Stephen Gostkowski during the 2009 NFL preseason.
|No. 3 New England Patriots|
|Date of birth:January 28, 1984|
|Place of birth: Baton Rouge, Louisiana|
|Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)||Weight: 215 lb (98 kg)|
|NFL Draft: 2006 / Round: 4 / Pick: 118|
|Debuted in 2006 for the New England Patriots|
|* New England Patriots ( 2006–present)|
|Roster status: Active|
|Career highlights and awards|
|* Pro Bowl (2008)
|Career NFL statistics as of 2012|
|Field goal attempts||202|
|Field goal %||84.2%|
|Long field goal||53 (twice)|
|Average kickoff yards||65.5|
|Stats at NFL.com|
Stephen Carroll Gostkowski (pronounced "gust-OW-ski";) (born January 28, 1984) is a placekicker for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft with the 118th pick, one of just two kickers drafted, and the only rookie kicker to make an NFL roster that year.
Gostkowski, who played both college football and baseball for the University of Memphis, is the most accurate kicker in Patriots history, and one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. He is also a consistent and prolific scorer: he is only the second player in NFL history to score 500 points in his first four seasons in the league. Also, given the Patriots' propensity to find the end zone, Gostkowski holds the record for most extra points in one season, with 74 in 2007 (and the second highest total in NFL history, 66 in 2012).
Gostkowski graduated from Madison Central High School in Madison, Mississippi in 2002. While there, he won four varsity letters each in football and soccer, and three in baseball, and was an All-State honoree in all three sports. Gostkowski holds the school record for longest field goal, a 55-yard kick. His teammates at Madison Central included current 49ers linebacker Parys Haralson and Seahawks center Chris Spencer. His opponents included current Atlanta Falcons running back Jerious Norwood, who returned one of Gostkowski's kickoffs from two yards deep in the end zone; Gostkowski raced him down at the 25-yard line to prevent a touchdown.
His most common nickname growing up was "Beaver"; he lost two front teeth playing hockey and had fake teeth that were too large put in as replacements. While at Memphis, he was dubbed "Gotti" by Tigers head coach Tommy West, because West couldn't pronounce Gostkowski correctly.
Gostkowski attended the University of Memphis where he majored in Exercise and Sport Science. Gostkowski actually received a baseball scholarship at Memphis, and was a walk-on on the football team. He finished his college career with a total of 369 points, a school record, and 13th overall in NCAA Division I-A history, converting 70 of 92 field goals and 159 of 165 extra points (PATs) during his Tiger career. His 70 FGs and 159 PATs both set school records previously held by Joe Allison (1990–1993). He earned first team All-Conference USA honors in both his junior and senior years and was named Conference USA's Special Teams Player of the Year in 2005.
In 2005, his senior season, Gostkowski handled kickoff duties for Memphis, and had 39 touchbacks on 68 kickoffs. Gostkowski did so using a one-inch tee (the height of NFL tees), rather than the two-inch tees allowed by the NCAA at the time. Thus, NFL talent scouts could more accurately project his potential.
Gostkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft with the 118th pick. During the Patriots' 2006 training camp, he competed with veteran kicker Martín Gramática, who the Patriots had signed as a free agent after Adam Vinatieri signed with the Indianapolis Colts. On August 23, 2006, before their third preseason game, the Patriots cut Gramática, and gave the job to rookie Gostkowski. (This is the reverse of what the makers of the video game Madden NFL 07 expected; in the game, New England's place kicker is Gramática, not Gostkowski, who is listed as a free agent.) Since Gramática's release, Gostkowski has not faced any competition for his job.
