I remember watching the longest game in NFL history on Christmas Day in 1991. It ran for 82 minutes and 40 seconds, finally ending with a field goal by Garo Yepremian that allowed the Dolphins to win 27–24. I couldn’t help but think about the pressure Garo must have felt in that final moment. With all the missed opportunities in the game, no one was taking this kick for granted.
Whether it’s punting or placekicking, a kicker can quickly become the hero or the scapegoat, depending on where his foot hits the ball. It is mastering that contact that allows a player to extend his time in the NFL. Kickers are a unique breed. Much of what they do is more mental than physical. There’s just no room for fickle footwork.
Nothing frustrates coaches more than a kicker who is unpredictable and erratic in his ability to simply kick the pigskin through the uprights. He watches the kicker in practice make 50- and 60-yard field goals. The Head Coach gets his Special Teams Coach to make sure the kicker warms up and has plenty of time kicking into the net on the sidelines before he enters the game. Then, as the kicker enters the game, the coach still holds his breath, hoping that all the jeering opposition and robust fans don’t mess with the kicker’s mind, distracting him.
Place kickers are especially careful in choosing a holder with good hands and a calm spirit. The holder is to the kicker what a reel is to a fishing rod. They must work in perfect harmony to complete the job. A holder is usually one of the kicker’s best and most trusted friends. After taking the snap, a holder must spin the ball perfectly, so the laces face the goal post. If the laces are anywhere but straight forward the ball can wobble, reduce the distance, or lose accuracy. The ball is centered exactly to the kicker’s preference. Confidence in the holder is a critical key to the success of every kick.
Opposing teams work extra hard to intimidate the kicker. They realize that if they can “get into the kicker’s head” and make him lose confidence, he’s likely to rush his kick and the ball will travel askew.
So, it is in life. Others can get into our heads, distracting us, stirring up fear, or drawing out temptation. Surrounding ourselves with friends we can count on, who will encourage us and keep us on track is essential to staying the course. We all need godly friends — men we can be transparent with, sharing our deepest hopes, fears, and secrets.
Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 4:9–12
- What distracts you most from your walk in Christ?
- Who do you know who can be your spiritual “holder”? And in what ways can you serve as his “holder”?
- Meet regularly with this man to encourage and strengthen each other in the Lord.
Jim Grassi, D. Min.
We cherish any verse in Scripture that reminds us to keep focused and intentional about evangelism and discipleship. “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5