Portland Thunder’s Michael Braunstein: Just Kickin’ It in the AFL
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
First he went to Michael Braunstein, who had continued to visit with friends on the team in the offseason. Braunstein, however, was already in Maui on a vacation for spring break from his job at Adrenaline Fundraising, making him unavailable to get back and play that Friday. Instead, the Thunder found another local kicker from last year in Zach Ramirez, who came in and got kicks to the nets and converted six of seven extra point attempts.
Ramirez was set to be the starter again against the Shock, but a CFL contract issue from a couple of years ago caused a paperwork problem and he was ruled ineligible to continue play in the AFL.
On Monday April 6, Braunstein arrived back in Portland and let Hohensee know he was in town and available.
The next day, Braunstein got the call that he was needed.
After that, he stopped by his first practice as a member of the team since last May of last year.
He then passed his physical, and on Thursday night he found himself kicking in front of thousands of fans at the Moda Center.
“He was rusty pregame – I’m watching him kick extra points in pregame and thinking, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m looking at my two-point plays, wondering what we’re going to have to do,” said Hohensee. “But the kid stepped up and finished strong.”
After shaking off the rust with an awkward miss on the first PAT attempt of the game, Braunstein had a solid game, making his PATs and consistently making life difficult for Spokane returner Ruschard Dodd-Masters. Aside from one return that went for 38 yards, the Spokane offense spent the night starting drives inside their own five after a kickoff.
“I thought my kickoffs were really good for not having kicked [competitively] in a year,” Braunstein said.
“I thought he did okay for just flying in from Maui. I know if I came from Maui, I wouldn’t be ready to kick. I thought he did a good job. He’s got to be better, but I think he expects that out of himself as well,” Hohensee said.
Kickers don’t get a lot of credit for being able to kick 60+ yards to the net a dozen times per game while being able to make kicks through uprights half the size of an NFL target. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and fatigue plays a role in a kicker’s success, especially in the AFL, where teams are kicking off more often than a typical NFL team.
Late in the game and afterwards, the fatigue started catching up to him.
“I’m feeling like crap right now,” said Braunstein. “About the third, fourth quarter, my leg was feeling very heavy. My second miss down here was me just not finishing my kick with my hips and my leg was just tired. When you get tired, your hip doesn’t go all the way through the ball, and then you leave the ball off to the right if you’re a right-footed kicker. It just drifts. I adjusted myself on the next one to put us up four and finish off the game, though.”
He might have been extra tired after a long day that started with kicking, too. At his house in the Tualatin area, he woke up and checked to make sure he’d have enough leg for the game.
“This morning, I walked in my back yard on my turf and hit a couple over my house into the next house on their front yard. I felt great, so I said, ‘Why not?’” said Braunstein. “It’s like a major league pitcher – if you call him up and ask him to pitch, he can do it, but he’s going to hurt and not feel good the next day.”
Now that Braunstein has that first game under his belt and put in a solid performance, have the Thunder found their kicker for the rest of the season?
“I have no idea. No idea what’s going on,” Braunstein said.
With the Thunder on the road in Phoenix to take on the Rattlers, Braunstein hopes he’ll be able to take the field near his hometown of Gilbert, Ariz. He wasn’t on the roster for the team’s trip to the desert in 2014, so he’s looking forward to the opportunity. Fortunately, he has nine days to recover from the game against the Shock – don’t expect him to head to Maui in preparation, though.
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Alex Morgan, 25, is a forward for the Portland Thorns. She recently signed with the club in January of 2013 after playing for the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Sounders. She rose to prominence because of her success playing for the United States women’s national soccer team. Morgan was the youngest player to represent the U.S. during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She will once again represent team USA this summer as they prepare to head off to Canada for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Photo credit: Alex Morgan's Facebook page
Meyers Leonard, 23, was the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Over the past few years he has been diligently working with the Portland Trailblazer’s coaching staff in order to refine his game. The Illinois alumni’s hard work has been paying off considering he’s having the best season of his career.
