Dear NFL, Whither Alexis Serna?

SOMEONE WILL NEED to explain it to me because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. His career points are second most all-time in the Pacific-10 conference. He is eighth -- all-time -- in NCAA history for points scored by a kicker. And yet no NFL team has signed Alexis Serna to an undrafted free agent contract?

Most didn't really expect Alexis Serna to be drafted, despite some of the speculation leading up to the April 26-27 event.

Few kickers are chosen. There are 32 NFL teams, but only two kickers were selected this year, in the sixth and seventh rounds.

But that no team has snapped Serna up since the draft ended? Now that is something of a shocker.

Nine kickers have been signed to undrafted free agent contracts since the draft concluded. But one of the guys who made his kicks, and made them in the clutch, remains on the outside looking in.

There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence over Serna's four year career: Leading the Pac-10 in field goal percentage in 2004. His six field goals against Washington in 2005. The 40-yard game winner against Oregon his junior year. The 41-yarder in overtime of the Civil War last year, knotting up the score and setting up James Rodgers' subsequent gallop to victory.

ANOTHER CRITICAL ITEM somehow overlooked by NFL scouts is Serna's ability to bounce back from adversity. Everyone remembers what happened at LSU his freshman season. Playing on a swatch of earth more mud than grass, Serna missed four extra points in a 22-21 nationally televised loss.

For someone still a teenager, few expected him to come back from that. But come back he did, and furiously so, making 29 consecutive extra points after that and connecting on 17 of 20 field goals. He was, incredibly after that debut, a Lou Groza semi-finalist that year. The next year, he went ahead and won the award given to the best college kicker in the land.

SERNA'S HAD HIS moment of truth. It happened early and now, if and when he does miss, he's already shown time and time again he's going to make the next one. He spent four highly successful years at Oregon State proving that thesis.

"Kicking at this level," once said Adam Vinatieri, generally considered the best kicker in the NFL, "is all about how you handle pressure. We're on an island; everyone is watching us. It's not like some play where only the coaches who can see the film can tell who screwed up. The difference between kickers is, can you do it when the lights are on?"

Serna can, has and will again, if someone picks him up. Pressure, smessure.

The knock on Serna in the pre-draft days was his size, which seems odd given that most kickers lope down the field precisely in a way that they won't be in on a tackle. Serna doesn't have the biggest leg, but he's well above average, nailing a 58-yarder against Cal, and seven field goals of 50-yards plus during his Beaver career.

Vinatieri doesn't have that big a leg either. But he's consistent, and he makes pressure kicks.

Just like Serna.

MAYBE SERNA WILL get a shot later, down the road, rather than sooner. Kickers brought into camp with high expectations and quickly cut include Justin Medlock, who was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round last year. The Chiefs cut him after his first NFL game.

Or maybe Serna will get his start in the CFL, Arena League or one of the other NFL training grounds. Vinatieri was kicking in the World League of American Football when he received an invitation to the 1996 New England Patriots' training camp.

Whoever does eventually warm up to the idea is going to get a gem. And a whole lot of points, plus some game winners to boot.


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