NFL kickers are paid millions of dollars a year to kick a ball between the uprights, so what is it about them that is so different from any other kicker in the world? Stay tuned to find out.
What Percentage of kickers make it to the NFL?
When talking about an NFL kicker, you need to know what percentage of players actually even make it there and stay. According to the NCAA“1,093,234 high school athletes, 71,060 or 6.5% will make it to the NCAA. From there, only 1.6% of college-level players will get drafted into the NFL.” When you break it down, less than .001% or 1 out of 16,000 high school athletes make it to the NFL.
While making it to the NFL is no easy task, Kicking is arguably one of the most cutthroat positions in the league. With only 32 active roster spots, one bad game and you’re done.
So what is so valuable about an NFL kicker?
They are historically the highest scoring players on the team. Not only do they score more points, but they are also routinely called in to win the game.
On top of playing a huge role in points scored for the team. They are often responsible for kickoffs which influences the field position for the opposing team. Bad kickoffs lead to bad field position which often loses the team the game. (LEFT OFF HERE)
So it’s important to have a kicker who has not only an accurate leg, but a really strong leg which we’ll talk about next.
How strong is an NFL kicker?
As the years have gone on we have seen farther and farther field goals. Especially now with the record-breaking 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, we are witnessing a really interesting time where kickers are strong enough now that the threshold of long-distance kicks are getting farther and farther back.
10 years ago, going 50-60% on field goals of 50 yards of more was acceptable, now kickers get fired for going less than 60%.
But how exactly are NFL kickers becoming stronger?
It doesn’t have to revolve around weight training. Most NFL kickers are finding alternative forms of strength training to be more effective.
What makes an NFL kicker stronger isn’t necessarily squats and deadlifts like people used to think, the more functional and kicker specific, the better it is.
As more and more technology starts to come out, kickers are experimenting with heart rate training, functional training, and balance drills that work the whole body instead of a traditional bilateral movement like a squat or deadlift.
This results in a much more balanced, stronger kicker than ever before. Especially when kicking, balance is key and kickers are showing that with proper training, it’s paying huge dividends towards their on-the-field training.
It’s great to have all this strength but without proper accuracy, the NFL kicker won’t last long at all. So how are these kickers able to be so accurate with so many things happening within 1.2 seconds from snap to kick?
How are NFL kickers so accurate?
Justin Tucker has converted an impressive 90.8% on his field goals so far in his 9 seasons. Harrison Butker has an also impressive 89.5% conversion rate.
This means that out of 100 kicks from 50 yards and in, they easily put 90 kicks through the uprights. That is absolutely insane. Not to mention they are without a doubt the two strongest legs in the NFL. If you disagree, take a hike.
While workouts play a huge role in their performance, they are masters of controlling their emotions and mindset.
This is huge when they’re playing a game in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. The NFL kickers are able to focus in on the moment and trust their swing to make the kick.
While an average kicker tries to aim the ball, the NFL kicker will let his pre-kick routine and swing do the work for him. Ultimately, after thousands of hours of practice and repetitions, the NFL kicker knows that by letting his swing take over and being present in the moment, the kick will go through the uprights. It’s so automatic for an NFL kicker that they can make a field goal from 55 yards and closer in their sleep.
The main variable is both weather and operation errors like snap or holds. Even the ball being off it’s mark by .5” can be the difference between winning and losing the game.
So that brings us to the final point, what is the single biggest thing that NFL kickers do that makes them so successful?
What is the single biggest thing that NFL kickers do that others do not
An NFL kicker sees the success for one really important reason, they pay attention to all of the little details in their kick and obsess over them.
The simple fact that they obsess over every little thing, ask hundreds of questions and continue working at it until they’re perfect is why they’re in the NFL.
Not only do they have to be genetically built to be a kicker, be more accurate than everyone else, but in order to be elite, their routine is down to a science.
Watch Vinatieri from 15 years ago and now. He has not changed a thing in his pre-kick routine. He takes the same sized steps back and over, he breathes at the same time, his leg follows the same swing path, his body looks the same at impact, his eyes are looking at the ball for the same amount of time. Not a single thing changes in the routine of a professional kicker compared to an average kicker.
The term obsessed here means they do all the seemingly unimportant things significantly more times than anything else. Not only is the routine the same, they know the routine is what makes them so clutch. If they are ever overwhelmed, a routine will make them calm again because kicking is almost subconscious for them. By repeating their routine they’re telling their body what is about to happen and the body recognizes what’s going on and the operation happens like clockwork.
So as a kicker, the small details are really what makes the biggest difference.
With that said, start practicing obsessing over the pre-kick routine until you can do that 100 times and everything is the exact same. From there, it’s just a matter of swinging towards the target and letting your natural swing takeover. I’ll link to a video here and blog post here talking about finding your natural swing.
Thank you guys for reading. Leave a comment below on who your favorite NFL Kicker is!