NFL kickers have long been touted as lesser athletes, often ridiculed by fans and players. But with them accounting for a good percentage of points, why are they so disrespected? Former NFL safety and Super Bowl champ Ryan Clark expressed his opinion about kickers saying they aren’t real football players. Pat McAfee, former NFL punter turned podcaster, had Clark on his show to give him a good ribbing and get him to discuss his comments.
A breakdown of Pat McAfee and Ryan Clark’s careers
When McAfee was in high school, he used the winnings from a poker game to make his way to kicking camp in Florida, where he was dominant. His performance there earned him a scholarship to West Virginia where he put up solid numbers through his college years. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2009 NFL Draft, where he stayed until his retirement in 2016. He was a two time Pro Bowler and his punts averaged 46.4 yards over his career.
Clark played his college ball at LSU. He signed with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2002. Over the next few years, he spent time with the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers, winning a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Steelers in 2009. He currently works as an NFL analyst.
It’s no secret about Clark’s disdain for NFL kickers. On a segment of ESPN’s NFL Live, Clark went off. He ranted that kickers aren’t real football players, that they only have one job to do, and they aren’t doing it well. Games are ending up in ties because of their incompetence.
This comment led Clark to visit McAfee’s radio show, The Pat McAfee Show, and explain his reasoning face to face with the former NFL punter. It also raged a Twitter war over who was more of a football player — Clark or McAfee.
When the two finally met up on The Pat McAfee Show, McAfee was quick to point out that he agrees with Clark about specialists not being football players to a degree. He said kickers have a different mindset, they’re not reactionary like the other players on the field. But that’s as far as he was willing to concede.
He then went on to ask Clark if he ever rushed during a game or threw a pass. Clark answered no to each of these. McAfee was quick to point out that many things make up a football game: tackling, passing, rushing, and kicking. These are all things that he’s done in a game, and Clark hasn’t. He ended his rant with a simple question, “Who’s more of a football player, Ryan?”
Clark was ready with an answer. He heatedly replied, “The person that doesn’t have to write a list to show people that he’s a football player.” The two dissolved into laughter. McAfee agreed that kickers don’t have as much stress as the typical player. So if an NFL player comes out and claims kickers don’t work as hard, he’s apt to agree. It’s the time high school heroes or others outside the NFL make comments that really irritate him.
Clark gives an example of why kickers really get under his skin. He tells a story of how back in his playing days, he’d come off a tough couple of weeks, and the team was at practice watching film and preparing for the next game. He said he left a meeting and noticed a group of kickers surrounding a computer, not talking about football or watching film, but instead, trading stock tips. From that point on, Clark’s attitude on kickers had soured.