Sep 4, 2013, 12:39 PM PST
National Football League kickers never make headlines unless they screw something up. It’s one of the most unforgiving roles in professional sports. So, how do NFL punters and kickers make sure they stay out from under the microscope of the fans and media?
Preparation. And way more than you’d think.
Did you know NFL kickers spend the week closely monitoring the weather forecast? Or that kickers go through way more shoes than punters? Or that each guy that kicks a ball has a special way they manipulate their shoes?
After a grueling NFL season, a single kick can be the difference between winning it all or going home heartbroken. Mindful of that, All-Pros Andy Lee and Phil Dawson of the 49ers make it their mission to be ready in the clutch moments. They took the time to detail their shoe preparation techniques and secrets to having a successful gameday in this Field of Teams feature.
Lee is the best punter in 49ers history. He’s a four-time All Pro and the highest-paid punter in the league. Once he finds a shoe he likes, he tries to stick with it.
“I’ll use it until it falls apart,” said Lee, with a three-foot-high stack of shoe boxes at his side. “It could be one, hopefully it lasts the whole season. If it doesn’t I need my backup shoe.”
Dawson, a 2012 Pro-Bowl selection with the Cleveland Browns, has been in the league since 1999 and he has more shoes than a lonely lady does cats.
“When you find a shoe you like, you order as many as you can of it,” Dawson said.
He admittedly often annoys the equipment manager by bringing extra pairs of shoes on the road — just in case. With the game potentially on the line, it’s imperative that he isn’t slipping before attempting a kick.
The key for Dawson is having the proper shoe for his plant foot. To determine which shoe is best, he has to know what the weather will be like leading up to game time, that way he can gauge how firm or soft the field will be and what kind of grass or field turf he’ll be kicking on.
At home, he keeps between 30-60 shoes on standby and on the road he brings up to 13 different plant shoes. He usually uses the same shoe for his kicking foot.
According to both Dawson and Lee, no two shoes are exactly the same. It’s all about feel. When you watch Lee or Dawson this Sunday, keep a close eye on their kicks. There’s a lot more that goes into the swing of the leg than you’d think.
Field of Teams
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