NFL kickers are paid millions of dollars to kick a football through the uprights. So, what makes them different from everybody else? Stay tuned to find out.
I wanted to cover several topics related to NFL kickers and what separates them from average kickers. First, what percentage of kickers make it to the NFL?
In talking about percentages, according to online sources, over 1,090,000 athletes play during their time in high school. From there, 6.5% of them go on to play at the college level (~71,000). From those, 1.6% are drafted by the NFL (~1,100). That means for every 16,000 high school athletes, we get 1 NFL athlete, and that’s hoping that he can last 3.3 years which is the average lifetime in the NFL.
While making it to the NFL alone is no easy task, being an NFL kicker is arguably the most cutthroat position out of every position because there’s only one in the roster. There might be one on the practice squad, but there’s only one that can actually play in the game.
What makes an NFL Kicker so special?
So, what might be valuable about a kicker? The first thing is they score a lot of points for the team. Historically, they’ve scored more than any other position in NFL history. Not only do they score more points, but they are routinely asked to win the game.
In addition to your kicker winning a lot of games and scoring a lot of points, they are responsible for being very good at their kickoffs which ultimately leads to good field position for the team. This means that you’re most likely gonna get a stop on the defense, and they won’t be able to drive out the field which, hypothetically, would make you win games.
So, it’s not only important to have a kicker who has an accurate leg, but also a really strong one which is what we’re going to talk about next.
Leg Strength From NFL Kickers
As the years have gone on, we’ve seen farther and farther field goals. Especially now with the 66-yard field goal that Justin Tucker did earlier in 2021. That threshold for distance of what people expect has only gone up especially over the last 10 years. It seems like there’s more 60-yarders coming in now than ever.
10 years ago, a 50-yarder with a 50% or 60% conversion rate was already amazing. You were perfectly fine then. Nowadays, you will probably get fired.
That conversion rate is higher than the 65th to 70th percentile which Justin Tucker & Harrison Butker have easily surpassed, year in and year out, season over season. They’re consistently over 70% conversion from 50+ yards. That is insane!
So, you might be asking, “How exactly is an NFL kicker getting stronger?” and it doesn’t have to do with the weight room. It’s not even from squats or deadlifts. Their workouts are built more around the balance and functionality of their specific kicking motion. It isn’t necessarily the squat or deadlift that’s making them strong; it’s the functionality and the balance that makes them better.
As more and more technology comes out, kickers are starting to utilize heart-rate training, functional workouts and balance drills in order to give them more of a challenge to their body than traditional bilateral movements (i.e. barbell squats, deadlifts).
This results in a much stronger and balanced kicker than ever before. Especially when kicking, balance is key. Kickers are showing that their balance workout programs are paying huge dividends in their season performance.
Justin Tucker has been converting a 90.8% conversion, along with Harrison Butker’s equally impressive 89.5% conversion rate. That means that out of a hundred (100) field goals, they’re going to make 90 of them. Not only are they extremely accurate, they have the strongest legs in the entire NFL, and arguably in NFL history. If you disagree, feel free to take a hike.
Personally, I think the workouts play a huge role in the performance, but their mindset and their emotions are what they’re really able to control; this is huge. When you’re playing in a stadium with thousands of fans, the ability to control your emotions and your mindset, in that state, is incredible.
The average kicker might try to aim the kick. The NFL kicker is more than likely to be able to do this in his sleep. He’s not thinking about where he wants to put it; he’s simply letting his body do the work, being present in the moment, and just letting his hard work and dedication pay off on the field.
At that level, the main variable often comes down to the weather or the operation, whether it’s a bad snap or a bad hold. Even if the ball is off by half an inch whenever the holder puts the ball down can be the difference between a loss in the game and a winning field goal.
That brings us to our final point. What is the biggest between an NFL kicker and everybody else in the world? An NFL kicker sees success not just in the end result, but in all the tiny details that he does in order to perfect his craft. If you ever talk to an NFL kicker about what they do to succeed and what separates them apart from everybody else.
Sure, they might be genetically blessed with some type of strength, etc., but I guarantee you that they are obsessed with the little things, the small details – steps, confidence, mindset, asking hundreds of questions. They do not stop until they figure out what works for them. Once they find a groove, they stick with it until mastered.
The Tiny Details Make All The Difference For NFL Kickers
Pull up some film of Adam Vinatieri when he first started in the NFL and in his last season in the NFL. His technique, his pre-kick routine – everything looks exactly the same. He takes the exact same size steps back, over, he looks the ball the same way, he hits the ball on the same part of his foot, he follows through the same way, he keeps his eyes down during contact at the exact same time. He doesn’t change a thing. He is obsessed with the little things.
That is what allows him to be the greatest kicker of all time. When I say obsessed, I’m talking about being intensely, emotionally focused on doing all the seemingly unimportant things in order to make sure, come game time, he’s ready.
He’s not thinking about where to hit it on his foot or where he wants it to go. He blacks out, goes into killer mode, and just makes it hapen. The really important thing is when he’s taking his steps back and his whole routine, and he’s done it so many times, he’s probably not even nervous. I can almost guarantee that he’s more calm in that moment than he ever has been. Because he has done it so many times, his body knows exactly what’s about to happen and it lets it happen.
NFL Kickers obsess over the small details
With all of that being said, my recommendation to you, whether you’re a kicker or not, is to obsess over the small things because that is what’s going to make you elite. Everything else will follow as a result of you doing the really small details to perfection.
A little piece of motivation. Those small, seemingly unimportant things aren’t that of a burden on your mental state. Everybody can take steps back and take steps over. Everyone can do dry runs. You can do that so many times, and it doesn’t tax your body. You’re not having to think about chasing the ball. You’re not having to think about whether you’re gonna make it or miss it.
You’re just doing all the things up to the point that it becomes muscle memory. Whenever you actually start doing it, it’s clockwork.
Thanks so much for reading this far. Let me know in the comments what you would like to see next!