Placekicker

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An amateur placekicker attempts to kick a field goal. Ampkicker.JPG
An amateur placekicker attempts to kick a field goal.

Placekicker, or simply kicker (PK or K), is the player in gridiron 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.

Contents

Specialized role

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]

Mason Crosby playing in 2007. MasonCrosbyFG-Edit.jpg
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]

Still, due to their lack of plays in games and lack of contact compared to other positions, the top kickers in the NFL have often had extremely long careers, far beyond that of a typical NFL player. Place kicker is one of the few positions where it is not uncommon for players to be beyond the age of 40. Of the eight players in NFL history who have played beyond the age of 45, six of them are kickers: Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson, John Carney, Ben Agajanian, Adam Vinatieri, and George Blanda. Blanda was the oldest player in NFL history, playing until the age of 48. [4]

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. [5] 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." [5]

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. British-born kicker Mick Luckhurst was one of the first UK players in the NFL to have a long career, playing 7 seasons for the Atlanta Falcons during the 1980s and retiring as Atlanta's all time leading scorer. Mexican kicker Raul Allegre played 9 seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl in 1986. 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. [6] The top 25 players in NFL history in career scoring are all placekickers. [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 of the Buffalo Bills prepares for a practice field goal kick Rian Lindell warming up.jpg
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; The last straight on kicker drafted into the NFL was Manny Matsakis from Capital University by the Philadelphia Eagles who went on to become a successful college and CFL Coach.

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. However, both of college football's top awards for kickers are named after former conventional kickers Fred Mitchell and Lou Groza even though the winners are soccer style players.

There are variations between soccer style kicking in fact, many of the early soccer style NFL kickers look somewhat different then most of all today's soccer style kickers and there is a difference between the college / preps vs most of the preps taught between kicking schools. Kicking Coach Paul Assad started teaching in the early 2000's what is termed "The Power X System" method used by most all of his over 51 NFL starting Specialist students such as noteworthy, NFL greats like (Mason Crosby, Sebastian Janikowski, Matt Bryant among others) where there is a notable, differentials of leg alignment, foot position at impact, upper body positioning and sequence as well as "Plant Foot" positioning.

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. Texas plays by NCAA rules, [15] and therefore barefoot kickers are legal in the Lone Star State.[ citation needed ]

Media

In an effort to bring more attention to placekickers, people have created sports media companies such as The Kicker Report. [16] [17] The Kicker Report focuses only on placekickers of American and Canadian football leagues as well as college and high school placekickers.

Related Research Articles

A drop kick is a type of kick in various codes of football. It involves a player dropping the ball and then kicking it after it bounces off the ground.

Thomas John Dempsey is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League (NFL) for the New Orleans Saints (1969–1970), Philadelphia Eagles (1971–1974), Los Angeles Rams (1975–1976), Houston Oilers (1977) and Buffalo Bills (1978–1979). He attended high school at San Dieguito High School and played college football at Palomar College. Unlike the "soccer style" approach which was becoming more and more widely used during his career, Dempsey's kicking style was the standard straight-toe style.

George Blanda American football quarterback and placekicker

George Frederick Blanda was an American football quarterback and placekicker who played professionally in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL). Blanda played 26 seasons of professional football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement.

Morten Andersen Player of American football

Morten Andersen, nicknamed the "Great Dane", is a Danish-American former American football kicker. He is the all-time leader in games played in the NFL, with 382. He formerly held both the NFL records for field goals and points scored. Both records were broken by Adam Vinatieri in 2018. At retirement, Andersen was the all-time leading scorer for two different rival teams; the New Orleans Saints, with whom he spent 13 seasons, and the Atlanta Falcons, with whom he spent a combined eight seasons.

Ray Guy American football punter

William Ray Guy is an American former professional football player who was a punter for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). Guy was a unanimous All-American selection in 1972 as a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, and was the first pure punter ever to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, when the Oakland Raiders selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 1973. Guy was elected to both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. A six-time NFL All-Pro, Guy is widely considered to be the greatest punter of all time.

