Who Are The Best NFL Kickers In History, What Makes Them Elite? | Kickers of Earth

Each of these NFL kickers has a specific skill. And throughout history, these NFL Kickers have either revolutionized, changed, or created new opportunities for what is possible. Whether it is leg strength, elite-level multi-position players, or just complete clutch field goals ability, we will highlight what makes a great kicker. Hopefully, this post identifies what makes these NFL kickers so unique for the game of football.

#4 Sebastian Janikowski

Sebastian Janikowski Otherwise referred to as the “Polish Cannon”, is recognized for having one of the biggest legs in football. The lefty has shown Consistency hitting absolutely huge kicks since his high school days. As most kickers, Sebastian started out as a soccer player. It was not until his senior year that he finally gave kicking a go. During one of his practices, Sebastian hit an 82-yard field goal. I mean come on, he is in high school. Shortly after, he was nominated on to the 1996 All American Team.

Sebastian Janikowski jogs off the field from an NFL field goal.

Janikowski At Florida State University

The following season, Janikowski decided to continue his athletic career at Florida State University. There, Janikowski learned that Bobby Bowden was a step above the other coaches. With Sebastian on their team, they won the National championship in 1999. It does not hurt when you have a Kicker who hits kickoffs through the uprights 3/4 times. Bobby Bowden said, “Boy, have you ever thought about (I have!) how many national championships we might have won if we had Janikowski every year of my career?”[1]

Going 16/21 (76.2%) 27/32 (84.4%) and 23/30 (76.7%) Sebastian was also nominated the Lou Groza award winner 2 years in a row. He remains the only kicker to do so. (2019) Janikowski showed that he was clearly NFL Caliber. While it is all fun and games to win bowl games and stay out late partying after awards, Getting paid was the end goal for Seabass. Therefore, he ended up leaving FSU one year early. He was saying his primary reason for foregoing his senior year was to pay for his mother to come to the United States.[4]

Janikowski In The NFL

Picked up in the FIRST round by the Oakland Raiders, Janikowski had some huge expectations about him. Most of the time, first-round picks do not do that well in the beginning. Therefore, Sebastian bounced back from his first season where he went 22/32 (68.8%) and put up a consistent 82.1% conversion on his kicks the next season. That is what has made the biggest impact on his coaches in the NFL.

Seahawks

On April 13, 2018, Sebastian signed a 1-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks. After beating out Jason Myers on August 20, 2018, During that time, he made 81.5% of his kicks. During a game against the Dallas Cowboys in the wildcard round of the NFL Playoffs, Janikowski injured his hamstring. This resulted in him being out the rest of the game.

Retirement

Since retiring from the NFL on April 28, 2019, Janikowski finished with 19 years in the NFL. Not only did he have an absolute cannon for a leg, he had the ability to make his kicks as well. Therefore, Janikowski has established himself as a kicker who is an anomaly in football. The rare leg strength to make 82-yard kicks and make his kicks 80% of the time. In conclusion, he finished with 1,799 points and the Raiders all-time leading scorer. A very impressive career from the Polish Cannon.

#3 Lou Groza

Lou Groza was the Michael Jordan of his time. When all of the other kickers were making kicks around a 40% conversion, he was at the 55% with some kicks over 50+ yards (that does not happen in the 1950’s.) Lou arrived at Ohio State University in 1942. Shortly after joining, Groza left for the Military. Groza then served 4 years in the U.S. Army. After the army, Groza’s Ohio State Coach, Paul Brown, sent him a package containing footballs and a contract to play professional football. Shortly after, the team was named after brown and Groza joined the team in 1946 as the first kicker in Brown’s history.

Lou Groza, hits an NFL field goal during his career.

Cleveland Browns

Groza was nicknamed “The Toe” during his time with the team and it is no question why. His biggest achievements include:

  • Longest field goal in pro football history @ 53 yards (1948)
  • Broke a 24-year-old record by kicking 13 field goals in a season
  • 88.5% Success Rate in 1953
  • MVP in 1954
  • 52-yard field goal against the Rams in the 1951 Championship
  • 9 Pro Bowls
  • #76 jersey retired by Browns
  • He was a member of the original Browns team
  • Played 21 seasons with the Browns (entire career)
  • Also started and very proficient at Offensive Tackle
  • Led league in field goals in five separate seasons
  • Game-Winning Field Goal Vs. LA Rams In 1950 Championship

Lou Groza definitely had some amazing statistics. It definitely took a lot of time before people could catch up with his talent. Having a phenomenal career is just another small feat for Lou “The Toe” Groza.

#2 Justin Tucker

Justin is a very exciting player to watch since he is almost guaranteed three points. However, Stretching might be an area to look into since his leg can get punchy at times. He does make up for the low punch technique by having great Ball Contact. To match with his strong leg and very consistent form, Tucker will go down as one of the if not the greatest kicker of all time if he keeps this pace up.

An action shot of NFL Kicker Justin Tucker hitting a field goal in the super bowl.

University of Texas

From 2008-2011, Tucker put up incredible numbers which earned him numerous awards. Justin’s famous moment was when he nailed the 40-yard game-winning field goal against the Aggies. This kick put the Texas Longhorns up 27-25 against A&M At Kyle Field. With three seconds left on the clock, Tucker split the uprights and the rivalry between UT and A&M came to a close. Shortly after, A&M went to the SEC. Another fun fact is that Tucker never missed a 4th quarter kick while at UT. It does make sense since he is the most accurate kicker in the league at this point.

