They are the difference makers, the scapegoats, and the late round pick in your fantasy draft—kickers, punters, and long snappers often go undrafted, unappreciated, and generally fly under the radar if they are doing their job right.
Headlines are usually made when a snap is muffed, a kick is botched, or a punt is blocked; however, in the opening week of NFL play, it was the special teams stars who finally got a chance to shine making not only headlines, but also history.
San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers tied for the longest field-goal in NFL history with a distance of 63 yards. If I’m not mistaken, that’s roughly the same distance the average American walks in a day.
Already two-fer on the day, Akers was set up to close out the first half at Lambeau for his ’9ers to make it a two-possession game. On the kick, the pigskin clinked off the goalpost in emphatic style and a good bounce made him the fourth NFL kicker ever to make that distance.
Insert happy kicker jump.
More history was made earlier in the day when Vikings rookie Blair Walsh kicked a 55-yarder with time expiring to put the game into the NFL’s newly formatted overtime.
For the first time ever in the NFL, fans witnessed a two-possession OT, and for his first game ever in the NFL, Walsh was put in the position to seal the deal. A 38-yard field goal, and the ensuing solid defensive stand by the Vikings, earned Walsh his first win as well as a few creative memes.
Another Minnesota leg made headlines earlier in the week with an open letter he addressed to Maryland state delegate Emmertt C. Burns Jr. in response to Burns’ note to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti to shut his players up about supporting gay marriage.
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s somewhat bombastic (I’m assuming for effect) but thoroughly entertaining letter included the now famous explanation as to why Burns should not fear gay marriage:
“They won’t magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.”
Not only was my faith in humanity just a little bit restored, but now I also have a new favorite word as well as a new jersey on my Christmas wishlist.
Finally, in possibly the most badass story of the week, the Washington Redskins long snapper Nick Sundberg reportedly played the entire second half of the game with a broken arm.
The Washington Post reported that Sundberg, who had broken his arm on the play where the Saints scored on a blocked punt, stayed on the sidelines without medical attention just in case he were needed for a punt. When he went for x-rays at halftime and found out his arm was broken, he asked the trainers to wrap up his arm and went back out there.
Let me reiterate: This guy is a long snapper. His entire job is reliant on his arms. It’s almost like a kicker playing with a broken foot. And don’t dismiss the importance of the position– in the same day, the Raiders learned that losing a starting long snapper can cost you the game.
If that hadn’t already earned all of my respect, reading what he had to say about it made me fall in love:
“I told (special teams coach) Danny (Smith) a long time ago that I don’t care what happens. I’ll play through anything,” Sundberg said. “They’ve given me the opportunity to play on this team and I’m going to give them everything I have in every game I play in. It doesn’t matter. Right when it happened, I knew. I was like, ‘Dang it. This sucks.’ I think it helped that I had already broken it before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but you know, I just kind of had to fight through it and tell myself that it didn’t hurt. It was awful.”
You might be shocked to learn Sundberg is not from the South. I looked into it. His “Dang it” comment threw me for a loop, mostly because it sounds like a line fed to baby Michelle on Full House, but I’m still cool with it, dude. His logic won me over, you know, in that it’s ok to play an NFL game with a broken arm because he’d broken it before. Makes. Sense… If you’re a total (not ****) monster.