NFL Playoffs: Let’s Root for the Placekickers
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Copperas Cove native and Baylor Heisman-winner Robert Griffin III is gone. (But who really wanted to root for the Redskins anyway?)
Palestine native Adrian Peterson is out. (Plus it’s hard to forget that he played for Oklahoma.)
And Houston’s Andrew Luck, Katy and TCU’s Andy Dalton, and DeSoto/Aggies great Von Miller won’t have any more field time this season either.
So with the (Houston) Texans kicked out of the NFL playoffs, (all) Texans might consider rooting for the kickers: Matt Bryant of the Atlanta Falcons (Bridge City/Baylor) and the Baltimore Ravens’ Justin Tucker (Westlake/UT).
There are other Texas college greats still in the playoffs, including Bryant’s Falcons teammate Justin Blalock and 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown, both Texas Exes, as well as the two wide receiver stars who spent their college days in Lubbock, San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree, and New England’s Wes Welker. If you’re a Tech fan, knock yourself out rooting for either team.
But while I’ve said otherwise in the past, I can’t root for the Patriots. That act’s gotten old, and is much harder to to take now that the Texans (sort of) matter.
And the 49ers? The Cowboys’ top rival for NFC supremacy when life under Jerry still was good? The team that gave the world T.O.? No thanks. (Oh, and have we mentioned they’re from California?)
Thus, the Falcons and the Ravens. Both teams only made it to the conference finals on the last-minute legs of two very different players—Bryant, a late-blooming journeyman who is older (37) than retired NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb, and Tucker, who played for the University of Texas back in the good old days of the Longhorns-Aggies rivalry (y’know, last season).
The Falcons are a 3.5-point favorite, while the Ravens are an eight-point underdog, but either way, you can be pretty sure field goals are gonna matter.
Three things to know about Justin Tucker
1. The thing everybody knows: Tucker’s kick gave UT the win at Kyle Field last year … bragging rights the Longhorns faithful definitely had to cling to this year.
2. Before beating Denver last week in overtime Tucker took an on-field practice kick, which is against NFL rules—but there’s no penalty for it.
3. After beating the Texans last year in the AFC semis, Baltimore fell to New England 23-20 when former Cowboy Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yarder. That’s why Tucker has a job. Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun says he thought it was a mistake when the Ravens chose the undrafted Tucker over Cundiff out of training camp but now says he was wrong:
Cundiff, a good man, took his thousand-yard stare and went to kick for the Washington Redskins before washing out and signing with the San Francisco 49ers, serving as a backup plan as David Akers struggled.
And Tucker? All the kid did was show a powerful leg and the nerves of a jewel thief from the start.
All he did was connect on 30 of 33 field goals for the second-best regular-season mark in Ravens history and the second-best by a rookie kicker in NFL history.
Three things to know about Matt Bryant
1. He’s been around. And around. And then some.
The Bridge City native played for Trinity Valley Junior College in Athens and then Oregon State before getting to Baylor; by the time he left Waco in 2002, he was already 27. Since then, he’s served stints in the Arena Football League, the United Football League and with the Frankfurt Galaxy, as well as with the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa’s where he settled in as an established NFLer, but Atlanta’s where he’s truly thrived.
2. In 2006 he kicked a 62-yard field goal for Tampa—one yard shy of the record.
3. He’s not forgotten where he came from. “Be sure and tell everybody back home that Bridge City got mentioned in all the interviews.” Bryant told Bob West of the Port Arthur News regarding the deluge of media he had to do in the wake of last week’s winning kick against Seattle.
All the Texas college football players who are still part of the NFL post-season:
Justin Blalock, G, University of Texas
Matt Bryant, K, Baylor
San Francisco 49ers
Tarell Brown, CB, University of Texas
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Leonard Davis, G, University of Texas
Tony Jerod-Eddie, DT Texas A&M
Darcel McBath, S, Texas Tech
Chykie Brown, CB, University of Texas
Adrian Hamiltion, OLB, Prairie View A&M
Justin Tucker, K, University of Texas
New England Patriots
Marcus Cannon, OT, Texas Christian
Kyle Hix, OT, University of Texas
Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech
Malcolm Williams, CB, Texas Christian