Baltimore Ravens

As an Undrafted free agent in 2012, Tucker was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens. He was in contention with billy Cundiff for the starting spot. After proving his talent, the ravens took a gamble and chose Tucker as the starting kicker. He then proved that it was the right choice. In his first season, Tucker made 32/35 kicks and all 42 of his extra points.

A memorable moment was when he hit the game-winner against the New England Patriots with 2 seconds left. Then later in the season, Tucker made a 47-yard field goal in double overtime to win the game and send the Ravens to the AFC Championship.

In Tucker’s first season with the ravens, he ended up winning a super bowl ring, going 91.4% on field goals, and kicking multiple high pressure kicks to win the game. As a result, Tucker is on pace to become the highest performing kicker in the league.

Memorable NFL Moments From Tucker

  • Taking down the Detroit Lions all by himself by kicking a 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yarder in the same game to win 18-16
  • Kicked 4 field goals, 3 over 50 in a 19-14 win over the Bengals
  • Tied the NFL record by hitting 10 field goals of 50 or more in a season
  • Longest field goal in Ravens history with 61 yards
  • First NFL kicker to kick three 50+ yard field goals in one half (2016)
  • Most field goals in a single season – 38 (2013, 2016) (Ravens Franchise Record)
  • Most points scored in a single season – 141 (2016) (Ravens Franchise Record)

It goes without saying that Justin Tucker has an absolute cannon for a leg. He is an incredibly fun player to watch as a kicker. Not only is he so powerful, he hits the same ball every time. What makes him so strong is his ability to get all of his body through the kick every time. He knows the importance of momentum, and if you watch him, everything is helping him get more through the target. Make it a point to watch the efficiency of tucker and how much momentum he gets through the ball.

Hopefully, Tucker can maintain this pace as he should become the most accurate kicker in NFL history. That being said, he has a long way to reaching the greatest kicker of all time, Adam Vinateri.

#1 Adam Vinatieri

Adam Vinatieri is known as the most clutch kicker in the NFL. He has only recently surpassed Morten Andersen as the highest scoring player of all time. Not only is he an amazing kicker, but a great role model. Many who have worked with him talk about his humility and ability to better those around him.

Adam Vinateri, waits patiently for his next NFL field goal moment

Before College

Adam was a multi-sport athlete. He lettered in football, wrestling, basketball, soccer, and track. He earned first-team all-state honors as a senior and was a quarterback and linebacker. For his age, he was big. But getting to college level, so was everyone else.

SDSU Superstar

Vinatieri played at South Dakota State University for all 4 years. As a kicker and punter, Adam amassed 185 career points and was first-team all-conference in each of his seasons playing.

Professional / NFL Career

Adam graduated and went on to play Professional football with the Amsterdam Admirals. During his season with them, he made 9 out of 10 kicks with 4 PATs. This earned him All-Europe Team awards.

After a great season, Vinatieri got to play for the New England Patriots from 1996-2005. In his first season on the team, they went to the super bowl. In 2001 against the Raiders, During this time, Adam made his famous blizzard kick from 45 yards out to tie the game and send it to overtime. Later in that same game, he made a 23-yard game-winner to send the patriots to the next round.

In that same season, Vinatieri kicked a 48-yard field goal on the final play against the St Louis Rams. This was to give the Patriots their first super bowl win.

Then again, 2 years later, Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left to give the patriots another super bowl victory over the Carolina Panthers.

NFL Continued

By the end of Vinatieri’s final season with the Patriots, he has over 18 game-winning field goals in the final minute or less. Not to mention he had an 81.9% field goal percentage which places him in the top 5 of all time.

Vinateri found himself with the colts in the 2006 season where ironically, the colts beat the patriots in the AFC Championship game. As a result, this Super Bowl was Vinatieri’s 4th win.

Each season from 2007-2009 was another incredible season minus 2009 when he got injured 6 games in. In 2010, Adam returned to the spotlight.

Adam Vinatieri NFL Records

Wikipedia sources include some of his incredible records achieved from 2010-2015:

  • He became the 12th kicker in NFL history to score 1,600 points in his career.[35]
  • He became the seventh kicker in NFL history to score 500-plus points with two teams (850 with Colts; 1,156 with Patriots)
  • He connected on 26 of 28 field goals (92.9 percent) this season, the best percentage among NFL kickers that season with at least 20 attempts
  • On November 14 vs. Cincinnati, he surpassed Eddie Murray (who had 352 career FGs) for 11th-most FGs made in NFL history[35]
  • His 129 points marked the second-most of his career. It marked the 14th time he surpassed 100 points in a season[35]
  • He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week two times during 2010. It marked twelve (12) times during his career (including 8 times with the New England Patriots)[44]

More NFL Records

Again, Vinateri continues to break records.

  • “Vinatieri became the first player in NFL history to convert 50 field goals in the postseason.[46]
  • First-ever ranked top 100 football player (and oldest)
  • He is the first player in NFL history to score 1,000 points with two teams.[53] 
  • He set the NFL’s all-time record for overtime field goals made in a career with 10
  • Vinatieri kicked his 43rd successful field goal in a row to break the NFL record set by Mike Vanderjagt.[58] (2016)
  • He is the oldest player to hit a field goal of 50 yards or more
  • All-time leader in field goals
  • NFL leader with points scored

There are many other records that Vinateri has carved his name into. However, if we were to name all of them, we might be spending an entire day reading them. Adam Vinateri is by definition, the greatest of all time. The main reason is if someone else was, their name would be #1. That being said, it is great to be able to watch Vinateri do what he is doing at his age. Arguably the most consistent kicker of all time. If there was a game-winner on the line, Adam is my go-to guy. No one has the amount of high-pressure experience he has. And that makes all the difference. 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 as always, stay amazing!

  • Eric

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