There was a time when former Longhorns were widespread in the NFL, their names among the most celebrated in the league. Perhaps that time will come again, but for now, Texas barely cracks the top fifteen universities for placing players in the NFL. And unlike programs like LSU (which leads the nation with 51 alumni playing professionally) Alabama (48), or Florida (44), most of the Longhorns playing pro ball aren’t exactly rising stars. Earl Thomas is on injured reserve and pushing 30; Jamaal Charles spent the first several weeks of the season in free agency and hasn’t seen much action since signing in Jacksonville; Marquise Goodwin’s season is a big question mark since the season-ending injury his quarterback in San Francisco suffered several weeks ago. When it comes to marquee players in the NFL, it wouldn’t be absurd to argue that UTSA has more budding superstars than Texas does. (We’re looking at you, Marcus Davenport.)
But through the down times at UT, there’s been one Longhorn who has cemented himself as one of the finest and most reliable players to ever play his position. Because of the dearth of burnt orange pedigree in the league, Longhorn fans frequently compete to draft him in fantasy leagues. He may well be the most popular Longhorn in the NFL at the moment; it may not even be a close contest. His name is Justin Tucker. And on Sunday, he missed his first-ever extra point.
Tucker entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, just like Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, James Harrison, and Antonio Gates. He was signed by the Baltimore Ravens in 2012, and surpassed all expectations. He’s the most accurate kicker in the history of the league among players with at least 100 attempts, having converted 90 percent of his kicks. He holds the franchise record for points scored in a single season, and no player in NFL history has ever kicked as many 50-plus yard field goals in a single season as he has.
In his first 222 extra point attempts, the ball sailed through the uprights with ease. Tucker will probably remember extra point number 223, though. It came Sunday as the Ravens, who entered the fourth quarter with a 17-7 lead against the New Orleans Saints, found themselves facing a seven-point deficit in the game’s final moments. The Ravens’ offense did their job, finding the end zone with moments left to play to bring the score to 24-23—a single extra point from the most reliable kicker in the league away from a tie game and the chance to win it in overtime. And then, whoops. The kick sailed right, and the game was over.
Justin Tucker in utter shock after he missed the first XP in his career pic.twitter.com/6sLMiQNSUY
— Bundell Carter Jr. (@Rxbun) October 21, 2018
Tucker’s eyes tell the entire story. Did that really happen? How did that happen? It was an extra point! It’s no longer the chip shot it was when he started his career, since the NFL moved the line of scrimmage on extra points to the fifteen-yard line in 2015, but still, it’s an easy kick for a guy who rarely misses on any attempt.
Most players screw up at some point. The Cowboys learned that Sunday too, as rookie kicker Brett Maher missed a 52-yard attempt in the game’s final seconds, ending the team’s hopes of winning in overtime as the game concluded 20-17 in regulation. In that situation, Maher wasn’t the only player to have choked—veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, the longest-tenured Cowboy on the roster, committed a rare penalty on the initial attempt, pushing the team back five yards and upping Maher’s degree of difficulty. Tucker, meanwhile, had no such excuse. But it’s football, and nothing is actually automatic.
Perhaps someday in the future, Longhorn fans will have more players to cheer for on Sundays. Until then, the ones who over-drafted Tucker in their fantasy leagues will have to hope that extra point number 223 was a mere anomaly.