Peyton Henry makes the kick before he ever hits it.
He makes it the night before the game, with his eyes closed, picturing every step.
He makes it in his hotel room, 10 hours before kickoff, with the Husky Stadium crowd echoing in his head.
He makes it in the locker room before running out for warmups; he sees the ball clear the uprights, toppling end-over-end; he hears 70,000 full-throated Seattle salutes; he feels the adrenaline, the relief, the anticipated exhale.
“It’s just visualization before games, knowing every kick before you go into it – you’re going to make it,” Henry said on Tuesday. “Block out the noise and just do what you do.
“You always want to put yourself in a game situation, game on the line, crowd yelling, all that type of stuff. You want it to be as game-like as possible.”
In his second season as Washington’s starting placekicker, the sophomore from Danville, Calif., has begun taking coach Chris Petersen’s advice. He visualizes everything.
Everything but this.
Everything but an unprecedented 2-hour, 39-minute lightning delay. Everything but a go-ahead 49-yard field goal attempt a couple minutes after 1 a.m. Everything but an eerily empty stadium in an undeniably important game. Henry could not have pictured the position he was placed in in the early hours Sunday morning.
But the redshirt sophomore still wasn’t surprised by the result.
“Every kick’s the same,” he said. “I’m just going to go into every kick knowing I’m going to make it no matter what it is, what the situation is.”
Through two games there have been 12 attempts — 12 situations — and 12 converted kicks. Henry is 5 for 5 on field goals and 7 for 7 on extra points. In last weekend’s 20-19 loss to Cal, he knocked through all four field-goal attempts coming out of the lightning delay — including the aforementioned career-long 49-yarder that gave UW a 19-17 lead with 2:05 left.
“That’s a long kick,” Petersen said after the game. “You’re really in that super no-man’s-land gray area. But he’s been kicking really well the last couple weeks. He was kicking well early in camp and then he went through a little bit of a rough patch, and then he kind of ironed out his steps. Once he figured out what he was off on, he has really been good.
“He’s obviously got good leg strength. He really does. That’s not the issue. If he can line things up correctly and keep his plant leg where he needs to keep it and all that’s lined up, he can make field goals.”
Henry has been making field goals ever since his freshman year of high school, when his best friend — former UW QB Jake Haener — convinced him to join the team. He knocked through a game-winning 39-yarder later the same season. A year later, Henry dropped soccer entirely — despite playing on two of the area’s most competitive club teams — to focus fully on football.
Roughly seven years after he started, it appears he made the right decision.
“Given the opportunity we felt very confident that he would win the job last year and certainly this year,” Henry’s father, Todd Henry, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “He’s a competitor. He works hard. He doesn’t let things bother him. He’s said this in the past: One kick won’t define him. He’s very focused and he’s got tremendous support with his unit — with people like (snapper) AJ (Carty), (holder) Race (Porter) and (punter) Joel (Whitford).
“Coming into UW the only thing that was committed to Peyton was an opportunity to compete for the starting kicking job after his redshirt year. That’s what he set out to do. He set out to become the starting kicker at UW and certainly this year as well, and beyond.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that the 5-foot-11 walk-on from Monte Vista High School claimed the starting job in his redshirt-freshman season. It’s not a shock, either, that he bested touted scholarship freshman Tim Horn to retain the job this fall.
Still, failure — for a field-goal kicker — is part of the position. Henry connected on 16 of 22 field-goal attempts in 2018, with the most memorable miss being a 37-yarder at the end of regulation that would have sealed a road rivalry win over Oregon. It didn’t particularly matter that he made the ensuing 22-yard try in overtime.
Washington lost the game, and the blame was centered squarely on Henry’s left leg.
“It was pretty hard on us — his mom and I, more so than him. It’s a situation where, and he said this before, you’ve got to forget about your last kick,” Todd Henry said. “His personality has been that way — just focus on what’s ahead of you, work at what you do and good things will happen. But for us, listen, it’s hard. You don’t want to see your kids fail. That’s the way it goes sometimes, and you just move on.
“The following game against Colorado he came out and made two field goals. He moved on from that moment. He just wants to go out and do his job and contribute to the success of the team.”
Henry certainly contributed on Saturday night — and his parents were there to see it. The Henrys sat with the other families in section 221, in the southwest corner behind the end zone. They waited for two and a half hours on the concourse, exchanging text messages with their kids to determine when the game might resume.
When it did, Henry got to work, converting a career-high four field goals. His father had confidence that he would. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t worry.
“As a parent I might be the only one in the stadium looking at distance, down, wind direction, elements,” Todd Henry said with a laugh. “At Husky Stadium that wind can be all over the place. It swirls, and you can look up at the end-zone flag and see where the wind’s blowing. Then the upright flags are going a different direction.
“So it was an exciting point … and it was a little nerve-wracking. But at the end of the day we’ve got complete confidence in Peyton making those kicks.”
On Saturday — and Sunday — Henry made the kicks that mattered. He watched the 49-yarder fly through with 10 yards to spare, and he pumped his fist like Tiger Woods in the wake of a Masters-winning putt.
“I don’t know. Your mind kind of goes blank,” Henry said of the celebration. “You don’t really remember much. You’re just happy when you make a big kick like that. It’s a great feeling.”
When the next big kick comes, Peyton Henry will probably make it.
In some ways, he already has.