Placekicker

Placekicker, or simply kicker (PK or K), is the player in American and Canadian football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals and extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist or punter as well.

Ampkicker
An amateur placekicker attempts to kick a field goal.

Specialized role of kicker (versus punter)

The kicker initially was not a specialized role. Prior to the 1934 standardization of the prolate spheroid shape of the ball, drop kicking was the prevalent method of kicking field goals and conversions, but even after its replacement by place kicking, until the 1960s the kicker almost always doubled at another position on the roster. George Blanda, Frank Gifford and Paul Hornung are prominent examples of players who were stars at other positions as well as being known for their kicking abilities. When the one-platoon system was abolished in the 1940s, the era of "two-way" players gave way to increased specialization, teams would employ a specialist at the punter or kicker position. Ben Agajanian, who started his professional career in 1945, was the first confirmed place-kicking specialist in the NFL, kicking for ten teams.[1] (There is some evidence that Ken Strong and Phil Martinovich, both in 1939, and Mose Kelsch, in 1933 and 1934, may have preceded Agajanian as players who spent their seasons doing nothing but kicking.)[2]

MasonCrosbyFG-Edit
Mason Crosby playing in 2007.

Because of the difference in techniques needed, to avoid leg fatigue, and to reduce the risk of injury, on the professional level most teams employ separate players to handle the jobs. The placekicker usually will only punt when the punter is injured, and vice versa. (One player often handles both jobs in the Canadian Football League, which has smaller active rosters than in the NFL.) A professional team will occasionally even have a kickoff specialist who handles only the kickoffs and serves as a backup to the kicker who handles field goals and extra points. This is typically done to further protect a premier point-scoring kicker from injury or if he, while accurate, does not have sufficient distance on kickoffs.

Amateur teams (e.g., college or high school) often do not differentiate between placekickers and punters, have different players assume different placekicking duties (for example, one person handles kicking off, another kicks long field goals, and another kicks from shorter distances), or have regular position players handle kicking duties. The last option is quite common on high school teams, when the best athletes are often the best kickers. Before the modern era of pro football, this was also the case for professional teams, particularly when most placekicks were still made in the "straight on" style outlined below.

Although kickers are protected from direct physical contact on field goal attempts, this is not generally true on kickoffs, and a kicker can see significant contact during a kick return. Kicker Björn Nittmo notably suffered severe brain damage from a hit he sustained on a kickoff in 1997.[3]

Salary and team standing

Placekickers and punters are often the lowest paid starters on professional teams, although proven placekickers sometimes earn over $1 million per year in salary.

It is not uncommon for placekickers to be some of the smallest members of their team. However, The New York Times in 2011 wrote that NFL kickers had adopted year-round weight training and strict diets.[4] Sebastian Janikowski that year was a 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) and 250-pound (110 kg) kicker. Kicker Rob Bironas, who was 6 feet (1.8 m) and 205 pounds (93 kg), noted, "I might be bigger than some wide receivers and cornerbacks."[4]

The presence of foreign born-and-raised players in the highest levels of gridiron football has largely been limited to placekickers, and more recently to punters from Australia as well. Occasionally, these players come from outside the traditional American high school or college football systems—and all but one of the women to have played men's American football at the college level were placekickers while the lone exception was a placekick holder. Notably Tom Landry recruited several soccer players from Latin America, such as Efren Herrera and Raphael Septien, to compete for the job of placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys. Cypriot Garo Yepremian was renowned as much for his kicking proficiency as he was for his complete lack of awareness of the sport early in his career. These anecdotes increase the perception of the placekicker as an outsider.

As of 2017, only four kickers have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame: George Blanda, Lou Groza, Jan Stenerud and Morten Andersen, and among them, Stenerud and Andersen are the only ones who did not also play another position. There is only one special teams player (including punters, return specialists and long snappers) to ever win the NFL's MVP – Mark Moseley in 1982.

Nevertheless, due to their duties in kicking both field goals and extra points placekickers are usually responsible for scoring more points than any other player on a team, and very often entire football games may come down to a single kick.[5] The top 25 players in NFL history in career scoring are all placekickers.[6]

Justin Tucker is the highest paid kicker in the NFL.[7]

Numbering

In the NFL, placekickers, along with punters and quarterbacks, are among the only players allowed to wear single-digit uniform numbers; kickers can also wear numbers between 10 and 19.

