Those Who Can’t Kick...Teach!
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When the final score of the Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills game was displayed, the spectators, announcers, and the Titans' coaches all knew that the result had rested on one player. Cairo Santos, the Titans’ kicker, had missed all four of his field-goal attempts. Santos was soon fired for his horrendous performance. While exiting the stadium, though, he bumped into Corey “Double Doink” Parkey, a kicker infamous for hitting the crossbar four times in one game and for missing a field goal that would have sent his Chicago Bears to the National Football Conference playoffs. The two promptly left together, and the next day, Parkey, to the happiness of Bears fans, terminated his contract. But the happiness that he would no longer screw up an entire city soon changed into anger, as he would be screwing up an entire generation of football players. That is because approximately two weeks later, Santos and Parkey announced the opening of a brand new field goal kicking school for high school and college students.
What sets this school apart from others is that it is designed to mentor the most talented kickers in the country and put them in the spotlight. A school run by such controversial figures, however, is sure to have problems with enrollment. But on the first day, there were 50 kickers eagerly waiting at the entrance, ready to display their skills. When I asked one student why he is trying out knowing the past of Santos and Parkey, he said, "The flyer promised lessons with Justin Tucker.” In a company statement, Santos and Parkey admitted that there was some false advertising. “We couldn't get Justin to become a teacher, no matter how much we begged him to. He thinks that getting paid millions of dollars to be the most accurate kicker in NFL history is better than teaching the most promising kickers in the country," the two said. Despite this robbery—reminiscent of when Parkey robbed his team of a playoff berth—they chose to defend their actions. "Every business exaggerates to get customers, and what we did was nothing special. Also, we’re not the worst kickers out there. I mean, we’re not Scott Norwood for [God’s] sake.”
Despite the setback, the kickers were eager to practice and put their abilities on display. "These kids are extremely talented. We just had to take all 50 of them. Even on the first day, their kicks were perfect. I mean, they can hit the post 10 times in a row if they want to. Not to say that I can't hit the post if I put my mind to it,” Parkey said. But while the students are excelling in the kicking aspect, they are also receiving some insights into what it is like being a professional field goal kicker. To Santos and Parkey, being a field goal kicker is like trying to live on a private island. You have to win the hearts and minds of the natives in order to survive. “That’s why we are teaching them how to draw sympathy from your coaches and your players,'' Parkey said. “As soon as you see the football miss between the posts, immediately hang your head down in shame,'' one student said after being asked what he had learned. It is also important to show your emotions on game day, even if you are just a kicker. “We encourage them to slam their helmet in frustration or curse at their offensive line when they miss. These actions will let the coaches know that their kicker is an active part of the game and his position should not be taken lightly or thrown away when he messes up,” Santos said.
Teaching is not a one-way street, though, for Parkey and Santos have received countless pieces of advice from their students. “Most of the time, I feel like we are the ones doing the learning," Santos said. "I've nearly perfected my motion of the kick and have changed the angle on which I place my plant foot.''
The results on both ends have been extraordinary. Since the school's opening, the students have appeared several times on "C'Mon Man!", a segment on Monday Night Countdown that covers mistakes, funny moments, and dives in the football world. Furthermore, they have learned to flop to get a "roughing the kicker" call and have been working on slamming their helmets for maximum trajectory. Meanwhile, Parkey and Santos are making two kicks out of every four they take—a drastic improvement from their NFL days.
At the end of the day, it’s about giving back to the game of football, and Parkey and Santos do so through their motto: If you don’t make it, keep trying. “We are trying to help the next generation of field goal kickers to develop a work ethic,” the two said together. Two bad kickers, two millionaires, two dreams, one school.