When a great NFL football game is about to be played between two talented teams, the offense, defense, and special teams are locked and loaded. As each second passes prior to kickoff, the only thing that every coach and player is thinking about is following the game plan, performing their best, and ultimately winning the game.
On one part of the field, the offense led by the quarterback is rooting on his offensive line to block, his receivers to catch and his running backs to hit the correct holes and make the right cuts. By the time all the yelling and cursing is over, all the players in the offensive side of the ball pretty much cannot wait to play the game.
Another section of the field has the main captain of the defense screaming at every one of his tackles, ends, linebackers, and defensive backs about dominating the opponent. Retired NFL middle linebacker Ray Lewis comes to mind whenever someone speaks about “bone-chilling” pep talks.
Lewis once said to his teammates, “You gotta be willing to die tonight!” Excuse me? Yes, the man was crazy, but in a good way. To this day, it’s still funny knowing that Baltimore Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco had no idea what Lewis was speaking about 90% of the time. Then again, Joe Flacco looks like he never knows what’s going on.
Then there are the special teams’ players. These guys are the kickers, punters, holders, gunners, and returners. Of course, we don’t want to forget about the upbacks and long snappers, but you get the drift. The goal is the same, to be mentally focused on each play and be perfect for each kick. While these players are pumped for the game, the preparation is a bit subtler compared to the offense and the defense.
So here’s what I’m thinking. After witnessing what Ravens’ kicker Justin Tucker did against the Detroit Lions (6 for 6 in field goals with game winner), we seriously as fans need to value special teams more often. Yes, these guys are quiet and hardly have anything to say, but they too are football players even though sometimes we question the thought. We’ve all been there. We’ve all watched a play or two that made us scratch our heads.
Nonetheless, the offense always receives the glory. The defense is always known for winning championships. While all that is true and more, special teams rarely receive the glory, but for some reason always is part of winning championships.
With that said, let’s thank some of these guys because it feels good when you’re appreciated from time to time. Hey, special-teamers need love too.
Let me begin by thanking the players I’ve known since watching the NFL since childhood. Some I know through reading NFL history.
➢ Thank you to kicker Adam Vinatieri for being “Mr. Clutch” in the playoffs and in Super Bowl 36 and 38. Vinatieri is the first kicker to ever win four Super Bowl rings.
➢ Major thanks to gunner Steve Tasker for drawing fumbles consistently in the league. Tasker was a seven-time Pro-Bowler in the NFL.
➢ Kudos to punter Sean Landeta for dropping solid numbers playing with six teams in the NFL. Landeta had won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants.
➢ Thank you to the all-time great and Hall of Fame kicker George Blanda for blessing the NFL for nearly 26 years.
➢ A special nod to Gary Anderson who is still the only kicker to never miss a kick in the regular season. Thank you for the consistency throughout all these years.
➢ Congratulations to kicker Matt Prater for setting a new NFL field goal record of 64-yards. The Hall of Fame had requested for Prater’s cleats, which is nothing short of amazing.
➢ Thank you to all the special-teamers who have committed themselves to their positions. You all are very well appreciated.
Thanking these athletes is always a great thing. If football is important to you like the sport is to me, you’ll give yourself a minute to think about all the special team players you’ve grown to watch over the years. I am sure there are plenty that you would want to thank as well. I would love to know who the players are!
Like many fans, I too often forget the importance of special-teamers.
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