Big-legged kicker having fun under pressure

Kickers are often the pariahs of professional football, ostracized by their teammates because of the lack of physicality that kicking entails. These glorified soccer players don't get the same respect as the rest of their teammates…until they are asked to win a game for them. One clutch kick can make or break a season. Just ask Adam Vinatieri, or Nate Kaeding.

Nick Folk (6-foot-2, 212 lbs.) is one of the most versatile and powerful kickers available in this year's draft. A three-way kicker from the University of Arizona, his strong 2006 season merited the attention of numerous pro scouts. He made 15 of 20 field goals, posted a 44-yard punting average and produced touchbacks on 31 of his 49 kickoffs.

He projects as a place kicker on the next level but he must continue improving his accuracy. For his career he connected on 30 of 47 field goal attempts (64 percent), although his conversion rate improved every year, culminating last season when he nailed 75 percent of his attempts.

That progress earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he was able to kick in front of legions of pro scouts.

"Kickers have to deal with pressure all the time so it's not that big of a deal," said Folk of kicking in a virtual NFL audition. "I'm just out here kicking, doing what I do and tying to have fun. I'm trying to make a name for myself and if I'm having fun I'm probably kicking pretty well."

Folk was consistent throughout Senior Bowl week, showing excellent control during every practice. He would have loved to carry that momentum into the Senior Bowl, but his South team was shut out. He did not get to attempt a single field goal or extra point, limiting his participation to one kickoff for 62 yards.

Despite limited opportunities on the field, Folk made the most of his time off of it. During the course of the week, he met with representatives from the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.

"There are a bunch of teams I've been talking to, nothing in particular right now," Folk said. "But if I get a chance, that's all I need and all I want. I'm just trying to get a look."

Most teams are eager to give a look to any kicker with a leg as strong as Folk's. As a collegian, he connected on 60 percent of his attempts from beyond 50 yards. Also, during a spring game prior to his junior season he drilled a 62-yard field goal.

"My leg strength will probably help me out a lot," he said.

Kickers are annually underappreciated by their teammates. But with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter and facing a two-point deficit, a dependable kicker is more popular than Jessica Alba in a swingers club.

Some team will give Folk a chance to prove he can be that dependable kicker. And who knows? It could be a season-saving decision.

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