NFL kicker Elliot starts small but ends big

By Rob Vogt Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/27 23:18:39

A long time ago in an American suburb far, far away, a high school tennis player strolled onto the football practice field to attempt some field goals. He just happened to have friends on the team, which just happened to be looking for a place kicker. After he knocked a few kicks through the uprights, the coaches asked to permanently join the team.

The would-be kicker agreed because despite his impressive youth athletic accomplishments - Little League World Series-caliber baseball player, sharpshooting junior high school two-guard - he wasn't officially playing any school-sanctioned sports at the time.

That quickly changed, however, when he hit several game-winning field goals over the next two seasons - 50 yards (45.7 meters) and longer. Fans rushed the field, college ­coaches intensified their recruiting and the kicker accepted a scholarship at the University of Memphis. Given the school's supposed "mid-major" status, though, the kicker's story was sure to end sooner rather than later.

Until it didn't. The kicker enjoyed a storied four-year career, earning all-conference honors and stepping up big-time in season-ending bowl games. He was the first kicker selected in last summer's 2017 NFL Draft (by the Cincinnati Bengals), and it seemed like finally this humble beginnings narrative would reach its apex.

And then the Bengals cut him. Technically, they designated him to their practice squad, but there was no doubting the intent of their decision. They preferred another kicker, so his NFL career was likely over unless another team claimed him.

On Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliot hit a franchise record 61-yard field goal to defeat the New York Giants in overtime. Broadcasting legend Joe Buck exalted his name, and notoriously prickly Philadelphia fans went berserk. One could only wonder if Elliot, as he was being carried off the field on his teammates' shoulders, remembered the day long ago when he walked off his high school's tennis courts to kick a couple of practice field goals.    

The author is a Chicago-based writer.

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