During the 2006 preseason, Gostkowski was perfect on kicks and PATs, going 9-for-9 and 11-for-11, respectively, for a total of 38 points. His longest field goal was a 54-yard attempt against the New York Giants in the last preseason game. On November 26, 2006, Gostkowski made the longest regular-season kick of his young career, a 52-yard kick against the Chicago Bears, which is also the longest kick ever made at Gillette Stadium. Gostkowski finished the 2006 season as the highest-scoring rookie, with 103 points (20 field goals and 43 PATs), edging out the 96 points scored by Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
While Gostkowski struggled early in his rookie season—he had two consecutive kicks blocked—Patriots reporters and fans have noted that his kickoffs are noticeably longer than were Vinatieri's in his last season in Foxboro. During the 2006 season, he averaged 65.5 yards per kickoff with a return average of 23 yards, and a total of 12 touchbacks. (By comparison, in 2005, Vinatieri's average kickoff was just 61.6 yards, though playing in a dome in 2006 he averaged 65.8 yards.) He also, somewhat surprisingly, did better overall on FG kicks than did opposing teams: while Gostkowski made 20 of 26 kicks, for a conversion rate of 76.9%, opposing kickers made just 22 of 30, for a conversion rate of just 73.3%. Gostkowski's rookie season was statistically about the same as Vinatieri's: Vinatieri converted 27 of 35 kicks (77.3%), but missed three PATs (39/42).
Gostkowski also had to contend with having three different holders during the season. After his first holder, punter Josh Miller, was placed on injured reserve after week 11, the Patriots signed Ken Walter, who held for weeks 12 to 15 until he too was placed on IR. Though the Patriots hired Todd Sauerbrun to punt, holding duties were given to the Patriots' backup quarterback Matt Cassel (which led to one regular-season kick that, while good, made two bizarre turns in mid-air).
In the AFC Wildcard Game of the 2006 postseason against the New York Jets, Gostkowski was perfect on all his kick attempts, converting three field goal attempts (from 20, 40, and 28 yards) and four extra points. He also had one kickoff go through the back of the end zone (over 80 yards) for a touchback.
In the AFC Divisional Playoffs against the San Diego Chargers, Gostkowski made three of three field goals, including a 50-yard kick that was the longest successful kick in Patriots postseason history. He also made a 34-yarder in the third quarter and a 31-yard kick with 1:10 left in the fourth that made him only the third NFL rookie to attempt a game-winning playoff kick in the fourth quarter or overtime. (One of the others was Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, who missed his attempt in the 2004 playoffs; in this game, Kaeding missed a potential game-tying 54-yarder in the closing seconds.) Gostkowski also converted his only extra point attempt of the game following a Jabar Gaffney touchdown in the second quarter.
In the AFC Championship, Gostkowski again converted all of his kicks (two field goals and four PATs), and recorded two touchbacks on kickoffs, including one late in the fourth quarter after his second kick gave the Patriots a 34-31 lead.
Expectations from the Vinatieri years
As an untested rookie, Gostkowski faced special scrutiny in the playoffs, given the playoff heroics of Vinatieri. Gostkowski performed admirably, making all eight of his field goal kicks; he also recorded three touchbacks, including two in the Patriots' January 21, 2007 loss to the Colts at the RCA Dome.
Although Gostkowski ranked just 30th in field goal attempts through the first 12 weeks of the NFL season (16 attempts, 14 converted), he managed to equal his entire 2006 output in those 12 weeks, thanks to an NFL-leading 61 extra point attempts, all of which he converted. In Week 15, against the Jets, Gostkowski broke Uwe von Schamann's record for most PATs converted in a season, with his 67th successful attempt. In Week 16, against the Dolphins, for whom von Schamann played, Gostkowski also had his 71st PAT attempt, breaking von Schamann's record of 70. Gostkowski finished the season with three more PATs against the New York Giants in Week 17 to finish a perfect 74-for-74 on PATs, eclipsing Jeff Wilkins' 1999 record of 64-for-64 with the St. Louis Rams. Gostkowski also went 21 for 24 on field goals to finish with 137 points on the season, the third-highest total of any player that year (rookie Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby had 141, and Patriots receiver Randy Moss had 138).
Gostkowski also had the distinction, in the Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens, of kicking off from the Ravens' 35-yard line as the result of two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Ravens linebacker Bart Scott and an offside call on the Ravens defense on his PAT attempt. Gostkowski recorded a touchback on the kickoff, but there was confusion after the game as to whether or not the Patriots could have improved their field position by kicking the ball out-of-bounds instead.
