the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Whole Lotta Extras

Discussion of kicking records typically centers around field goals - such as longest, most, and accuracy. The oft overlooked category of extra points will surface this weekend with the induction of Matt Stover into the Baltimore Ravens' Ring of Honor. Among his NFL records is most consecutive extra points made. From 1996 through 2009 he hit 422 in a row. How did he do it?
“I never, ever, ever went out there thinking it was easy."
His total comfortably surpassed the now second place total of 371, set first by Jason Elam and then tied by Jeff Wilkins. When the latter was within striking distance of the former, Elam commented on the feat:
"That's a lot of extra points. If you think about it, there's a lot that can go wrong, so it's not just a tribute to the kicker. You've got the whole teamwork issue going on there. The snapper, the holder and all the guys up front. If you get over 200, that's a pretty good thing. I would've never guessed that I'd have been able to put together something like that. Along the way, you're going to have some weird things happen. You know, you might have a ball tipped, and it might still go through. Or you might not get the ideal hold. Or you just might mishit one. There's going to be some times along the way that things just aren't ideal. So it is quite something that Jeff's still going with it. When he gets the record, tell him I said congratulations. I think a lot of him, and I'll be happy for him when he gets there."
The totals aren't as high for college kickers, however they only have a four year window of opportunity. Former FCS record holder Taylor Rowan set a mark of 129 at Western Illinois. In a prior interview, he discussed why that is a lot harder than it sounds?
"Starting out in my freshman year we were playing Toledo. I remember going two-for-two in that game and my coach saying, ‘let’s see how long we can keep that up.’ It’s not just a kick. A lot of fans say, ‘Well it’s easy to kick a ball through the uprights’, which it is – but when you add in a rush and a hold and a snap, everything has to be perfect every time. So going 129 straight over four consecutive years is pretty tough. Especially when you’re kicking six or seven extra points in a game, some times it’s easy to get a little bit relaxed and pull one left or right. But the continuous form from twenty yards out isn’t a given. I definitely had a great snapper and holder during the whole process."
As of the middle of last month, Georgia Southern kicker Adrian Mora is now the FCS record  holder at 143 and counting.
"We, as a special teams unit, like to take every kick as the most important one. We were focused and I never had any doubts that it was going to go through. Having a bunch of reliable guys makes it a lot easier.... They got the record-breaking ball, and I wish I could split it with all 11 guys because it’s definitely a tribute to them."
As he heads into his final game of his senior season this Saturday, he probably won't kick 280 extra points and surpass Stover. But if he does add to his total, it will be with the same approach as always:
"One game, one kick at a time. That helps you stay on focus. You have to take it just one play at a time and think about what you can do to help the team each play."

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