American football is one of the most popular sports in the United States, and the National Football League (NFL) is the top professional league for this sport. The NFL has a large fan base, with millions of people tuning in to watch the games every season.

One position that often goes unnoticed by many fans is the kicker, who plays a crucial role in the game.

The kicker in American football is responsible for kicking field goals and extra point attempts. They are also called upon to make kick offs and onside kicks, which are used when a team needs to regain possession of the ball quickly.

Kickers are typically part of specialization teams exclusively and are solely responsible for kicking, as opposed to being a part of the offense or defense.

What are their responsibilities?

In American football, a kicker's primary responsibility is to score points by kicking the ball through the opponent's goalposts. Specifically, the kicker is responsible for the following:

  • Field Goals: The kicker is responsible for attempting to kick the ball through the opponent's goalposts to score field goals. Field goals are typically attempted on fourth down when the offense is too far from the end zone to attempt a touchdown, or when time is running out in the game and the team needs to score quickly.

  • Extra Points: After a touchdown, the kicker attempts to kick the ball through the opponent's goalposts to score an extra point. The extra point is awarded if the ball goes through the uprights.

  • Kickoffs: The kicker also kicks the ball off at the beginning of each half and after every score. The objective of the kickoff is to kick the ball as far down the field as possible and to prevent the opponent from returning the ball for a significant gain.

  • Onside Kicks: In certain situations, the kicker may attempt an onside kick, where they kick the ball with the intention of the ball travelling a short distance and being recovered by their own team. Onside kicks are typically attempted when the team is trailing late in the game and needs to regain possession of the ball quickly.

  • Punting: While not exclusively the kicker's responsibility, kickers often also serve as the team's punter, responsible for kicking the ball as far downfield as possible on fourth down when the team is unable to convert for a first down. The objective of a punt is to force the opponent to start their offensive drive from as far back on the field as possible, giving their defense the best starting field position possible.

What makes a great kicker?

A great kicker in American football is characterised by a combination of physical and mental skills. Here are some key factors that contribute to a successful kicker:

  • Leg strength: A great kicker has strong leg muscles, allowing them to generate enough power to kick the ball long distances. They can hit a variety of kicks, including field goals, kickoffs, and punts.

  • Accuracy: A successful kicker must be able to kick the ball accurately, with a consistent trajectory and direction. This requires great focus and precision.

  • Technique: A great kicker has a consistent kicking technique that allows them to generate power and accuracy. They must be able to adjust their technique based on weather conditions and other factors.

  • Mental toughness: Kicking can be a high-pressure job, especially in critical game situations. A great kicker has the mental toughness to handle the pressure and perform at a high level.

  • Confidence: A great kicker has confidence in their abilities, which allows them to perform under pressure. They must also be able to bounce back from mistakes and maintain their confidence throughout the game.

  • Experience: A great kicker has a lot of experience and has developed a strong understanding of the game. They have also developed strategies to handle different game situations, including onside kicks and squib kicks.

Famous NFL kickers

Here are a few of the most famous players who played the kicker position in the NFL:

  • Adam Vinatieri - Vinatieri spent most of his career with the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowl championships, before finishing his career with the Indianapolis Colts. He holds several NFL records, including most career points scored and most career field goals made.

  • Justin Tucker - Tucker is currently one of the best kickers in the NFL. He holds several NFL records, including most field goals made in a season without a miss and the longest field goal in history.

  • Morten Andersen - Andersen is a former kicker who played for several NFL teams during his 25-year career, including the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and Minnesota Vikings. He is the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2,544 points and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

  • Stephen Gostkowski - Gostkowski spent most of his career with the New England Patriots and won three Super Bowl championships with the team. He has also been selected to the Pro Bowl four times and is considered one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.