- The Season's Over -

Andrew ‘Kirby’ Thell: NFL Kicker

May 2, 2007

Hard Work and Sacrifice

Last week I finally settled on a name for my son. He will be named after his father (Me) and my favorite baseball player of all time: Andrew Kirbert Thell. Kirby for short. The most solemn burden of all parents is the adequate, thoughtful preparation of their child’s future. Though my firstborn has yet to be conceived, I have already given this hallowed task solemn and serious consideration. I want to ensure that he is able to live comfortably, provide for his family, earn recognition and leave a legacy. Though I’m sure he’ll be brilliant, an intellectual career among the ranks of egghead academics or precious dilettantes and esthetes does not necessarily guarantee that kind of life. I’m no fool, I watch TV, and I know that in modern American society there are only three ways to ensure it: becoming a celebrity, having a successful music recording career or excelling at professional athletics. I have no way to guide him to success in the first two endeavors, but that last one? I think that’s doable.

The idea first occurred to me a little over a year ago when I read about current Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri’s new contract. He received a $3.5 million dollar signing bonus and $7.5 million over the first three years of the deal. To kick footballs in a straight line he gets paid $11.0 million dollars. He trots out onto the field a few times one day a week, he kicks the ball, knocks back a few Gatorades, goes home to his mansion and everybody loves him. Now that’s not to take anything away from Mr. Vinatieri, he’s crucial to his team’s success and excellent at what he does. Maybe the best ever. But still: he’s a kicker. I also know there’s a tremendous amount of preparation that goes into those few kicks we see on television every week, and I’m willing to put the work in. Kirbert will be, too.

Kirby’s Future Hero

You’ve probably noticed that nearly all of today’s placekickers are “soccer-style” kickers, meaning they approach the ball from a few steps to the side of the ball and and several steps behind it. So that’s the first step, Kirby is going to have to grow up playing soccer. Now, I don’t know how you feel about soccer, but I’m a little iffy on the whole thing. I see these guys with one-word names like Ronaldo and Pele running around taking their shirts off after goals and it gives me pause. But nobody said there wouldn’t be sacrifices along the way to stardom as an NFL kicker, and this is one I’m prepared to make. Soccer has the additional benefit of forcing kids to run around in circles non-stop for several hours. There’s nothing more depressing than a fat kid, and I haven’t seen any fat NFL kickers, so keeping Kirby in shape will be important. I don’t know a whole lot about soccer, so I can’t coach his team, but you better believe that I’ll be at every game and every practice. I’ll be the guy in the bleachers, front and center, screaming until my voice is hoarse, wearing a Vikings Starter jacket and sunglasses with a whistle around my neck.

Of course, I’ll be responsible for a bulk of the early placekicker training. This is by no means an exhaustive routine, I’ll try to continue working on the regimen as time goes on and change things up every once in a while to keep it fresh, but I’ve already had a few great ideas. For one thing, mornings before we go to school and work, respectively, Kirbert and I will be on the local high school football field practicing for one or two hours each day. Weekends we’ll do five or six. I want him to wake up thinking about those uprights. I want making field goals to become engrained in his subconscious before his mind is even awake. And we won’t start out this way, but eventually he’ll be kicking with light weights around his ankles. I think it should really improve leg strength and I’ll be damned if any son of mine is going to need a kickoff specialist. After school, I’ll be waiting for him in my car at the curb. Front and center. Wearing a Vikings Starter jacket and sunglasses with a whistle around my neck.

DisciplineWhen we get home he’ll do some light kicking and then have an hour or two to get his homework done and eat something. Then we go out front. You see, the reason Adam Vinatieri is considered perhaps the best kicker of all time is that he’s clutch. Nothing can distract him. That’s why he earns the big money. They call him “Iceman” and “Automatic Adam”. He’s played in five Super Bowls, won four Super Bowl rings and he’s made some of the most high-pressure kicks in history, including two game-winners in the final five seconds of Super Bowls.

That kind of composure doesn’t just happen. You learn it, you work on it every day. So after he’s done with his homework, Kirby and I will work on pressure situations and ignoring distractions. I’ll set up in my lawn chair and get the hose and airhorn out, and he’ll go to work. I’ll randomly shout, sound the airhorn and spray him to simulate distractions. We’ll turn on the steady stream so he knows what it’s like to kick in adverse weather, maybe get some sprinklers going. If he can’t make a kick with a hose in his face in front of some neighborhood kids or the girl he’s got a crush on, how will he ever make a Super-Bowl-winning kick? Of course, I’ll put down the hose in the winter, but hopefully mother nature will give us a hand between December and March. Once he gets good, in order to increase the pressure I’ll have to throw out the occasional ultimatum (“If you don’t make this kick, you’re calling in sick to school tomorrow!”).

After the front-yard conditioning, he’ll have a few hours to watch game film. Then we’ll do some toughness work. The knock on professional kickers is always that they aren’t ‘real’ football players, that they’re wimps. This stereotype is continually driven home week after week as we see return men embarrass the punter or kicker by faking them out or breaking a weak tackle. That’s not going to happen to Kirby. Each night before bed, we’ll turn on the flood lights in the back yard. He’ll have to tackle me 20 times in a row before he can go to bed. I’m talking about open-field tackles. I start at one end of the yard, he starts at the other. If I make it across without my knee touching the ground, we start over.

