Being known as the underdog gives that person the ability to work hard to overcome the ego of the other person or team. The underdog almost always surpasses the big shot at some point in their career. Now that is not to say all big names do not succeed long term. But most underdogs earn their way to greatness through determination, discipline, and the willingness to sacrifice. That is why the New England Patriots do so well ever year. Most of their talent comes from late-round, or undrafted players.
This post will highlight the routes most kickers who are successful make. These athletes might be more hungry for a spot than big-time names. Overall, the amount of work that must be put might be more than a hotshot.
What is an Underdog?
An underdog is, “a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest.” The most beautiful thing about sports is the underdog usually comes out on top.
One such example of an underdog is a junior college kicker. Junior college is the opportunity for a young student-athlete to increase their game experience, grades, and mentality. Most students give junior college a bad reputation since it is seen as the place students go when their test scores are not enough. While that might be true in some situations, that is definitely not the case for others. The majority of student-athletes go there to get immediate playing time. Some of the players to mention that have gone to junior college are; Aaron Rodgers, Dede Westbrook, and Cam Newton.
Some of the other benefits of Junior College might be:
- Lower amount investment required each semester
- Smaller classes
- Prepares athlete for a bigger college environment
- Typically more comprehend able classes
- They have more attention to detail on things like Drills making them a good example
Junior College Route for a Kicker
Junior college serves as a funnel into the life of a college student. With its smaller sized classes, Junior college is an amazing opportunity to become better, challenge yourself, and develop as a better athlete. As a kicker, for example, recruiting is tough to do since coaches do not have a large amount of data to go off of like quarterback.
Kickers are harder to recruit due to the limited stats. Since mentality is the most important thing for a kicker, coaches do not see that on film when they are screening for players. Coaches are mainly concerned about how that player performs. Rankings are great, but in junior college, everyone has the same goal. To get to the next level. Even if you had a 5-star rating when you got to that school, it does not mean anything since you are also at the same school as your competitor. Chances are, the player with more heart creates more opportunities than the ones who expect everything to happen for them.
Typically, junior college kickers do not start off their college careers with a big name. The purpose of Juco is to develop their skills and become a well-rounded individual who is a quality player. The main objective is to leave Junior College better than when you got there. While junior college is a long uncertain road of ups and downs, the rewards are great since it is essentially a second chance. The recruiting process repeats. That means as a player that did not get in the recruiting process, the opportunity to shine in junior college is ever-present.
The amount of times an unknown kicker comes into a small school and leaves with many records happens more often than not. Life is all about creating the opportunity. It is not fun to sit on the sideline and hope for the right moment to show up. Take charge of the moment and come out on top!
Undrafted Kickers – Adam Vinatieri
Adam Vinatieri, a nationally known name, made his name by making clutch field goals. One thing that not many people know, Vinateri did not even get on an NFL team’s radar until he went 9/10 in the European league. As impressive as Vinateri is, the fact that no team knew about him is impressive in and of itself. While it may seem shocking, this is the case for many Elite kickers. Many kickers that are drafted do not work out, and the ones that do not get drafted, thrive.
Adam Vinateri consistently establishes himself onto the platform as the NFL’s greatest kicker of all time. With a massive chip on his shoulder, he beat almost every record possible. He is impressive for scoring the most points in history. That means of all the records, Vinateri is statistically, the greatest of all time.
Undrafted Kickers – Josh Lambo
Josh Lambo has a pretty interesting story. After playing most of his childhood as a soccer goalkeeper, Lambo had his sights set on a full career in soccer. Throughout his life until being 18, Lambo was on track to being a Professional goalie until retirement. Injuries and substitutes held him back from that goal. In 2012, Lambo gave football a try and came to the conclusion that he is pretty good at it. After kicking a 33-yard field goal against Ole Miss, Lambo found his new path.
After playing in the 2013, and 2014 seasons, the Los Angeles Chargers signed him as an undrafted free agent. Josh played for 2 seasons with the Chargers and got beat out, and then signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. Lambo has developed the ability to move on quickly from prior moments. Since playing in the professional soccer scene, Josh knows how to handle emotional news.
Undrafted Kickers – Justin Tucker
Justin Tucker, a 29-year-old, is statistically, the most accurate kicker to ever play in the NFL. Throughout college, Tucker put up incredible numbers to qualify him as an elite level player from a young age. While Tucker’s main strength was Field Goals and kickoffs, UT’s coach, Mack Brown, put him in as a punter as well. Averaging 40.5 yards per punt over 4 years is not bad. While as impressive as it is, Justin still did not get drafted in the NFL, he went as a free agent and was then picked up by the ravens. Tucker beat out Billy Cundiff, and the rest is history.
