Every year the revolving door of NFL kickers continues to spin. However, throughout the entire 2009 season, it seems to have gotten out of control. Every week when fans are watching a game, there's a good chance that one of the kickers is going to miss an easy or very makeable field goal, or even an extra point attempt.
One of those fans is Chuck Tack, the 2009 NAFL Kicker of the Year. "I can appreciate how nervous the NFL kickers are, because there is a lot on the line. However, if they would just stick to their form and go through their routine, they would be fine. A lot of guys over think the situation, whereas I don’t," says Tack.
Is Chuck trying to say that he's close to perfection? "I’m not saying I will make every field goal that I ever kick, but I eliminate all the surroundings and just kick." Tack adds, "Something else that helps me is the strength in my leg. I don’t have to put everything into the longer field goals. I can still focus on consistency at longer distances, instead of trying to kick it so hard and losing the accuracy. That is why I know that if given the opportunity, I wouldn't only be an NFL kicker, but a great one."
Those are strong words coming from this NAFL kicker who plays for the Nebraska Wildcats. However, if you were at the 2009 NAFL Championship Weekend and All-Star Showcase, then you know that Tack is for real. In the opening quarter of the North vs. East All-Star Game, Tack nailed a 57-yard field goal (All-Star Game record). During the halftime kicking competition, Tack proceeded to put on a show.
The former University of Nebraska Cornhusker connected on a 61-yard field goal with room to spare. His 65-yard attempt fell short, as he didn't hit it solid. However, everyone that was in attendance at the North Miami Athletic Stadium was in awe by Tack's performance.
Like a fine wine, Chuck has gotten better with age, but he doesn't consider himself a late-bloomer. "I have always been able to kick at a high level strength-wise. As for accuracy and technique, I worked with Paul Assad who is a kicking coach in California (back in 2005). He helped me learn to place my plant foot in the correct place and make proper contact with the ball. This has drastically improved my consistency and helped my mental aspect become even stronger. The strength portion has always been there, and will be there for a long time to come since it comes from my height."
Speaking of height, it's not often you see a 6-5 kicker like Chuck Tack. In fact, the tallest current NFL kicker is 6-5 (Joe Nedney, San Francisco 49ers), and the average size is 6-0. Tack credits his long-distance kicking ability to his height. "This is where I generate more power for kicking. The tip speed of my toe is roughly 12-15% more than someone with a leg 6 inches shorter than mine. Muscle can help make-up the difference, but it can also help to separate myself even farther. A simple analogy is to think of a small hammer and a big hammer. With the small hammer you have to hit the nail with way more force to drive it in. With the big hammer you can take a lighter swing and it drives the nail in just as far if not farther." With that being said, maybe Tack's nickname should be "Sledge Hammer."
Comparing field goal kicking at the minor league level as opposed to in the NFL is very similar. However, Tack notes that it's more difficult at the minor league level. "I'm faced with sub-par field conditions, and the line protection isn't as good as in the NFL. Kickers like routine, and when I kick I just want to go out and worry about kicking. There were multiple instances where I have had different long-snappers and a few different holders. Other times, I would get hit or the ball would fly past the holder."
Tack continues, "As for the field conditions, one of the field goals I missed this season was because I stepped in a hole on a sub-par field, and pushed it to the right. It was a lot harder to focus on just kicking, but that was to be expected. The trade-off at this level is that you have to worry more about the physical things. At the NFL level it’s more about the mental aspect."
Chuck has the mental aspect down pat. "The mental part doesn’t bother me, that's why I know I can kick at any level. The only pressure I feel period (no matter what level) is that I don’t want to let my teammates down. With that being said, I want to thank my holder, snapper, and the o-line for creating the opportunities that I have gotten. With the constant changing and lack of practice time together, they all stepped up to the plate and are the reason for my success."
Chuck is also thankful for playing in the NAFL. I also want to thank the owners of the Nebraska Wildcats (Edgar Mace Sr. and Jr.). They have provided me with all of these great opportunities. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to participate during the 2009 NAFL All-Star Showcase."
For a good example of how the physical things can disrupt the kicking game, just look at the Jets vs. Falcons highlights from 12/20/09. Jay Feely missed 2 field goals and got another blocked. Watch and you will see the holder and snapper struggling.
Here's a small sample of evidence of missed field goals to validate the poor field goal kicking during the 2009 NFL season:
23-yard FG - Shaun Suisham (Redskins) vs. Saints; Potential game-winner with 1:52 left 44-yard FG - Shaun Suisham (Cowboys) vs. Eagles 24-yard FG - Nick Folk (Cowboys) @ Saints; Potential game-sealer with 2:16 left 42-yard FG - Kris Brown (Texans) @ Colts; Game-tying field goal as time expired 36-yard FG & PAT blocked - Steve Hauschka (Ravens) @ Browns 34-yard FG - Garrett Hartley (Saints) vs. Cowboys As an added bonus, Chuck Tack is more than adequate when it comes to kickoffs. "My average kickoff distance is around the goal line. A factor that most people don't think about is the hang time I get on a kickoff. I average right around 4.0 seconds at 70-72 yards. This allows the special teams unit to get down the field and make a tackle. If needed I can also drive the ball deeper into the end zone or even out of the end zone, with less hang time. This is riskier, because if the ball doesn’t go out of the end zone then opposing team will have a big head start coming out, and will probably achieve greater field position," states Tack.
The life expectancy of an NFL kicker can exceed the age of 40, which would give Tack another 10-12 years to play at the next level. Every year he's getting one kick closer to making the jump. 2010 could be the year that this Civil Nuclear Engineer from Omaha, Nebraska sheds his Wildcat uniform and goes from the NAFL to the NFL. It's happened before, and it will happen again. Just ask Darnell Dinkins (New Orleans Saints) and Greg Toler (Arizona Cardinals).
Best of luck to Chuck Tack and all other athletes that are using the NAFL as a springboard to advance to the NFL, CFL, and other professional leagues.
Chuck Tack - 2009 NAFL Kicking Stats
Extra Points 11-12 Field Goals 14-16 Five 50-yard Field Goals: 54, 55, 57, 59, and 60 Two missed field goals: 44 yards (stepped in a hole), and 47 yards (hit it fat) Tack vs. the NFL - 2009 Kicking Comparisons
Made FG % - 87.5 (#8 NFL rank) 50-yard FG % - 100.0 (#1-t NFL rank) 50-yard FGs - 5 (#3-t NFL rank) 50-yard FGs attempted - 5 (#6-t NFL rank) Longest FG - 60 (#2 NFL rank) Only NFL kickers with at least 10 field goal attempts during the 2009 season were included in the chart below.
Bolded Yellow = Leader
Bolded Gold = NAFL Player