The Tennessee Titans signed several undrafted free agents at the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft. Former Iowa kicker Caleb Shudak is one of those players. Shudak was excellent for the Hawkeyes in 2021, converting 24-of-28 field goal attempts. His 2021 field goal percentage of 85.7 percent ranks fourth-best in Iowa’s single season record books. Shudak’s 108 points scored in 2021 ranks as fifth-best single season scoring total in school history.
Shudak recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about how he formed a relationship with Tennessee throughout the pre-draft process, balancing mental awareness with technique when kicking, what his goals and aspirations are ahead of training camp, and so much more.
JM: You enjoyed a terrific season at Iowa in 2021 by converting 24-of-28 field goal attempts. How do you reflect on your time as a Hawkeye?
CS: really appreciate everything that happened for me at Iowa. I had some ups and downs throughout my career. I had some injuries and lost my starting job at one point. That was difficult at the time but I can look back now and confidently say that everything happens for a reason. It made me the kicker I am today. It helped me develop into a person I’m proud to be. It helped develop my skills to the point where the Tennessee Titans have decided to give me a chance to come out here and win a job.
JM: How did the opportunity with the Titans come about?
CS: I had been in contact with them throughout the entire pre-draft process. They worked me out privately after my Pro Day. I had a couple of Zoom calls with them leading up to draft day. Once I didn’t get drafted, they quickly reached out with a contract and opportunity. The amount of time they put into recruiting me throughout the whole pre-draft process wasn’t lost on me. It didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. It made me comfortable saying their interest felt authentic. I felt they were truly going to give me a chance to win a job. I went with my gut and signed with the Titans.
JM: Going into a bit more detail, which members of the organization were you in contact with?
CS: My contact was mainly with special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman. He came to work me out after Pro Day. I had a few Zoom calls and phone calls with him as well. One of Aukerman’s assistants, coach Chase Blackburn, also reached out to me. I spent a lot of time speaking with both coaches throughout the process. It was phone calls, text messages and what not.
JM: Coach Aukerman is a great coach. It sounds like you chose Tennessee over some of the other offers you received because you felt they were the most authentic and genuine landing spot. Is that accurate?
CS: Yeah, I’d say so. I looked at the situation they have at kicker, and I really believed in what they said to me regarding having a legitimate opportunity. It just felt real to me. There’s no way they would attend my Pro Day and set up several Zoom calls if they weren’t genuinely interested. They proved how serious they were about me. After the draft, it came down to the Titans and New Orleans Saints. I was ultimately more comfortable going into the situation with the Titans, with Will Lutz being in New Orleans.
JM: That’s a fair and honest point. What’s one thing a kicker can do to improve deep accuracy? You’ve made kicks from 50-plus yards.
CS: For a younger guy such as myself who’s starting to find himself as a kicker, it’s important to learn that it’s not about swinging your leg harder. It’s not about changing your mechanics to make a deeper kick. A lot of the guys that I’ve met or know personally at this level, they can go out there and swing their leg as if they’re kicking from 20 or 30 yards. They still have the power and pop necessary to make it from 55 or 60 yards. Once you get past that mental hurdle, you stop thinking about how the goal posts may be 50-plus yards away on your next kick. It’s the same kick and the same mechanics. It all boils down to mechanics and repetition. The weather plays a factor too. We had windy practices at Iowa. We had to test my range with crosswinds, headwinds, hail winds, and things of that nature. You learn your swing and your ball over time. You play through the elements.
JM: And when it comes to that, how do you find the right balance between technique and mental awareness?
CS: Confidence serves as the crossover between technique and awareness. Once you have confidence in your technique and you know your technique works for you and your body type, that’s when I personally feel the mental aspect of the game becomes easier. Going out there knowing your technique is consistent every time helps a bunch. It’s one less thing to worry about. It comes down to one small mental detail. For me, that has to do with breathing throughout my stance. Once I exhale, I kinda’ black out and trust my leg swing. It comes back to what I said about confidence. It’s everything as a kicker. Once you have that, which I do, technique and mental awareness go hand-in-hand. One help builds the other.
JM: That makes a ton of sense. Are you excited about working alongside any of your new Titans teammates in particular?
CS: I’m excited to learn from Randy Bullock. He’s like a 10-year veteran in this league. He has a ton of experience and knowledge. I have to mention Amani Hooker as well. We actually played together at Iowa for like three years. I’m excited to get out there and see him on the field.
JM: Oh wow, that’s right. That’s funny. Have you spoken with Hooker since signing with Tennessee?
CS: We texted a little bit. I’m excited to get around him and learn from him. He can teach me the tricks of trade in regards to being a pro. He can teach me something about the Titans culture as I continue acclimating to the program. He’s had such a positive influence on their defense and special teams. I’m excited to learn from him.
JM: That’s exciting. What’s your mindset like as you head into what sounds like a legitimate battle for the job with Randy Bullock?
CS: I’m just going to go out there and take it day by day. It’s one rep at a time. I might miss one, but I can’t dwell on it. I can learn from it after we watch it back. Every kick is different, every kick is a new kick and a new opportunity. That’s my mindset. I’ll also be getting comfortable with my first NFL team. At Iowa, I was used to our routine. I knew the ins and outs of our schedule. I have to learn a new routine and schedule now. There are new meeting times, a new installation phase and whatnot. I’m not going to class or school anymore, so that will be different as well. I’m going to keep myself sharp while taking good care of my body. I’m going to take things day by day while learning as much as I can, especially throughout OTA’s. I want to be comfortable within my routine by the time training camp rolls around. That’s going to help me get ready to compete.
JM: That makes a ton of sense. I’ve appreciated your time today. What are your goals for training camp?
CS: I’m going to meet new people and get acclimated to the culture. I’ve had a few Zoom calls with coach Aukerman since then alongside the rookies coming in. I’m getting used to the terminology and the expectations of the team. I’m becoming familiar with the overall culture and how it works. I’m excited to make some new friends while making a smooth transition to the next level.