In college and high school football, kickers can wear any number and usually wear one of an eligible receiver (1 to 49 or 80 to 99). Because kickers are generally less prominent on team rosters, and low uniform numbers are much more widely used among other positions at those levels, kickers are often given high jersey numbers that go unused by other players (such as numbers in the 40s or 90s). The two players in documented football history to have worn the uniform number 100, Chuck Kinder and Bill Bell, were both placekickers.

Kicking style

Rian Lindell warming up
Rian Lindell of the Buffalo Bills prepares for a practice field goal kick

Placekickers today are predominantly "soccer-style" kickers, approaching the ball from several steps to the left of it [for a right-footed kicker, or vice versa] and several steps behind, striking the ball with the instep of the foot; all current National Football League kickers use this style. This method of kicking was introduced in 1957 by Fred Bednarski[8][9] and popularized in the 1960s by kickers like Pete Gogolak and his younger brother Charlie, the first placekicker to be drafted in the first round.[10]

Previously, most placekickers used a "straight on" style, which required the use of a special shoe that is extremely rigid and has a flattened and slightly upturned toe.[11] In the straight on style, also known as "straight-toe" style, the kicker approaches the ball from directly behind, rather than from the side, and strikes the ball with the toe. The last full-time straight on placekicker in the NFL was Mark Moseley who retired from the Cleveland Browns after the 1986 season; Dirk Borgognone, who set records with the straight toe in high school, tried but failed to make several NFL teams in the early 1990s.

Straight on kickers are relatively uncommon in major college football due to the control and power disadvantages, but straight-on kickers are still seen on high school, small-college, semi-pro and amateur teams.

Shoes

Placekickers in the modern game usually wear specialized shoes (soccer boots), but in very rare circumstances some prefer to kick barefoot. Tony Franklin was one such barefoot kicker, who played in Super Bowls for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. Another was Rich Karlis, who once shared two kicking records - the record for longest field goal in Super Bowl history, kicking a 47-yard field goal in Super Bowl XXI and also for the most field goals in a game, seven for Minnesota in 1989, tying Jim Bakken's record of the time, a record since broken by Rob Bironas.[12][13][14] Englishman Rob Hart kicked barefoot during his 7-year NFL Europe career. John Baker also used the style in the 1990s in the Canadian Football League, as did José Cortéz in the XFL. The last person to kick barefoot in an NFL game was Jeff Wilkins in 2002.

A unique shoe was worn by New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey; Dempsey had a deformed kicking foot that left him with a flat kicking surface at the front of his foot, and he wore a shoe that accommodated it. After Dempsey kicked a record-setting 63-yard field goal using the special shoe, the league instituted a rule change establishing standards for kicking shoes. This eventually ended Dempsey's kicking career.

Barefoot kickers are banned in the vast majority of high school games, due to a rule by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which requires all players to wear shoes. Massachusetts and Texas play by NCAA rules,[15] and therefore barefoot kickers are legal in those two states.

References

  1. ^ JIM MURRAY (December 15, 1994). "Agajanian Kicked Football Into Age of Specialization - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  2. ^ Hogrogian, John (2000). "Twelve Interesting Things About The 1939 NFL Season" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 22 (3): 1–5.
  3. ^ Graham, Tim (January 27, 2017). "Finding Nittmo: Answers, finally, from the NFL kicker who disappeared". The Buffalo News.
  4. ^ a b Battista, Judy (November 6, 2011). "Kickers Are Becoming Can't-Miss Performers". The New York Times. p. SP4. Archived from the original on November 14, 2011.
  5. ^ "A Life After Wide Right". cnn.com.
  6. ^ "NFL Scoring Leaders". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  7. ^ NFL's highest-paid players at every position, and who's up next
  8. ^ Sherrington, Kevin (8 December 2012). "Often overlooked, Texas' Bednarski is the true pioneer of soccer-style kick". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  9. ^ The Washington Times. "Going sideways into history". The Washington Times. Retrieved 3 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Charlie and Pete Gogolak". Football Foundation. 2015. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  11. ^ http://www.wizardkicking.com/images/ACF2C08.jpg Archived July 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Klosterman, Chuck (10 June 2016). "A brilliant idea! (For now)". Page 2. ESPN. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Most Field Goals in a Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  14. ^ Bena, John (10 February 2011). "Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers - Rich Karlis". Mile High Report. Retrieved 15 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Massachusetts rules" (PDF). miaa.net.
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy
Charlie Gogolak

Charles Paul Gogolak (in Hungarian: Gogolák Károly Pál, born December 29, 1944) is a retired American football placekicker.