Tom DempseyAs we’ve seen in recent NFL drafts, nothing can make an athlete’s draft stock drop like a failed drug test. On top of that, doing drugs takes away from valuable practice time and dulls focus. No, Kirby won’t be touching any of that stuff, I’ll see to it. That’s why there will be weekly drug tests every Monday morning, 5:30 AM sharp (just before we start on drills). They’ll be scheduled right after the weekend because I know what kids these days do on weekends. And I’m not going to let him pull an Onterrio Smith ‘Original Whizzinator’ on me either. No, I’ll have to watch to ensure the results are accurate. Of course, it would be too expensive to take all of the samples to the lab every week, so I’ll only be able to test random batches, but I think the possibility of a failed test and the potential consequences will be enough to keep Kirbert in line.

Drugs are just one obstacle though. Friends, girls and religion can all derail a promising career before the age of 16. I’ll have to keep close tabs on young Kirby. I might have to look into the possibility of home schooling to keep him focused. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I need to work on a diet and strength-training regimen.

Move over Adam Vinatieri, Jason Elam, Tom Dempsey and Gary Anderson. NFL, prepare for the greatest placekicker of all time:

Andrew Kirbert Thell.

13 Comments »Posted by Andrew Thell on May. 2, 2007 at 9:15 pm in ETB Articles, NFL, NFL Fantasy News

13 Responses

Why didn’t I think of that?

Posted by: Gurf Morlix on May 2nd, 2007 at 10:21 pm

Brilliant! I love it. Hilarious. I hope someone in sports journalism reads it.

Posted by: Jon Jon Mackey on May 3rd, 2007 at 10:08 am

Great article, but you had one false statement in it when you said ‘I haven’t seen any fat NFL kickers.’ Case in point – Sebastian Janikowski.

Posted by: B on May 3rd, 2007 at 10:16 am

Sebastion Janikowski is 6’2″ tall and weighs 250 pounds but he doesn’t really look that fat. Obviously he is bigger than most NFL kickers though. Great article Andrew, I will be watching for “Kirby” in the future.

Posted by: Roger on May 3rd, 2007 at 10:34 am

Really hilarious… but not that bad of an idea. Even some lightweight preparation before high school could land jr. a scholarship to a D2 or 3 college with school paid for in full just because he learned to kick 45 yarders. That’s thousands of dollars…

Posted by: Joe on May 3rd, 2007 at 2:43 pm

What about teaching him to golf. That worked out pretty well for Tiger Woods and his father.

Posted by: Matthew Noll on May 3rd, 2007 at 3:20 pm

You are missing out on perhaps one of the most devastating tackler/kickers on the planet – former Alabama Place Kicker Lane Bearden, look him up. The guy has caused more fumbles on tackles than most DLs.

Posted by: PJ on May 3rd, 2007 at 3:46 pm

Andrew – beautiful. A couple things:

1) I was the placekicker for the Sunnyside Lions in third grade (this was the team that eventually enveloped the Jacobsons, Joe Erickson, et al and moved on to Irondale). Okay, this is me, and you know how inept I am at sports. That this is doable for your son is a massive understatement.

2) I like the guilt-inadequacy trip you’re planning for your son. If done right, you should correct the “Scott Norwood problem”. Norwood, if you’ll remember, missed the potential game-winning kick between Super Bowl (something) between Buffalo and the New York (football) Giants. He also practiced kicks repeatedly in the front yard with his father. I suspect there wasn’t enough drive on the part of young Norwood.

3) Overall, I was moved. I know it’s early, but can I be his godfather?

Posted by: Fobert Rink on May 4th, 2007 at 1:23 am

Unbelievable! I’ve had this idea for years. Telling all my buddies having kids to raise them as a field goal kicker. It’s really a no-brainer if you want to be a professional athlete. 1)you rarely get hurt 2)get paid well 3)get all the glory for minimal effort on the field.

But you just had to go write an article and share this idea!!! Now the competition to raise a field solid goal kicker will be that much tougher. Thanks a lot pal.

Posted by: Chris on May 4th, 2007 at 7:45 am

You are my hero, but seriously, consider punting instead of placekicking. These guys play for decades, never get injured, and it’s free from pressure–your job is essentially to give the ball back to the other team.

Posted by: The Decider on May 4th, 2007 at 8:37 am

Excellent story. Excellent idea.
I was a Division I kicker and punter. What a Job? what a way to get college paid for!!!
a good suggesstion is to work on mental toughness, either you love the kicker or you hate him. he needs to block out all things and have a straight forward positive attitude no matter what is thrown at him, or he will be your mess!

Posted by: Bob on May 4th, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I have a similar plan. Instead of kicking, my unborn son will be conditioned to play the most underappreciated position on the field: the long snapper. The day the boy comes out of the womb, he will learn how to fire tight spiral 7 to 17 yards directly back. Again, genius!

Posted by: Brendan on May 4th, 2007 at 7:53 pm

Thats a great way to get your son to move away the second he turns 18.

Posted by: Kevin on June 5th, 2008 at 10:10 pm

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