What Is a Kicker in Football? Everything You Need to Know

A college football kicker strikes the ball during a field goal.

Kickers typically don’t receive as much prestige as other positions in football, such as quarterbacks and wide receivers, but they’re a key component of winning teams. They may also quickly find themselves on the hot seat if they’re unable to carry out their duties.

So, what is a kicker in football?

Kickers are players in football who kick field goals, extra points, and sometimes kickoffs. They play a vital role in scoring points for the team and are crucial during critical moments in a game. Kickers need accuracy, leg strength, and the ability to perform under pressure.

You could make the argument that kickers have the most stressful job in all of football. A couple of missed field goals or botched extra points can quickly lead to fans calling for your job. 

To learn more about the skills needed to be a kicker, how important they are, and much more – keep reading!

What Is a Kicker in Football?

A kicker in football is a player responsible for kicking the ball during field goal attempts, extra point attempts, and kickoffs. They play a crucial role in scoring points and determining field position for both their team and the opposition. 

Kickers typically have a strong leg and excellent accuracy, as their primary objective is to send the ball through the uprights for field goals and extra points. These plays can be of various distances, with some field goals extending beyond 50 yards.

In addition to field goals and extra points, kickers also handle kickoffs at the beginning of the game, after halftime, and following any scoring play by their team. The objective during a kickoff is to kick the ball as deep as possible into the opponent’s territory, forcing them to start their offensive drive from a less favorable field position. 

A well-executed kickoff can result in a touchback, where the receiving team is unable to advance the ball beyond their 25-yard line.

Types of Kickers in Football

There are two main types of kickers in football: the placekicker and the punter.


A placekicker is a kicker who performs various types of kicks, including:

  • Kickoffs: Kicking the ball off a tee downfield to start play.
  • Field goals: Scoring points by kicking the ball through the goalposts.
  • Extra points (PATs): Adding a point after a touchdown by kicking the ball through the goalposts.

Placekickers need to have a strong leg and exceptional accuracy to ensure their kicks are successful. These skills help the team secure points and maintain field position, which can be critical in close games.


The punter is another type of kicker, but their primary role is to punt the ball when the team cannot advance or score. Their main responsibility is to punt the ball downfield in an attempt to achieve better field position.

Punters require a great deal of precision, as their goal is not only to achieve distance but also to have control over the direction and hang time of the kick. This allows the coverage team to pin down the opposing team with minimal opportunities for a successful return.

Skills Needed to Be a Kicker

A successful kicker must possess a combination of physical skills and mental attributes. The following are some key aspects of a kicker’s skillset that contribute to their effectiveness on the field.

One essential skill for kickers is accuracy. They must be able to consistently hit their target when attempting field goals and extra points.

Mastery of accuracy can come from rigorous practice, perfecting their form, and repetition. Kickers need to be able to make most of their kicks, especially when it comes to PATs.

Another crucial skill is power. Kickers must be able to generate enough force to kick the ball over long distances. Strength training and proper kicking technique can help maximize a kicker’s power.

Developing this aspect of their game allows them to attempt field goals from greater distances and increase the likelihood of touchbacks on kickoffs.

Kickers also need to have excellent coordination and balance. These factors play a significant role in a kicker’s ability to maintain consistency in their kicking technique.

Mental toughness is another integral component of a kicker’s skillset. They often face high-pressure situations where their performance can directly impact the outcome of a game. To remain composed in these moments, kickers must have the mental strength to block out distractions, focus on their technique, and execute their kicks successfully.

Lastly, kickers must be able to adapt to different situations and conditions. Whether it is a change in wind direction, varying field conditions, or differing game scenarios, a kicker must adjust their approach to successfully navigate these challenges.

How Often Are Kickers Used in Football Games?

A high school football kickoff.

One of the primary responsibilities of a kicker is to make field goal. This happens when the team’s offense stalls and they are within range of the end zone but unable to score a touchdown. 

Another critical aspect of a kicker’s job is converting extra points following a touchdown. The kicker must accurately kick the ball through the goalposts, adding an extra point to the team’s score. 

Kickoffs are another vital component of a kicker’s role in football games. These take place at the beginning of the game, after a team scores, and at the start of the second half. 

The kicker’s objective during a kickoff is to provide the team’s defense with good field position, limiting the opposing team’s chances to score. 

How Important Are Kickers in Football?

Kickers in football may not receive much attention, but their role is crucial to the success of a team. These players have the responsibility of scoring points through field goals and extra points after touchdowns. They also help control field position by kicking off to the opposing team at the start of each half and after scoring plays.

Precision and consistency are key characteristics of a successful kicker. The pressure in high-stakes games can be immense, as one missed kick may lead to a loss or even elimination in playoff scenarios.

Statistically, kickers have the potential to easily shift the tide of each and every football game. A missed extra point or field goal can become extremely problematic for teams looking to win close games. 

Best Place Kickers in NFL History

The NFL has seen an abundance of talented place kickers over the years who have brought exceptional skill, accuracy, and consistency to their teams. Some of the best kickers have not only contributed to their teams’ success but also set numerous records and established themselves as crucial assets in clutch situations.

Adam Vinatieri stands out as one of the greatest kickers in NFL history, with four Super Bowl titles under his belt, two of which he won as a part of the New England Patriots. 

Widely known for his accuracy and reliability in high-pressure situations, Vinatieri has made some of the most memorable kicks in the history of the league, such as his game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Another remarkable kicker who has left an indelible mark in the NFL is Justin Tucker. Currently playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Tucker holds the record for the highest field goal percentage in NFL history. His powerful leg and accuracy have made him a valuable asset to the Ravens’ offense, earning him multiple Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections.

Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker, Harrison Butker, has also proven himself as one of the league’s brightest talents. Since joining the Chiefs, Butker has made a significant impact on the team’s success, including their Super Bowl LIV victory.

Younghoe Koo is a relatively young kicker who has already made a name for himself with the Atlanta Falcons. Known for his ability to successfully perform onside kicks, Koo has been a standout performer, earning a Pro Bowl selection in just his second season with the Falcons. 

Another household name among the best kickers in the league is Robbie Gould. Gould has exemplified consistency throughout his career, playing for multiple teams including the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and the San Francisco 49ers. His accuracy and dependability have earned him several Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors over the years.

Best Punters in NFL History

A NFL football sits on a tee during a practice.

When discussing the greatest punters in NFL history, several names stand out for their exceptional performances and long-lasting impact on the game. These players not only possessed incredible leg strength and precision but also consistently excelled in clutch situations.

One of the most celebrated punters in NFL history is Ray Guy, who spent his entire 14-year career with the Oakland Raiders. Guy’s combination of distance and accuracy earned him seven Pro Bowl selections and three Super Bowl titles. He was the first pure punter inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Another punter with an impressive resumé is Shane Lechler. Playing for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans, Lechler amassed a stellar 18-year career. With seven Pro Bowl selections and six First-Team All-Pro honors, he remains one of the all-time greats.

Jeff Feagles, who played for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and New York Giants over his remarkable 22-year career, was a consistent force in the league. While only earning one Pro Bowl selection, Feagles’ contribution helped the Giants claim a Super Bowl victory in XLII.

Johnny Hekker, who played most of his career with the St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams, is already considered one of the best punters in league history. Hekker is a four-time First-Team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler.

Sam Koch, of the Baltimore Ravens, is another punter who has made a name for himself with his unique approach. By employing a variety of kicks to manipulate ball flight, Koch has earned a reputation for keeping returners guessing. His skillset led to a Pro Bowl selection and a crucial role in the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl run.

How Much Do Kickers Make in the NFL?

In the NFL, the salary of kickers can vary significantly depending on a multitude of factors, such as experience, performance, and the team’s financial status. As one of the most critical positions on a football team, kickers can receive substantial compensation if they consistently demonstrate exceptional performance and accuracy.

To illustrate, Justin Tucker, currently the highest-paid kicker in the NFL, signed a four-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019 worth $20 million, averaging $5 million per season. Although not all kickers receive such sizable contracts, they still make substantial earnings relative to other professions.

When examining the entire league, the average NFL kicker salary in the 2022-23 season was estimated to be around $110 million combined for all 44 kickers. 

This places their average individual salary in the ballpark of $2.5 million per year. However, it’s important to consider that newer and less experienced kickers may make closer to the league’s minimum wage.

Some rookie kickers in the NFL may begin their careers earning just above the league minimum, which currently stands at around $750,000 per year. This minimum can increase for veterans and players with more years of experience. 

It’s not uncommon for talented and proven kickers to sign multi-million dollar contracts with teams that value the importance of having a reliable performer in clutch situations.

What Numbers Do Kickers Wear?

Kickers primarily wear jersey numbers between 1 and 19. This range has been traditionally designated for quarterbacks, kickers, and punters.

While the majority of kickers opt for single-digit numbers, there are instances where they choose numbers in the double-digit range, particularly under different league rules or based on availability.

The numbering system for football players serves not only to differentiate athletes on the field but also as a means of identifying their specific positions. In recent times, however, there has been some relaxation in the number assignment rules. 

For example, running backs can now wear numbers between 1 to 49 and 80 to 89, while wide receivers are permitted to choose from the same range. This expansion in options has allowed players to express their individuality and preferences with greater freedom.

It is essential to note that each football player, regardless of their position, must wear a unique number between 0 to 99 during a game. In a recent update, the number 0 – previously disallowed – is now permitted in the NFL starting in the 2023 season.

Do Football Kickers Also Play Soccer?

Football kickers often benefit from playing soccer due to the similarities in kicking techniques and the development of certain skills. Soccer helps increase leg strength, accuracy, and consistency, which are vital components for a successful kicker in football.

Many professional football kickers have a soccer background. In fact, several NFL kickers started their athletic careers as soccer players before transitioning to football. 

Soccer helps develop the proper biomechanics and muscle memory required for accurate and powerful kicking in football. This is mainly due to the surface area and biomechanics of kicking a soccer ball, which is similar to those involved in placekicking a football.

Additionally, playing soccer helps kickers improve their overall athleticism, foot-eye coordination, and balance. Soccer is a sport that demands agility, quick movements, and excellent footwork, all of which are crucial qualities for a football kicker.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Kicker a Hard Position in Football?

Kickers play a significant role in football, requiring precision and consistency for successful field goals and kickoffs. The position might not be physically demanding like a linebacker or running back, but it involves intense mental pressure and specialized skills.

Do Kickers Get Tackled?

Kickers are not immune to being tackled, but it is relatively infrequent compared to other positions like quarterbacks or running backs. However, if a kick is blocked or there is a break in coverage, the kicker may need to make a tackle or be tackled themselves.

Do Kickers Get Drafted?

Yes, kickers do get drafted, although they are usually selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft. A notable example is Harrison Butker, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft before finding success with the Kansas City Chiefs.

How Long Do Kickers Play in the NFL?

The career longevity of a kicker in the NFL varies, but they generally have longer careers than most other positions, due mainly to the reduced physical demands and injuries. 

Some successful kickers like Chicago’s Robbie Gould and Atlanta’s Matt Bryant have played well into their late 30s or early 40s, continuing to perform at a high level. However, a kicker’s career depends on their consistency, accuracy, and ability to handle high-pressure situations.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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