Gogolak was signed out of Princeton University by the Washington Redskins in the 1966 NFL Draft, marking the first time that a placekicker was selected in the first round. He played for the Redskins, as well as the New England Patriots. Gogolak was one of the first "soccer style" placekickers in the NFL along with his brother Pete. The brothers combined to score 14 extra points in a single game, tied for the most ever, in a 72-41 win for Charlie's Redskins vs Pete's New York Giants.

Chris Jacke

Christopher Lee Jacke (born March 12, 1966) is a former professional American football placekicker best known for playing for the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.

Before his NFL career, Jacke played collegiately at the University of Texas at El Paso. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the sixth round of the 1989 NFL Draft. He went on to play eight seasons with the Packers from 1989 to 1996. In his last year with the Packers, he assisted the Packers to a 13-3 record and a win in Super Bowl XXXI, defeating Drew Bledsoe and the New England Patriots. In 1997, Jacke became a free agent and was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. During training camp he was injured and never played a game for them. Later that season he was signed by the Washington Redskins, only playing in one game. He finished his football career with the Arizona Cardinals for the 1998 and 1999 NFL seasons.Jacke previously held a record for the longest field goal to end overtime (53 yards) and is fourth behind Mason Crosby, Ryan Longwell and Don Hutson all time for the Packers in scoring.Jacke was a first-team AP All-Pro in 1993 and is a 2013 inductee into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

Daniel Carlson (American football)

Daniel Vilhelm Carlson (born January 23, 1995) is an

American football placekicker for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Auburn and is the all time scoring leader in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Carlson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He is currently the tallest kicker in the NFL.

Don Cockroft

Donald Lee Cockroft (born February 6, 1945) is a former American football punter and placekicker who played thirteen seasons in the National Football League with the Cleveland Browns. He has the third most career points for a Brown behind fellow kickers Phil Dawson (second) and Lou Groza.

Cockroft served as the Browns' primary punter and placekicker for the first nine seasons of his career. In 1977, he dropped punting from his duties and became solely a placekicker. He and Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker/punter Dave Green were two of the last NFL players to lead their teams in both punting and kicking in the same season (1976).

He was involved in the January 4, 1981, American Football Conference divisional play-off game versus the Oakland Raiders. Cockroft missed field goals from 47 and 30-yards in the second quarter. The Browns scored a touchdown on a 42-yard interception by Ron Bolton with 6:02 left in the second quarter, but the extra point attempt by Cockroft was blocked. Cleveland would lose the game 14-12, a game which is nicknamed, Red Right 88.

Later NFL players to have this dual distinction were Steve Little of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1979, Russell Erxleben of the New Orleans Saints briefly in 1979 and 1980, and Frank Corral for the Los Angeles Rams in 1980 and 1981.

Errol Mann

Errol Denis Mann (June 27, 1941 – April 11, 2013) was an American football placekicker who played in the National Football League from 1968-1978. He was a member of the Oakland Raiders' Super Bowl XI winning team. When attempting kicks, he used the straight-on style which is now almost never used by placekickers.

Gary Anderson (placekicker)

Gary Allan Anderson (born July 16, 1959) is a former National Football League (NFL) placekicker. The first South African to appear in an NFL regular season game, Anderson played in the league for 23 seasons with six teams. He spent the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is also known for his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Anderson set several records during his two decades in the league and was named to the NFL's All-Decade teams of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the Steelers All-Time Team.

As a member of the Vikings in 1998, Anderson became the first NFL kicker to successfully convert every field goal and point after touchdown during regular season play. During the postseason, however, he missed a critical field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, which is regarded as a primary factor in the Vikings' subsequent defeat. Anderson continued to play in the NFL for six more seasons before retiring. At the time of his retirement, Anderson held the NFL records for points scored and field goals made. He ranks second in games played (353), third in points scored (2,434), and third in field goals made (538) and is also the Steelers' all-time leading scorer at 1,343.

Greg Davis (placekicker)

Greg Davis (born October 29, 1965 in Rome, Georgia) is a former National Football League kicker who played for 12 seasons from 1987 - 1998 with the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders.

Greg Joseph

Greg Joseph (born August 4, 1994) is an American football placekicker for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Florida Atlantic University.