Undrafted Punters – Jamie Gillan
This punter has made quite the headline in recent weeks. Jamie Gillan Aka “The Scottish Hammer” Is impressive this far into the preseason. His power is fun to watch as he consistently hits 50+ yard punts. Graduating from Arkansas Pine Bluff, Gillan, became a favorite among the team as he “hammered” the ball.
His film is really impressive. 80-yard punts, incredible hits on opposing players, he has it all. What is more impressive, he accepted a scholarship offer from pine bluff after a 10-minute conversation with the coach on the phone. Most players decide for months where to go to school, he found his home in 10 minutes. The best part is, he did not even know where Arkansas was. And on his preparation for the NFL, he popped 3 out of 4 footballs he bought for practice.
While leg strength is a key component in punters skills, it must match Consistency. Jamie has proven that he has the consistency as he beat out Britton Colquitt for the starting job. While tenure is great in the NFL, most teams value the business, and long term status. Gillan can definitely provide that sort of long term play as long as he remains humble, keeps working hard, and does not back down.
Undrafted Punters – Marquette King
Marquette King is known for his booming punts, flashy dances, and the personality the world deserves. He consistently puts up 5.0 second hang times with over 50 yards per punt. The rule of thumb is to match hang time with distance. Ex: 4.5 seconds of hang time with a 45-yard punt, 55-yard punt with 5.5 seconds of hang time, etc. Since Marquette has incredible leg strength, one would think he came from a great school with a great history of success.
King came from Fort Valley State University. During his time there, he played wide receiver and some punting responsibilities. Eventually, his coach said that he either has to go punting full time or lose his scholarship altogether. So, King decided to do king things and punt full time. As time went on Marquette wanted to compete with himself and see how far he could punt the ball each time. Eventually, this made Marquette into a machine as he won MVP of his team, won first-team all-conference, punted a ball over 80 yards, and averaged 43 yards a punt in his senior season.
Marquette King Continued
Going undrafted, Marquette ultimately went to the Oakland Raiders where he beat out Veteran Chris Kluwe for the starting job. Upon winning the job, the Raiders signed King to a 3 year $1.36 million contract. That places him in the diamond in the rough category. What is truly amazing is how confident he is.
Most kickers and punters do their job then head off the field. Marquette makes it a point for people to know he is there. Which is great because fans have grown to love his personality no matter what team he is on. Currently, he is a free agent, but being healthy, it goes without question that he will be able to make an NFL roster. While he is another kicker/punter that has gone under the radar, it is really fun to watch him celebrate after a punt inside the 5, a big punt, or a fake play.
Undrafted Kickers and Punters
Whether a Kicker/Punter came from a big school, small school, Junior College or Division 1, everyone is equal in the NFL. Everyone has a fair shot to make the team. Even if you were the greatest kicker of all-time in college, that does not mean that the same talent will serve you in the NFL. There are countless stories of kickers and punters who were incredible in college but never made a big name for themselves in the big league.
Coaches fail to see kickers and punters since all coaches see them the same way. They might only look at statistics, which might get them only so far. What is necessary is for all coaches to do evaluations on consecutive kicks with pressure. Game like situations separate the “on paper” great kickers to the not so great ones. How does that kicker perform when a game-winner is on the line? How does that punter do when they are in their own endzone with 1:00 to go in the game? Each and every situation is a chance for that person to shine. Tucker, for example, made 100% of his kicks in the 4th quarter. That statistic is amazing for NFL coaches since almost every game comes down to the wire.
Undrafted Kickers and Punters
Every undrafted kicker is different, every situation is different. However, it is hard to judge someone based on small details. Everything can develop, it just takes the right person to bring it out of them. Even though the NFL is a business, it is a shame they do not have coaches specifically for kickers.
One of the reasons the Ravens are so successful is because they have a dedicated Kicking Coach who watches over them, mentoring them, and getting them in the right spot mentally.
Even Bruce Leee had a mentor. All Kickers and Punters can develop much faster if they obtain someone to watch, guide, and mentor them. That is why so many unknown players become who they are. The mentor is simply the train tracks, while the player is the train and conductor. All the mentor does is show the right path, but it is up to the player to WANT to get to that goal destination in their life.
Being an underdog is one of the best things that can happen. Simply because when you are unknown, no one thinks about you being the one to take charge. And while no one is watching, you are putting in the work behind the scenes waiting for your moment.
When that moment shows up, you simply do what you have been doing for a while. This is no big deal to you but to your peers, it is a saving grace moment. Become that person that gets there early, leaves last, puts in more effort than anyone else.
Doing this consistently for years at a time. When you look back and see how much your life has changed, it will be hard to go back to mediocrity. Be obsessed with being a warrior. Your future deserves it. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share this so we can continue to grow! Also, if you have any suggestions for what we should write about next, let us know!
Thanks for reading and stay amazing!