The drop kick dropped out


Thinking Out Loud


As a red-blooded American kid growing up in the south, I was totally enamored with the game of football. No, not soccer — that’s a game that still confuses me to this day.

Instead, I’m referring to the American version of the game that utilizes what is sometimes called an oblong spheroid or a basketball with corners.

And while I’ve enjoyed watching (and photographing) many football games, I’ve also been a great fan of the various ways the ball can be kicked.

First, there’s the punt. It looks like a simple maneuver, but it takes quite a bit of skill to handle the snap from center, make sure the ball is properly oriented in the kicker’s hands, be aware that the ball must be brought in contact with the foot at the correct orientation, the ball be sent air-borne in the proper manner with a specific spin to maximize distance (unless you need to kick the ball short due to field position issues) …. The list goes on.

And with all these things rolling around in the punter’s head, he has to trust his blockers to keep the on-coming defensemen from blocking the ball or, even more importantly, keep from getting your head knocked off.

It takes guts.

That’s why I never considered myself as a punter, but, rather, a place-kicker. That’s where the ball is snapped back to the holder who places the ball down (seams out). All the kicker has to do then is glide the foot and leg through the ball and, hopefully, through the uprights on the goal posts.

The place-kick is used for extra points following a touchdown, field goal attempts if a TD is not too likely, or to put the ball in play following a score (touchdown, field goal or safety).

But there is a third type of kick that is not usually considered when it comes to on-field strategy. That is the often-forgotten drop kick.

A simple definition of drop kick is, as the term would suggest, when the ball is dropped by the player with the ball and kicked (much like a punt) when the ball bounces back up.

If the ball goes through the goal posts, then your team earns three points (it’s a field goal)! If it’s done following a touchdown, then the team that scored gets one additional point.

When the shape of the football was changed back in the day (in the 1930s), it became harder to make this kick, making it less appealing.

Although the new shape (i.e., rugby) made it harder to drop kick the ball, it also made it easier to throw the ball in a passing situation. As it turned out, the purpose of reshaping the ball was to increase the popularity of passing, hoping to increase the popularity of the game.

Since at least the 1940s, the last successful drop kick in the NFL to score a conversion point following a touchdown was made by Doug Flutie, the No. 2 quarterback for the New England Patriots. On Jan. 1, 2006, his final game in the NFL, Flutie split the uprights with a drop kick against the Miami Dolphins.

Apparently, the often-ignored drop kick is becoming popular again.

During an NFL game earlier this season, Seattle Seahawk kicker Michael Dickson (and former punter for the University of Texas) drop-kicked a ball (as a punt) to near the five-yard line against the Chicago Bears.

Later in the same contest, Dickson tried an onside drop kick that the Bears recovered near midfield.

So, my favorite type of football kick is coming back into vogue. If that’s really coming to pass, then I’ll get ready to enjoy the drop kick on Sunday afternoons (and Sunday evenings, Monday nights, Thursday nights, and whenever else the NFL schedules a game).

And I’ll certainly get a kick out of it every time I see one.