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Where did all the straight on kickers go?

It’s easy to see the photo above of Lou Groza, NFL Hall of Famer, and think that straight on kickers are an extinct breed, never to be seen on the face of earth again… None in the pros, and to my knowledge, there isn’t a single “toe kicker” in any level of NCAA football.

So why bring it up — aside from the fact that the best kicker in college each year is given the Lou Groza Award?

Namely, because there are a bunch of kids, especially in high school, who could dramatically benefit their teams by kicking in this way. Hear me out…

Thanks to a few intrepid soccer-style European pioneers (like brothers Pete and Charlie Gogolak and Jan Stenerud in the late 1960’s), the NFL was introduced to a revolutionary way to kick a football — soccer-style.  As high schools added soccer teams, many kids became proficient at kicking a soccer ball (and then a football) lead them to think that changing their shoe in the middle of the game wasn’t the best idea. Besides, college and pro kickers were simply shifting over to the “new” style of kicking. Today, every NFL and NCAA team boast a soccer style kicker on their roster.

The last straight-on field goal made in an NFL game was by Mark Moseley, a 24 yard chip shot during the AFC Championship game between the Browns and the Broncos on January 11, 1987.  (Moseley made the kick, btw).

That’s 35 years ago!

Watch four of the best straight on kickers in football history: Jim Bakken, Russell Erxleben, Mark Moseley and Tom Dempsey — with commentary from Camp Director, Mike Farley.

So why kick straight-on?
Believe it or not, some kids have never played soccer.

You’ll find articles on the Internet about the inherent advantages of soccer style over toe kicking, like: you can kick it further; you get more of your foot on the ball; it’s more accurate; you get more height on the ball and so on.

I’m not so sure.

While it is true that the surface area of your foot on a ball from a soccer kicker is greater than that of a toe-kicker, yet in terms of the mechanics of kicking a longer or straighter ball just isn’t so — it would appear to be about the same — and both history and physics back up my assertion.

Tom Dempsey’s record of a 63-yard field goal (straight-on off the ground) stood as the NFL record for 43 years (until broken by Matt Prater in 2013 with a 64-yard kick). The record today, is by the Raven’s Justin Tucker at 66-yards (read more about it here).

Not convinced, watch (below) a NASA physicist destroy Matt Prater’s kicking with a straight on robot. Ultimately, it’s leg speed, leg strength and hitting the “sweet spot” on the ball that determines kicking distance.

If the way you get the best “strike on the ball” is with your toe, and not the side of your foot, don’t rule out buying a square toed shoe (sorry, they ain’t cheap*) and start booting PATs, field goals and kick offs for your high school team. The point has always been to be the best you can be to become a “Friday Night” kicker… soccer-style or straight on.

So keep your toes up and your ankle locked out!

WATCH Mark Rober, YouTuber and former NASA scientist, pit Man vs. Machine in a truly epic kick off — soccer-style vs. straight-on! 

* No endorsements here, but prokicker.com, is about the only place where you can order a new shoe…  but you may be able to find other sites for a new or used shoe — look for “Stryker” or “Riddell” kicking shoe.

Didn't Mike Farley kick soccer-style?

Yup. Ironic, huh?… and I was one of those kids who never played soccer. Not a single second.  I never scored a soccer goal, although I did bloody a kid’s nose during an 7th grade phy ed soccer class.

I learned to kick soccer-style by emulating the pros of the day (but I also emulated Fred Cox, Jim Bakken and even Lou “the toe” Groza in competitions against my older brothers). I just found that I kicked better soccer-style. My eldest brother, Steve, a QB at River Falls High School, did kick with a straight on shoe, changing it out on the field after scoring a touchdown. If you are a position-player, you just need to have a “helper” on the sidelines who can toss out the shoe and retrieve your game shoe. You get 30 seconds once the ref blows the whistle, so you have a little time to play with. Be purposeful… take a breath… make the kick.