternity" on his headphones.
"I do mental reps in my head of whatever stadium I'm kicking in and I listen to that song in its entirety," Muma said.
With only five regular-season games remaining in his Spartan career, Muma notes his favorite part from his time in East Lansing has been the lifelong bonds he's built with teammates and coaches. The communication and overlap of teammates into each other's lives has contributed to positive team chemistry and overall cohesiveness during this season.
He's always been the one to start a new game off, however, his time will come when he will mark the beginning of a new game for the last time.
"I want to be remembered for being reliable on and off the field," Muma said. "Playing football and doing the best I can on the field and always being there for my friends and teammates off the field."
Getting to Know Kevin Muma
Favorite TV show as a kid...
"Rugrats. It was a solid program."
If you could have any superpower...
Favorite quote from head strength and conditioning coach Ken Mannie...
"Be comfortable with being uncomfortable."
Favorite class at MSU...
This feature was originally published in the Oct. 19 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.