In recent years, NFL players have more willingly spoken up. Colin Kaepernick deserves a ton of credit for making this possible. Since his 2016 decision not to stand during the national anthem — a protest to bring attention to racial injustice — the league as a whole has slowly crept toward a more proactive stance on social issues.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo recently spoke up about the Atlanta shootings, which left eight dead. Born in South Korea, Koo addressed a wave of anti-Asian sentiments since the pandemic began. Let’s look at Koo’s NFL career, his comments about Atlanta attacks, and his most recent contract with the Falcons.
Younghoe Koo’s NFL career
Even if you haven’t followed Koo’s NFL journey, there’s a chance you’re familiar with him due to a viral video clip from his college days with the Georgia Southern Eagles. In it, Koo sets up and kicks a field goal while completing a backflip. Despite the clip going viral, Koo went undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Yet the LA Chargers were interested and signed him as an undrafted free agent. Koo quickly earned the starting position. In four games, he made three of six field-goal attempts, while making all nine of his extra-point attempts, reports Pro Football Reference. Yet the Chargers soon released Koo following two consecutive game-ending misses.
Koo took a year away from football before returning to play for the Atlanta Legends, a team in the short-lived Alliance of American Football. In eight games in the AAF, Koo made 88.5% of his field goals. This was good enough to catch the eye of NFL teams. After the AAF was suspended, the New England Patriots signed Koo to the practice squad.
The Patriots cut Koo, and the Atlanta Falcons picked him up. In two years with the Falcons, Koo has made an impressive 92.3% of his field-goal attempts. In the 2020 season, he also made eight out of eight attempts from over 50 yards, while leading the NFL in made field goals. Unsurprisingly, that season saw Koo receive his first Pro Bowl selection.
Younghoe Koo speaks out about the anti-Asian attacks in Atlanta
Following the heartbreaking anti-Asian attacks in Atlanta, Koo took to Instagram to share his thoughts. In that post, he voiced his sadness over the shootings and made clear that racially motivated hate crimes were a real problem — one that desperately needs the attention it deserves. Koo also shared his personal experience with anti-Asian hate:
As an Asian American, I have heard the jokes and name calling. I often dealt with it by ignoring what was said and minding my own business. I don’t have all the answers, but I realize now more than ever that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and that ignoring it won’t help us do that.
That vulnerable and personal message netted Koo over 65,000 likes, and will hopefully help to shed light on the importance of fighting hate-based crimes.
Koo re-signs with the Atlanta Falcons
In March 2021, the Falcons signed Koo to a new one-year deal, as reported by ESPN. According to Spotrac, that contract is worth $920,000. If that sounds to you like a good deal for a Pro Bowler who led the league in field goals, you’re not wrong. Koo’s contract makes him just the 24th highest-paid kickers in the NFL.
The only reason the Falcons got Koo back for so little was likely the perception around the league that he was still unproven talent. Yet if Koo can even come close to replicating his 2020 performance next season, Atlanta will have one of the best deals in the NFL. In which case, Koo can probably expect a much beefier paycheck in his next deal.