Gostkowski only had two field goal attempts in the postseason, both in the divisional game against the Jacksonville Jaguars; Gostkowski converted one, but missed the other, his only failed postseason conversion. He was, however, perfect on his PAT attempts, going 9-for-9.
Gostkowski was a key contributor in the Patriots' 19–10 win over the New York Jets in Week 2, the game that marked Matt Cassel's debut as a starter. Gostkowski kicked 4 of 4 field goals from 21, 37, 28, and 27 yards, and recorded touchbacks on the first five of his six kickoffs (the last kick was returned to the 20 before a Raymond Ventrone tackle).
In October, Gostkowski, after going 9-for-10 on field goals and 11-for-11 on PATs for a team-high 38 points, was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for the first time in his career.
In Week 16, Gostkowski had the highest-scoring game of his NFL career, converting 4 of 4 field goals, and 5 of 5 PATs. The 17-point performance gave him a total of 34 field goals on the season, breaking Tony Franklin's 1986 franchise record of 32, and 141 points scored, tying Vinatieri's post-merger franchise record, with one game still to play. (Former wide receiver/kicker Gino Cappelletti scored 155 points for the Patriots in 1964, and 147 points in 1961, but those include 44 and 56 points on receptions.) Gostkowski finished the season with a league-leading 148 points, the 13th-highest single-season total in NFL history; his 36 field goals converted is the sixth-best total, and the most since Neil Rackers made 40 in 2005.
In December 2008 Gostkowski was selected for his first Pro Bowl appearance as the AFC kicker; his selection was the result of the players' and coaches' votes, as he did not finish in the top five in fan voting. The Associated Press also voted him to the All-Pro First Team for the first time; he received 28 of the 50 votes for kicker.
In the Patriots' last-minute 25–24 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Gostkowski recorded his first fumble recovery. When Leodis McKelvin fumbled the ball on a kickoff return, with the Patriots trailing 24–19, Gostkowski recovered the ball at the Bills' 31-yard line. Tom Brady, describing the play in his postgame press conference, used yet another nickname for Gostkowski: "Meat," a reference to Bull Durham, coined by former Patriots punter Josh Miller during Gostkowski's rookie season.
Gostkowski won his first AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award in the Patriots' Week 9 game against the Miami Dolphins, in which he recorded four field goals and two touchbacks, including one on a re-kick from the Patriots' 25-yard line following an offside penalty.
Gostkowski finished the season going 26-for-31 on field goals (83.9%). He was a perfect 47-for-47 on extra points and had a then-career-high 67.8 yard average on kickoffs.
Gostkowski's rookie contract expired after the 2009 season, which normally would have made him an unrestricted free agent. As a result of the expiring NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining agreement, however, Gostkowski became a restricted free agent; the Patriots offered him the second-round tender of $1,759,000 for the 2010 season. Gostkowski signed the tender on April 17.
On August 26, 2010, the Patriots signed Gostkowski to a four-year extension. While he will play 2010 on his tender contract, the extension will give him $14 million from 2011 to 2014, with $5 million guaranteed.
Gostkowski began the 2010 season missing three of his first four field goal attempts over two games. However, in Week 4, against the Miami Dolphins, Gostkowski recorded five touchbacks in a single game; two weeks later, Gostkowski kicked his first overtime game-winning kick in the Patriots' 23–20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
In Week 9, Gostkowski was not able to finish the Patriots' game against the Cleveland Browns after sustaining a thigh injury; he was replaced by wide receiver Wes Welker. Three days later, on November 10, the Patriots placed Gostkowski on injured reserve with a torn quadriceps muscle, ending his season. The Patriots signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham to replace him.
Gostkowski finished the injury-shortened season 10-for-13 on field goals (76.9%; tying his career low set in 2006), while setting a career high with an average kickoff distance of 67.9 yards. He was 26-for-26 on his extra point attempts.