Punter (football) position in American and Canadian football, who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage

A punter (P) in gridiron football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Rhys Lloyd (American football) Player of American football

Rhys John Lloyd is a former American football kickoff specialist. He was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He played college football at Minnesota.

Holder (gridiron football) American football position

In gridiron football, the holder is the player who receives the snap from the long snapper during field goal or extra point attempts made by the placekicker. The holder is set on one knee seven yards behind the line-of-scrimmage. Before the play begins he places the hand which is closest to the place kicker on the ground in a location designated by the kickers foot, with his forward hand ready to receive the snap. After receiving the snap, the holder will place the football on the turf, or block, ideally with the laces facing the uprights and the ball accurately placed where the back hand was initially, then balancing the ball with one or two fingers until the ball is kicked.

Ben Agajanian American football player

Benjamin James "The Toeless Wonder" Agajanian was an American football player, primarily a placekicker in the National Football League, the All-America Football Conference and American Football League.

Jerry Dean DePoyster is a former American football placekicker and punter who also played in the National Football League.

Stephen Everett Cox is a former American football punter and placekicker. Cox was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and played for them for four seasons. Cox played four more seasons for the Washington Redskins. Cox was one of the last straight-ahead style placekickers in the National Football League.

Field goal means of scoring in American football and Canadian football

A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage, while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are place kicked. Drop kicked field goals were common in the early days of Gridiron football but are almost never done in modern times. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.

Justin Medlock American football placekicker

Justin Charles Medlock is an American professional player of Canadian football who is a placekicker for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played college football for the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and earned consensus All-American honors. The Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Medlock has also played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, as well as the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL).

Mac L. Percival is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. He played college basketball at Texas Tech University.

Place kick Kicking play in football

The place kick is a type of kicking play commonly used in American football, association football (soccer), Canadian football, rugby league, and rugby union.

A kickoff specialist is a seldom-used position in gridiron football. Kickoff specialists are members of the special teams. They are responsible for kicking the ball in the kickoff. These players tend to have a strong leg, often capable of making touchbacks, and capable of keeping a ball in the bounds of the field of play but do not have the accuracy or technique required to be a full-time placekicker or punter. Some kickoff specialists later become full-time placekickers, while some are marginal placekickers who are soon out of football.

David Buehler American football placekicker

David Buehler is a former American football kicker in the National Football League for the Dallas Cowboys. He played college football for the University of Southern California.

A Kicking specialist or kick specialist and sometimes referred to a "kicker", especially when referring to a placekicker, is a player on gridiron football special teams who performs punts, kickoffs, field goals and/or point after touchdowns. The special teams counterpart of a kicking specialist is a return specialist.

Brett Maher (American football) American football placekicker and punter

Brett Maher is an American football placekicker for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He played college football at the University of Nebraska. He has also been a member of the Dallas Cowboys, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Ottawa Redblacks, Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and Cleveland Browns.

Donny Hageman is an American football placekicker who is currently a free agent. He played college football at San Diego State.

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. http://www.oldest.org/sports/nfl-players-america/
  5. 1 2 Battista, Judy (November 6, 2011). "Kickers Are Becoming Can't-Miss Performers". The New York Times. p. SP4. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014.
  6. "A Life After Wide Right". cnn.com.
  7. "NFL Scoring Leaders". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  8. Sherrington, Kevin (December 8, 2012). "Often overlooked, Texas' Bednarski is the true pioneer of soccer-style kick". The Dallas Morning News . Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  9. The Washington Times. "Going sideways into history". The Washington Times . Retrieved January 3, 2015.
  10. "Charlie and Pete Gogolak". Football Foundation. 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  11. http://www.wizardkicking.com/images/ACF2C08.jpg Archived July 5, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. Klosterman, Chuck (June 10, 2016). "A brilliant idea! (For now)". Page 2. ESPN. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  13. "Most Field Goals in a Game". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  14. Bena, John (February 10, 2011). "Denver Broncos Greats... By The Numbers - Rich Karlis". Mile High Report. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  15. "Massachusetts rules" (PDF). miaa.net.
  16. "THE KICKER REPORT". THE KICKER REPORT. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  17. Laughlin, Peter. "Letters: Let's hear it for football kickers". The Advocate. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
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