Ian Sunter

Ian Sunter (born December 21, 1952) is a Scottish-Canadian Canadian football place kicker who also played two seasons in the NFL (1976 and 1980).

Jim Turner (placekicker)

James Bayard Turner (born March 28, 1941) is a former American football player. A quarterback and placekicker, he played college football for Utah State University and was signed as a free agent in 1964 by the American Football League's New York Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank. "Tank" kicked a then record 145 points in the 1968 regular season, with a professional football record 34 field goals. Turner kicked for nine points in the AFL Championship game win over the Oakland Raiders, and ten points in the Jets's 16-7 defeat of the Baltimore Colts in the Third World Championship of Professional Football, Super Bowl III.The last of Turner's three field goals in Super Bowl III was for 9 yards, the shortest in Super Bowl history. At that time, the goal posts were located at the front of the end zones. They have since been moved to the back, so it's no longer possible to kick a field goal from this short a distance. Mike Clark of the Dallas Cowboys tied Turner's record for the shortest Super Bowl field goal in Super Bowl VI.In the locker room after the game, on national television (NBC-TV), Turner shouted "Welcome to the AFL !"

Following the AFL-NFL merger, Turner also played with the Denver Broncos for another nine seasons and kicked four points in a losing effort in Super Bowl XII against the Dallas Cowboys, connecting on a 47-yard field goal and an extra point following a 5-yard touchdown run by Rob Lytle. He was inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 1988.Turner finished his career with 304 of 488 (62%) field goals and 521 of 534 extra points, giving him 1,439 total points.

John Lee (placekicker)

John Lee (Hangul: 이민종; RR: I Min-jong; born May 19, 1964) is a former American football placekicker. He played college football for the UCLA Bruins, where he was a two-time All-American. Lee was selected in the second round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 32nd overall pick. He played one season with the Cardinals and was the first Korean to play in the NFL. He was inducted into the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.

Jon Baker (placekicker)

Jonathan David Baker (born August 13, 1972) is a former American football placekicker who played two seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. He played college football at Arizona State University and attended Foothill High School in Bakersfield, California. Baker was also a member of the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Edmonton Eskimos and BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys team that won Super Bowl XXX over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Lou Groza Award

The Lou Groza Award is presented annually to the top college football placekicker in the United States by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. The award is named after former Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Browns player Lou Groza. It has been presented since 1992, with Joe Allison of Memphis receiving the inaugural award. The incumbent award holder is Andre Szmyt of Syracuse. The award is part of the National College Football Awards Association coalition.

Mark Moseley

Mark DeWayne Moseley (born March 12, 1948) is a former professional American football placekicker in the National Football League (NFL) who played for the Philadelphia Eagles (1970), the Houston Oilers (1971–72), the Washington Redskins (1974–86), and the Cleveland Browns (1986). He won the Most Valuable Player Award during the strike-shortened 1982 season. He is one of the only special teams players to win the NFL MVP award.

Mike Clark (placekicker)

Michael Vincent Clark (November 7, 1940 – July 24, 2002) was an American football placekicker in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills. He played college football at Texas A&M University.

Mike Cofer (kicker)

James Michael Cofer (born February 19, 1964 in Columbia, South Carolina), is a former professional American football player who attended Charlotte Country Day School. A 6'2", 197 lb (89 kg) placekicker from North Carolina State University, Cofer kicked in the National Football League for eight seasons from 1987–1993 and 1995. In the 1990s and 2002, he was also a stock car racing driver in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour and Craftsman Truck Series.

Moe Racine

Maurice Joseph "Moe The Toe" Racine (October 13, 1937 – March 4, 2018) was a placekicker and offensive lineman for the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1958-1974 of the Canadian Football League. He was part of four Grey Cup winning teams with the Rough Riders and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in the Class of 2014.

Ray Wersching

Raimund "Ray" Wersching (born August 21, 1950) is an Austrian former placekicker in the NFL. He played in the NFL for a span of 15 years, from 1973 through 1987.

Tony Franklin (kicker)

Anthony Ray "Tony" Franklin (born November 18, 1956 in Big Spring, Texas) is a former National Football League football kicker in the National Football League between 1979 and 1988 for the Philadelphia Eagles, the New England Patriots, and the Miami Dolphins. Franklin was best known for his barefoot kicking style. He played college football at Texas A&M.

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