Most NFL fans may forget about the kicker, taking the position for granted until they miss a potential game winning field goal. In reality, kickers play a vital part to a team’s success and it is harder than it seems to split the uprights. These are the greatest kickers in NFL history and how they impacted the game.
When it comes to longevity as a NFL kicker, Morten Anderson is the perfect example. During his NFL career, Anderson was the kicker from 1982 to 2007 and played for six different teams, 18 years of which was spent with the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons. In his career, Anderson attempted 709 field goals and was able to convert 79.6% of them. Anderson also maintained a 98.8% completion rate when it came to converting the extra point.
By the time his NFL career was complete, Anderson held the record for most points scored for the Saints and the Falcons. Currently Anderson holds the record for most points scored; 2,544 and most field goals made; 565. Though Anderson fell short of his personal goal, which was to play in the NFL until he reached 50 years of age, he will go down in the record books as one of the greatest kickers of all time.
Though he was not drafted by a NFL team after he graduated from Dartmouth College, Nick Lowery began his NFL career with the New England Patriots in 1978. His career lasted 18 seasons in the NFL, though most of it was spent while on the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster.
During the 18 years in the NFL, Lowery attempted 479 field goals and was able to convert 79.9% of them while maintaining a 98.9% conversion rate when it came to extra point attempts. Not only did Lowery receive 7 Pro Bowl nominations during his career, he received the Byron Whizzer White award in 1993, which is the NFL’s Player association premier humanitarian award.
If you are looking for the NFL’s version of the Iron man, look no further than George Blanda. When he entered the NFL in 1949, Blanda was a member of the Chicago Bears and was used primarily as a quarterback and kicker. Eventually his relationship with Bears owner, George Halas deteriorated and eventually causes Blanda to retire in 1958.
This was short lived as Blanda exited retirement in 1960 when the American Football league was formed, where he would become part of the Houston Oilers legacy. Remarkably Blanda played the game of football for a NFL record 26 seasons. By the time he retired from the game with the Oakland Raiders, Blanda was 48 years, 109 days old. While he ranks third in total points scored behind Morten Anderson and Gary Anderson, he remains the top point scorer when it comes to American born players.
In 1982, Gary Anderson began his NFL career when he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Though Anderson would not make the Bills roster by the end of preseason, he found a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was able to continue on to have a stellar 23 year career. Anderson is second on the NFL’s career points list, behind Morten Anderson, with 2,434 points.
Anderson owns the distinction of being the only kicker to have a ‘perfect’ regular season in terms of kicking. In 1998 with the Minnesota Vikings, Anderson converted all 35 field goal attempts and 59 extra point conversions. Despite the success, Anderson is most remembered for missing a 38 yard field goal that would have secured a spot for the Vikings in the Super Bowl.
When NFL fans are discussing modern day kickers, one that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue is Adam Vinatieri, who began his career in 1996. Like Lowery, Vinatieri was undrafted and joined the ranks of the New England Patriots. Vinatieri is still playing in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts and has earned a Pro Bowl nomination twice during his career.
Currently Vinatieri has converted 81.9% or 331 of his 404 field goal attempts while maintaining a 98.2% completion rate for extra points. Vinatieri owns the distinction of being one of the most clutch kickers in NFL Super Bowl history by nailing two game winning field goals to help the Patriots win the championship.