War of the Words: Are kickers real athletes?

Image from Frank Gunn /THE CANADIAN PRESS

The spotlight shines on kickers

By Josh Martin, Sports Editor

Every player has a role on their team, and only when all those players come together can they ultimately make a team. Each role serves a different purpose to achieve the common goal, and saying that certain positions are more important than others is egotistical. Everyone has to come together in order to be successful. Whether you’re the quarterback, wide receiver, blocker, or kicker, it all adds up to one thing: the team.

Kickers arguably don’t do a whole lot on the field. They come out to kick the ball when necessary and then go back to the sidelines to rest for the next time they kick. They don’t work nearly as hard as the other football players on the team: they don’t have to run, hit, tackle, block, or throw. All they have to do is kick the football when the time comes. So does this mean that they aren’t legitimate football players?

Let’s take a closer look at BC Lions kicker Paul McCallum. He’s damn good at what he does and in the 2004 playoffs when McCallum played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, he missed an 18 yard field goal against the Lions. A total fluke. One off kick and it cost his team the game and the playoffs. The whole year was riding on this one game, this one kick, and McCallum blew it. After the game, fans egged his house and even went as far as reportedly sending death threats to his family. Now, this may be an extreme case of how much pressure rides on the kicker, but it is arguably the most intense and pressure-filled position in football. Everything is on them, unlike the quarterback, where it’s a two-way effort between the throw and the catch of both players. The kick is all up to one man.

The mental strength that comes with a kicker is essential to their success. That biff in 2004 could have easily ruined McCallum’s career—an 18-yard field goal and he missed it. But it didn’t end his career. Now as a BC Lion, McCallum, at 40-years-old, has made the game-deciding play countless times.

Kickers are just as important as any other player on the team. The fact that they have to come out into the spotlight when called upon highlights the pressure entirely on them in the moment. They may not be as strong as the other players on the field, but why should they be? There’s no need. They’re out there to kick the ball, and that alone requires an obscene amount of mental strength and confidence.


Kickers aren’t really football players

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

A kicker isn’t an athlete. It’s that simple.

I respect what kickers do: they come out for a handful of plays a game and are expected to deliver every single time. Opposing coaches will attempt to ice kickers in key situations, making it just that much harder to stay calm and focused. If he’s lucky, a kicker will get some recognition when he makes the big kick, but when he screws up, he’s usually the scapegoat for the loss. On the flipside, kickers are handsomely rewarded for their efforts (at least in the NFL), often making upwards of a million dollars a season if they’ve shown any consistency whatsoever. They also comprise the select group of players who will leave the game in perfect health, free from concussions, shoddy knees, or other life-altering injuries.

That said, on with the slag-fest.

Football players are beasts out on the field: fast, strong, and built. Kickers are pretty much the opposite. My favourite examples are those close to home: Paul McCallum and ex-BC Lion, Duncan O’Mahony. The only place these guys can take their “guns” is the small-arms show. These guys can barely run. I’ve seen o-linemen put in a faster 40 than these miserable excuses for football players. They just don’t look like athletes. The shape is all wrong. Even after hiding them behind a helmet and a set of pads, it’s still painfully obvious which player on the field does nothing but kick the football. You can tell me all you want that these guys used to be solid soccer players, but I wouldn’t believe it unless you said they were in division five. In Antarctica. In a co-ed handicapped league. And played as keepers.

Football is a physical game. Players hit and get hit. Kickers, on the other hand, shy away from contact. Watching a kicker get faced with making a tackle is like seeing a Jacksonville Jaguar with a Superbowl ring: absolutely hilarious. No contact, no balls. No balls, no football player.

My last point is that pretty much anything kickers do to stand out is embarrassing. Unless it’s a last-second field goal, celebrations are generally amusing. Bill Gramática, anyone? I still don’t know how you tear an ligament by jumping up and down.

Kickers can’t run, don’t have athletic body types, can’t tackle, can’t take a tackle, and can’t even celebrate. They’re not athletes and are football players in name alone.