the study of the kicking components within sports

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Drop Kicks, part 1

On January 1, 2006, something unusual happened. The setting was an extra point attempt during an NFL game between New England and the Miami Dolphins. With no kicker on the field, Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie set up deep, received the long snap, dropped the ball on the ground and kicked it through the uprights for the point. in other words, a "drop kick".

A drop kick is broadly defined in wikipedia as:
"a type of kick in various codes of football. It involves a player dropping the ball and then kicking it when it bounces off the ground. It contrasts to a punt, wherein the player kicks the ball without letting it hit the ground first. Drop kicks are used as a method of restarting play and scoring points in rugby union and rugby league. They can also be used in gridiron football codes and Australian rules football, though this is now rare."
In Rule 3, Section 8 of the Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the National Football League it is defined as:
"a kick by a kicker who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground."
Of course neither definition addresses just how much fun it is to drop kick. Flutie provided that information is his comments following his kick:
"It's just something I've done for fun, messing around. When I was with Mike Vanderjagt, in our days up in Canada, that used to be our pregame ritual. Rich Camarillo, he used to toe it. I saw him before the game, and I told him we were thinking about doing it, and he just shook his head.... I was pretty fired up that we did it. It was fun, like football's supposed to be."
Aside from the unusual sight of a quarterback kicking and the rarity of drop kicks these days, Flutie's kick was also an NFL last and first in two other regards. Lastly, it provided a memorable and noteworthy final play to his NFL career (to go along with his memorable hail Mary pass at the end of his college career). It was also the first soccer style drop kick in NFL history. Drop kicks were more frequent in the old days, when the ball was rounder and when kickers approached the ball straight on.

Just how rare was Flutie's drop kick? The following list of the latest drop kicks provides the answer:
  • Prior to Flutie's PAT, the most recent was back in 1941 by Ray “Scooter” McLean during the Chicago Bears 37-9 win over the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game
  • The last drop kicked field goal in the NFL was in 1937 by Earl “Dutch” Clark for the Detroit Lions in their 16-7 win over the Chicago Cardinals
  • Last major college field goal: 1948 by Gene Simmons in West Virginia's 16-14 win over Maryland
  • Last NCAA extra point: 1990 by Aaron Fitzgerald of the University of LaVerne against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
  • Last drop kick field goal attempt in a Canadian Football League game: 1974 by Tom Wilkinson during the Edmonton Eskimos 24-2 win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
That would have been the conclusion of this article - a modern day footnote to a historical kicking technique - were it not for one remaining question. Why over the past month, during separate conversations with three different kickers, did each of them bring up the topic of drop kicks? In the forthcoming second part of this article we'll answer that question and discover that drop kicks are definitely not extinct.

1 comment:

Mike Herman said...

Drop kick update... Hartwick College was last NCAA school to drop kick in 1998...

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