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The Kicking Game
Chris Sailer
Article posted on 6/23/2005

"Special Teams" is one third of a football game. Any good coach knows how important it is to stress the kicking game. Yet somehow kickers, punters, and long snappers are not viewed as being as important as quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers or defensive backs, linebackers, or lineman. The truth is, having a consistent kicker can be just as valuable as having an elite quarterback. Results depend upon the success of Special Teams, Offense, and Defense equally. Let's take a look at the life of a specialist and how we have arrived at the kicking game of today. After all, so many games, of all levels, are decided by the unique culture of kicking.

The kicking game has evolved tremendously since the first football was kicked. The kicking, punting, and long snapping positions used to be handled as a second job by an offensive or defensive player. Over time, things changed as the game came to realize the importance of these positions. Gone are the days of toe-style kicking - enter soccer-style kicking. Gone are the days of an offensive lineman handling the kicking duties, a quarterback punting, and a linebacker snapping - enter the specialist. These changes have all been made to upgrade the kicking game, to gain an edge in Special Teams. Soccer-style kicking produces more distance and hang-time. Having one person for each of the kicking jobs produces elite performers at each of these positions. The breakdown of these positions has led to a consistent increase in statistical success. Perfection is now expected in this area that controls one third of a football game.

Kickers, punters, and long snappers are often misunderstood - treated as outcasts. Why, you might ask, seeing as how important these jobs are. There are several reasons. First, these specialists are always separated from the rest of the team in their training. This causes a natural separation from the other players. Second, very few coaches know how to teach the fundamentals involved in kicking, punting, and long snapping. Coaches expect these specialists to coach themselves. This causes a natural separation from the staff. Finally, come game time, these specialists only see the field a hand full of times, and when they do all eyes are on them. They can become the hero or a goat based on just one or two plays, blamed or congratulated for the outcomes of many hard fought football games. This causes even more separation between the specialists and the staff and other players. That is football. The specialist will never quite be understand by anyone other than the fraternity of specialists that play the game of football. Yet kickers, punters, and long snappers will continue to have a large effect on the game of football no matter how you look at it.

With kicking becoming such an important specialization, more and more focus is being put into the recruitment of talented specialists. Kickers, punters, and long snappers begin to come into their own at the high school level. Years ago scholarships were not often rewarded to high school specialists. Specialists were expected to walk-on and earn the job and eventually a scholarship. Slowly things have changed. Today almost every Division 1 program in the country offers scholarships to kickers and punters out of high school at a rate of about once every three to four years. Thirty to forty scholarships are given to the kicking/punting position on average per year today. More recently long snappers have also begun to reap the same reward. Five to ten long snappers receive scholarships out of high school per year today. College coaches rely heavily upon the knowledge of the best kicking and long snapping coaches in the country when making decisions on which specialists to recruit. The fewer mistakes that are made with these decisions, the more likely the trend of offering scholarships to kickers, punters, and long snappers will continue. Chris Sailer Kicking and the National Kicking Competition has helped place the best of the best at major Division 1 schools over the past several years. Specialists are finally getting rewarded for how important they are to the game.

For those kickers, punters, and long snappers that get the chance to play college football, the chance to one day have a professional career has become a reality. With the media covering college football as it does today exposure is no longer a concern. The best will get noticed and college scouts will give them an opportunity to show themselves. With a solid college career, a good agent, great workouts for scouts, and a little bit of luck, a professional career is a possibility. Because coaches know so little about the fundamentals and technique involved with kicking, they look for results. If a specialist can produce consistently at the highest level when given that chance, a long career may await. Once proven, that experience is hard to take away. However, with any professional sport, the odds are still slim. Only 32 kickers, punters, and long snappers make an NFL team each year.

With all of the mystery surrounding these specialists, there is one thing that you can count on as history proves - kickers, punters, and long snappers will affect the outcomes of football games for years to come. Here are a few examples. Super Bowl XXV, 1991 - Giants 20, Bills 19: Scott Norwood's potential game-winning field goal attempt sailed wide right. Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII, 2002 and 2004: Patriots win both of these Super Bowls on game winning kicks by kicker Adam Vinatieri with seconds remaining. September 4, 2004 - LSU 22, Oregon State 21: Oregon State Kicker misses three extra points including the potential game tying extra point in an overtime loss to last years Co-National Champion. And so goes the life of a kicker.

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The kicking video for this month has really helped me! I have wanted to focus on being able to be more consistant from long range. Thanks!
-- member

Doug and Tommy's Frequently Asked Questions: "Does the size of a kicker's foot affect his kicking ability (soccer style)? In other words is there an optimal foot size for kicking a football relative to the size of the football?
Do kickers with smaller feet have an advantage, or is it the other way around?
Am I at a disadvantage with an 11 1/2 foot or not? Can I overcome this, if so, how? Should I switch to toeing the ball?" -- Click here to read our answer

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