IOWA CITY, Iowa – Two years ago, Marshall Koehn was a non-factor, a soft-spoken kid from Solon who was living a dream as a walk-on kicker for the Iowa football team.
He didn’t really matter to fans or to the media because his kicks didn’t matter as a backup.
To say that Koehn matters now, though, would be an understatement. As Iowa’s starting kicker, he is arguably the most important player on the team heading into Saturday’s season opener against Illinois State at Kinnick Stadium.
You could make strong case for either Koehn or new starting quarterback C.J. Beathard as being Iowa’s most important player.
A starting kicker always has a prominent role for any team, but even more so for Iowa, which has a history of playing in close games under veteran coach Kirk Ferentz.
“I think being here for five years and going through a season, finally, my confidence is pretty high right now,” said Koehn, who made 12-of-16 field-goal attempts last season. (Last season) ended on a good note.
“Obviously, I struggled early, but coming back from that, and knowing I can come back, my confidence is pretty high.”
Koehn, who is now on scholarship, missed three of his first five field-goal attempts last season, but he eventually found his groove. He made seven consecutive field-goal attempts after the first two games of the season and missed just once on his last 11 attempts of the season.
He also made all 38 of his point-after kicks and led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally in touchback percentage.
“It’s been a long offseason,” Koehn said. “We’ve put a lot of work in. I guess I’m just trying to build off of last year and keep my momentum going from where I left off. That’s my mindset right now.”
Koehn has a no-fear attitude that helps to distinguish every star kicker. He cherishes the opportunity to kick a field goal with the game on the line.
He wants to seize the moment just like former Iowa kicker Daniel Murray did in 2008 by making a game-winning field goal against Penn State, or like Nate Kaeding did against Texas Tech in the 2001 Alamo Bowl.
Some of the biggest victories in the history of the Iowa program were decided by kickers.
“We’re always in close games, and as a kicker, you almost have to want to have that kick come down to you” said Koehn, who was a multi-sport athlete at Solon High School. "You have to want that. You can’t be scared of it.
“It’s kind of a kickers’ dream to make a game winner. I just try to be mentally ready when that time comes.”
Koehn’s importance to the team would grow even more should he become the No. 1 punter. Koehn is currently listed behind senior punter Dillon Kidd, who struggled last season.
Another punter, Connor Kornbrath, decided not to play this season as a senior, but he still is enrolled at Iowa.
“It’s been close competition,” said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. “I don’t want to speak for Dillon, but I think it’s been good for him. The biggest thing is he’s really improved. That began in January too. I think he really rededicated himself. He’s improved and he’s practiced with good consistency.
“So we’re eager to see him out there and Marshall has done a nice job also. If we could see a separation in jobs, that would be the best way to travel.”