Doug Blevins, Kicking Guru for College and N.F.L. Players, Dies at 60

Doug Blevins, who successfully coached college and NFL kickers such as Adam Vinatieri and Justin Tucker despite never having played football because he suffered from cerebral palsy, died Sunday in Johnson City, East Tennessee. He was 60 years old.

His son, Román, said the cause of death, at a hospital, was complications from esophageal cancer.

Blevins was fascinated by soccer from a young age and, increasingly, by the nuances of kicking. He watched games and instructional videos, read books and, when he was in high school, began corresponding with former Dallas Cowboys kicking coach Ben Agajanian. He would analyze the video Agajanian sent him and then use the information to improve kicking on his high school team, where he was the coach.

“Because I was disabled, I knew I would never think anything of it,” Blevins told the Los Angeles Times in 2000. “But I set this goal: to make it to the National Football League.”

Instructing kickers from a motorized wheelchair, Blevins taught himself the mechanics of kicking, punting and kickoffs. He analyzed hip rotations, leg movements, and toe angles; He talked to kickers about the ideal place to plant your foot before kicking a field goal and how to square your body toward the end zone.

Among his best-known students was Vinatieri, who became NFL career scoring leader with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts and who kicked two Super Bowl-winning field goals; Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens, who holds the league record for highest field goal percentage made; and Olindo Mare, of the Miami Dolphins Historical leader in scoring and field goals.

By the mid-1990s, Blevins’ reputation as a kicking guru was beginning to spread. Through an administrator at a community college where he had coached, he caught the attention of Dick Steinberg, the general manager of the New York Jets.

Blevins provided Steinberg with scouting reports on the Jets’ kickers in 1993, and the following season he worked as the team’s kicking consultant, a major career move.

“This is an uphill battle,” Blevins said Sports Illustrated for a profile of him in 2004, noting that it was especially difficult because he was not a former player and even more challenging because of his disability. “He needed to have resumes that walked the talk. If he had guys who became successful kickers in the NFL, then he would always have a place in this league.”

In 1995, he began a five-year stint as a consultant to the World League of American Football (later known as NFL Europe), where he taught football players to be NFL-style kickers and selected the teams’ kickers. .

Between 1995 and 1996, he spent several months in his hometown of Abingdon, Virginia, honing the skills of Vinatieri, an undrafted kicker out of South Dakota State University.

As a result of their collaboration, Vinatieri became a more consistent kicker, launching balls with his powerful right foot. Blevins placed him with the Amsterdam Admirals of the World League in 1996, and the Patriots signed him that same year. His career included two Super Bowl-winning field goals for the Patriots.

“Doug has the perfect kick in mind,” Vinatieri told Sports Illustrated, adding: “He watches you and figures out what you need to do.”

“I wouldn’t be here without him,” he added.

William Douglas Blevins was born in Abingdon on August 3, 1963. His father, Willis, was an engineer. His mother, Linda (LaFon) Blevins, was a nurse and encouraged Doug to do whatever he wanted.

In the early 1980s, while attending the University of Tennessee, Blevins was a student assistant coach under Johnny Majors. After transferring to East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, he held the same position, working for head coach Mike Ayers. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal sciences in 1988.

He soon began hosting training camps in the southeastern states (which he did for many years) and tutoring kickers. From 1992 to 1995, Blevins was special teams coordinator and kicking coach at Abingdon High School.

In 1997, while still working for the World League, Jimmy Johnson, the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, hired him as the team’s kicking coach. He helped Mare gain the number one kicking spot by slowing down his kick.

Johnson said it was Blevins’ concentration that helped the kickers.

“Many kickers act alone and lose rhythm; A lot of things can happen to them if someone doesn’t coach them on every kick,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “Doug knew that was his role and traced every one of his kicks, and Mare became one of the Dolphins’ best kickers.”

After six years with the Dolphins, Blevins became a consultant for the Minnesota Vikings in 2004. He helped improve Aaron Elling’s distance and timing on kickoffs.

During the team’s training camp that year, Elling told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Blevins “can see every mechanical thing you’re doing on a kick, all at once.”

The Vikings job was Blevins’ last for an NFL team. But he continued to work with kickers individually and coached at Emory & Henry College, in Emory, Va., and East Tennessee State. He had agreed to join the staff at Tusculum University, in Greeneville, Tennessee, before he was diagnosed with cancer.

Billy Taylor, Tusculum’s new head coach, was a player at East Tennessee State when Blevins was a student assistant coach.

“Doug walked into Coach Ayers’ office and said, ‘Coach, I’ve lived with cerebral palsy my whole life, but I’m a linebacker at heart,’” Taylor said over the phone, recalling the conversation. “’I love football and I want to be part of this.’”

In addition to his son, Román, from his first marriage to Nenita Colón, which ended in divorce, Blevins is survived by his parents; her daughter, Sarah Blevins, from her marriage to Nancy Duque, which also ended in divorce; his brother, Greg LaFon; his grandmother Kathleen Hensley; and his stepmother, Carmen Blevins.

Blevins said his disability did not diminish his passion for coaching players in a specialty he knew so well.

“Professional football is a results-oriented business” he told Abilities.com, a website for people with disabilities. “As soon as people saw that I could create the desired results and achieve the right level of success, they welcomed me into the field.”

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