Photo credit: Meyers Leonard's Facebook page
Kaylyn Kyle, 26, is a Canadian soccer player who currently plays for the Portland Thorns. She is also a member of the Canadian women’s national team. Kyle was part of the 2012 Canadian national team that defeated France in the bronze medal game. She is also an ambassador for, Right To Play, which is an organization dedicated to using soccer as a resource to educate and empower children from disadvantaged communities.
Photo credit: Kaylyn Kyle's Facebook page
Gaston Fernandez, 31, is a striker for the Portland Timbers. The club signed the Argentinian striker back in January of 2014. During his MLS debut with the Timbers he scored an equalizer goal that extended the Timbers unbeaten home record to sixteen.
Photo credit: via forums.bigsoccer.com
Marcus Mariota, 21, is coming off one of the best seasons any Oregon Duck quarterback has ever experienced. He is the first Hawaiian-born athlete to ever win the Heisman trophy. This season he also led the Ducks to a 12-1 regular season record. Duck fans everywhere will be anxiously waiting to see where Mariota goes in this year’s NFL Draft.
Photo credit: via Oregon Football's Facebook page
Ellie Cribbins is a second year Blazer Dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. Cribbins is originally from Portland, Oregon but attended Oregon State University. This season proved to be a unique one for Cribbins since her sister also made the Blazer Dancers last August.
Photo credit: via Ellie Cribbin's Facebook page
Jake Gleeson, 24, is a New Zealand born goalie that is currently playing for the Portland Timbers. He signed with the club in February of 2011. Gleeson has taken pride over the past few years of being a young player who has worked his way up the ranks.
Photo credit: via solofutbol.cl
Janie Takeda, 21, is a senior outfielder for the University of Oregon. The Dallas Charge of the National Pro Fastpitch League recently drafted her 26th overall. Takeda was also selected to play on the United States women’s national team during the 2015 summer season. She is set to graduate from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication this spring.
Photo credit: Janie Takeda's Facebook page
Damian Lillard, 24, was the NBA’s 2012 Rookie Of The Year. He was the 4th Portland Trailblazer to ever win the award. Since then he’s been named an All-Star twice, as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection. Lillard had one of the most rememberable performances in Trailblazer history after he hit a three-pointer that defeated the Houston Rockets in game 6 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
Photo credit: Damian Lillard's Facebook page
Maggie Rouse, 20, is a junior cheerleader for the University of Oregon. She just completed her third year on the team. When she tried out as a freshman she never expected to make the squad. Yet, here she is two years later. She is currently majoring in Educational Foundations.
Photo credit: Maggie Rouse's Facebook page
LaMarcus Aldridge, 29, is widely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA. The Texas native is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. He is also a four-time NBA All-Star. On March 10th, 2015 Aldridge became the Trailblazers all-time leading rebounder.
Photo credit: LaMarcus Aldridge's Facebook page
Kaytianna McMillan is a gymnast for the Oregon State Beavers. Over the course of 2014 McMillan battled a series of injuries, yet she was still able to overcome them in order to become the Co-Champion of the 2014 NCAA University Park Regionals. Oregon State will be lucky to have her for the next couple of years.
Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics website
Devon Allen, 20, just completed his freshman year as a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. Not only is he the starting wide receiver for the Ducks he also runs track for the Oregon Outdoor Track and Field team. He recently earned a Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Although he is recovering from a torn ACL we hope to see him back on the field during the 2015-2016 season.
Phot credit: University of Oregon Facebook page
Chase De Leo
Chase De Leo, 19, currently plays center for the Portland Winterhawks. His quickness and overall creative offensive game earned him an invite to Team USA’s selection camp back in December of 2014. Of all 30 players who were invited, he was only one of 2 WHL players.
Photo credit: Chase De Leo's Facebook page
Darron Thomas, 24, is a professional quarterback for the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. During his college days he played for the Oregon Ducks. While starting for the Ducks he led to the team to the 2011 BCS National Championship game, as well as the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Texas native recently partook in the NFL Veteran Combine with the hope of upstarting his NFL career.
Photo credit: Portland Thunder Facebook page