Laid back. That's how Connor Barth describes himself. Not a bad attribute to have for a kicker.
"I'm focused when I need to be," Barth said.
The Wilmington, N.C., native and Tar Heel placekicker doesn't just say the right things. Just take a look at last season, when the shaggy-haired, mellow-demeanored Barth stepped right into the fire, becoming the first Carolina freshman to kick a field goal since 1996.
Barth hit his first career attempt, a 22-yard chip shot at Virginia's Scott Stadium, and never looked back, connecting on eight of his first nine collegiate attempts. He hit all three of his kicks, including a 50-yarder, the longest ever by a Tar Heel freshman, to help UNC knock off rival NC State.
"You have to be calm," Barth said. "The fans are loud, the stadium is loud, so you have to be able to block it all out."
But Barth reserved his best performance for Carolina's toughest game of the season, a Saturday night home showdown with No. 4 Miami. After missing a 39-yarder in the first quarter, Barth found himself with the ultimate opportunity for redemption.
Following a Hurricane touchdown that tied the game at 28-28, the Tar Heels engineered a drive to the Miami 25-yard line with four seconds remaining, giving Barth the chance to win the game.
"Going into it, I knew I could make that kick," Barth said. "I had made 42-yarders in practice."
Not surprisingly, Miami used a timeout in the classic football tactic of "icing" the kicker. It is quite the tactic to shake up a freshman kicker playing under the lights, but not so much when dealing with the naturally-relaxed Barth.
"I just take the time to visualize making the kick," Barth said. "Kick a few balls, get mentally prepared."
Barth drilled the game-winner, sending Kenan Stadium into frenzy and giving Carolina its biggest upset in school history.
"When I saw it go through, it was one of the best feelings I've ever had in my life," Barth said.
But Barth was far from a one-kick wonder in 2004, hitting 14 of his 18 field goal attempts and 35 of his 37 extra points. As a result, he earned honorable mention all-ACC honors in his first year on campus, the latest award for a young man who was nearly everybody's All-American kicker in high school.
For now, though, Barth is simply looking to improve on his debut season, though an injury to his holder has thrown a different wrinkle into his fall.
"It's all about not getting complacent," Barth said.
Barth, who didn't get the chance to kick a field goal in Carolina's narrow season-opening loss at Georgia Tech, heads into Saturday night's match-up with Wisconsin in the dark ("I know they have crazy fans up there, but that's about it," he said). But, after beginning the year on the road, Barth is anxious to return home with the rest of his teammates with hopes of forging another memory to savor at Kenan Stadium.
"We had a close one this last week at Georgia Tech," Barth said. "And obviously we wish we could have pulled it out, but we're real excited to get back home."
And despite the loss to the "Rambling Wreck," not surprisingly, he's not sweating it. That just wouldn't be Connor Barth.