So Far, So Good: Hegarty Makes His Mark At CWU
Patrick Hegarty finished the 2019 season leading all GNAC kickers and ranking fifth in the conference with 58 points scored to earn First Team All-GNAC honors.
Patrick Hegarty finished the 2019 season leading all GNAC kickers and ranking fifth in the conference with 58 points scored to earn First Team All-GNAC honors.
Patrick Hegarty takes a postgame photo with his mother, Bernie, and father, Brendan.
Patrick Hegarty takes a postgame photo with his mother, Bernie, and father, Brendan.

Monday, November 16, 2020
by Kaho Akau, GNAC Media Relations Assistant

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – The American Dream is the belief that anyone can succeed in the United States through hard work and sacrifice. Central Washington’s Patrick Hegarty is proof of that dream.

Originally from Ireland, Hegarty’s parents, Brendan and Bernie, came to the U.S. 25 years ago for a yearlong honeymoon and decided to stay and begin a new life together in Ferndale, Washington. They didn’t need any handouts. All they needed was an opportunity.

“It gives me a lot of motivation to know how hard my parents have worked since coming here, which has provided me with the opportunities to get to where I am now,” Patrick said.

Brendan and Patrick developed a strong father-son bond through soccer. Brendan grew up playing soccer with his friends in Ireland and Patrick played organized soccer for 12 years before focusing his attention on football. To this day, the Hegarty men still share the same passion for sports.

There is one aspect of Patrick’s Irish heritage that he holds close to his heart: The food. From shepherd’s pie to Irish soda bread, he always looks forward to his mother’s homemade recipes.

“It’s hard not to eat well in an Irish family,” he joked.

Strong morals and an impeccable work ethic were things that Brendan and Bernie instilled in Patrick when he was young. They always stressed the importance of respecting others and working hard in order to earn anything that he wanted, which still rings true today.

“I’m very thankful for the Irish upbringing that I had in America because it allowed me to have a different perspective on things and makes me proud of my heritage and where my family is from,” Patrick said.

Now a junior kicker and punter for the Wildcats, Hegarty looks to write his own success story as a first-generation American. So far, so good.

In 2019, his first season at Central Washington, Hegarty was named the GNAC Special Teams Player of the Week three times and earned First Team All-GNAC honors as the Wildcats secured a share of their third-straight GNAC Championship. He made 7 of 9 field goal attempts on the season, including a season-long 41-yarder in a 62-10 rout of Simon Fraser on October 26 in Ellensburg. He also converted 37 of 40 point-after attempts, led all conference kickers with 58 points scored and averaged 37.8 yards per punt.

“That was a very special moment for me and has motivated me to continue to get better,” he said about his first-team selection. “I couldn’t have done it without consistent snaps, great holds, mentorship from my teammates and the belief from Jonathan Kuhn and the rest of the coaching staff.”

Kicking a field goal is arguably the most nerve-wracking thing in football. It only happens a few times every game, but when it does happen, all eyes are on the kicker.

In a nail-biting game, it’s easy to label the kicker as either the hero or the goat, depending on the final score. At that moment, everyone forgets about the dropped passes, missed tackles or crucial penalties from earlier in the game. All they are focused on is whether or not the ball goes through the uprights.

“The most important thing is to trust yourself and the work you put in,” he said. “While those moments will always bring some nerves, consistent preparation will allow you to feel more comfortable instead of anxious. Then once it’s time to go, I just envision the kick going straight through.”

What does a day in the life of a kicker and punter even look like? Is there anything else to do other than kicking?

Every practice, the team will normally go through at least one phase of special teams, whether it’s punts, kickoffs or field goals. Besides that, kickers and punters spend most of their time working on mobility, core strength and mental reps throughout the week. It’s important, especially during a game week, to not overkick and stay as fresh as possible for game day.

The mentalities of kickers and punters vary, but one trait that Hegarty believes they should all have is confidence. Without confidence, his training means nothing. Without confidence, he would already have his back against the wall before he even puts his helmet and pads on.

As part of building up his confidence, Hegarty has worked on perfecting his craft by becoming a student of the game. He studies NFL greats like future Hall of Famer Adam Vinatieri and rising star and Super Bowl champion Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs to see what makes them successful. He realizes that although they have reached a certain level of stardom, they still go through a weekly training process that is similar to what he is accustomed to.

“Once I get on the field for a field goal, I don’t think about anything and trust the time that I spent preparing for that moment,” he said. “I have to feel confident that I am the best at what I do.”

Kickers and punters are a special breed of football players and tend to have the most quirks on the team. They aren’t as large as the stereotypical collegiate football player. Not to mention, they rarely come into contact with the opposing team’s players during a game.

“I think the reason for that is because we’re asked to do a job that is so different from every other position on the field,” he said. “We know the stigma that can come with being a specialist so it’s always fun to prove it wrong.”

Hegarty’s pregame rituals are a little unorthodox. He listens to music before every game just like most of his teammates do. The difference is, however, he likes to alternate between upbeat hip-hop music and slow classical music. The mix of emotions allows him to get his blood flowing while also keeping his mind calm so he is physically ready but mentally relaxed.

Central Washington football fans may or may not have noticed that there is even something odd about Hegarty’s kicking game. When it’s time for a kickoff or field goal, he kicks with his left foot, but when it’s time to punt, he uses his right foot.

“To be honest, I have no idea how that works,” he said. “It’s something that naturally happened when I started kicking and punting. I still don’t have a good answer when people ask me about it.”

No matter the quirks, Hegarty has found a new home in Ellensburg. He is always appreciative of the sacrifices that his parents have made and continue to make to help him get to where he is today. And whether he’s on the football field or in the classroom, he looks to create his own legacy and give back.

“My biggest motivation is to be the best version of myself every day,” he said. “I am blessed to have a lot of great people who have helped me in my life. The least I can do is give everything I have for them.”