Not for nothing is the game called football. Coach Robert Neyland once said, “Press the kicking game for it is here that the breaks are made.” More games are won and lost there than in any other facet of the game.
Take the punter, for instance. Nowhere is one more responsible for the fortunes of his team than when the punter attempts to: 1) Get his guys out of trouble, or 2): Put the other team in trouble. Consistently falling short of these goals, he’ll retreat to the sideline, never remove his helmet, and be shunned by his teammates. If he is a pro, a one-way ticket home will be in his locker Monday morning. If he is a collegian, as autumn winds begin to blow, he’ll move between classes with his wool cap pulled fully down over his face, only his downcast eyes showing.
The field goal guy is no less precarious in his tenure. This past Sunday, the Tampa Bay kicker missed three chip shot field goals and an extra point. Today, there are seventy-eight former NFL kickers on the speed dial of the Buccaneers general manager looking at their cell phones.
Before this season, successfully kicking extra points was a 99% given in the NFL. To make things interesting, the suits moved the ball from the two-yard-line back to the fifteen. Bingo! More extra points were missed in the first two weeks this year than in the entire 2014 season, further threatening the pay checks of even more ‘foot-ballers.’
Conversely, kicking can also bring lasting glory. Case in point: a game winning field goal in 2003 by University of Minnesota kicker Rhys Lloyd-with one second left against Wisconsin – emblazoned his name in Golden Gopher folklore forever. Watch his enthusiasm below (#16) as he races to retrieve the Paul Bunyan Axe with his teammates.
Included in the histrionics of the kicking game are those poor souls who catch the spiraling, twisting, or end-over-end oblate spheroids. In the interests of self-preservation, they should consider fair catching the ball first, thereby insuring either continued employment or further matriculation.
If a fair catch is not an option, get the hell away from the ball, and let it bounce on its merry way. Should one deign to catch it and run, do not do so from inside your own ten-yard-line because you have only two chances to advance the ball to the twenty-yard-line, slim and none.
The final cleric in the kicking clergy is the kick-off guy. All he does is work on muscling up his kicking leg, his ticket to the good life. Deep is good, deep is desired. Anything else is bad. Kick-offs out of bounds result in the same Monday ticket home. On-side kicks may be attempted but upon so doing, the kicker should turn and run for his life, totally avoiding contact within the mass of Stonehenge look-a-likes scrumming up around mid-field.