As Gostkowski recovered from his quadriceps injury, for the first time since his rookie season, he was not the only kicker in training camp; the Patriots brought in former University of Massachusetts kicker Chris Koepplin to help manage Gostkowski's workload; they released Koepplin before the start of the season.
In Week 16, after scoring a field goal against the Miami Dolphins to make the score 17–3 in favor of Miami, Gostkowski made a tackle of Clyde Gates on the subsequent kickoff that was credited as "pivotal" in the Pats' comeback victory. Instead of allowing a touchdown, Gostkowski tackled Gates at the Miami 38. Miami lost the ball on the ensuing possession, and the Patriots went on to score a touchdown of their own, closing the deficit to 17–10 en route to a 28–24 win.
Gostkowski finished the season with 143 points, just five short of his career high in 2007; he made 28 of 33 field goals and all 59 of his extra-point attempts. Gostkowski was one of two kickers to score five or more points in every game in 2011 (the other was David Akers), and just the third player in NFL history to manage the feat (Gary Anderson also did it in 1998).
In week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, Gostkowski was a perfect 4-4 before missing a potential game-winning field goal from 42 yards wide left thus ending the game with the Arizona Cardinals winning the game 20-18.
Notes and references
- "Patriots vs. Bengals media notes". New England Patriots. 2007-10-01. http://library.kraftsportsgroup.com/20071001_pats_vs_bengals.pdf. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Ulman, Howard (2007-01-17). "Kicker fills Vinatieri's shoes nicely". Associated Press. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://www.seattlepi.com/football/300006_patriots17.html. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "Pro Football Reference: Career Field Goal Percentage". Pro-Football Reference. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/fg_perc_career.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Russell, Greg (Spring 2005). "Double Play". University of Memphis Magazine. Archived from the original on 2006-12-22. http://web.archive.org/web/20061222180208/http://www.memphis.edu/magazine/v23i2/feat1.html. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
- Reiss, Mike (2006-08-24). "He's got both feet out door". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2006/08/24/hes_got_both_feet_out_door/?page=2. Retrieved 2007-06-10. (Incidentally, the 'k' would not normally be silent in Polish.)
- Laurila, David (2008-06-23). "Kicking Around Some Baseball with Stephen Gostkowski". Baseball Prospectus. http://www.baseballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=921. Retrieved 2008-07-01.
- Reiss, Mike (2006-05-10). "Tee time". Boston.com Reiss' Pieces. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/reiss_pieces/2006/05/tee_time.html. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
- Smith, Michael (2007-01-04). "Gostkowski among kickers under the microscope". ESPN.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs06/columns/story?columnist=smith_michael&id=2720072. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
- "NFL Individual Records: Points After Touchdown". NFL.com. http://www.nfl.com/history/randf/records/indiv/pat. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Reiss, Mike (2007-12-05). "Kickoff situation". Boston.com. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/reiss_pieces/2007/12/kickoff_situati.html. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
- Reiss, Mike (2008-10-30). "Gostkowski: AFC Special Teams Player of the Month". Boston.com Reiss' Pieces. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/reiss_pieces/2008/10/gostkowski_afc.html. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
- Reiss, Mike (2008-12-17). "Peers took a shining to stars". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2008/12/17/peers_took_a_shining_to_stars/. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- "2008 All-Pro team". Associated Press. NFL.com. http://www.nfl.com/news/story?id=09000d5d80dfd4f6. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Forsberg, Chris (2009-09-15). "Postgame chatter". Boston.com Extra Points blog. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/extra_points/2009/09/postgame_chatte.html#pats. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
- Solomon, Jerome (2006-07-29). "For kickers, time to replace the clutch". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/articles/2006/07/29/for_kickers_time_to_replace_the_clutch/. Retrieved 2009-11-25.
- "Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski signs his RFA tender". Boston Herald. 2010-04-17. http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet/index.php/2010/04/17/patriots-kicker-stephen-gostkowski-signs-his-rfa-tender/. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- Reiss, Mike (2010-08-26). "Source: Patriots kicker gets extension". ESPNBoston.com. http://sports.espn.go.com/boston/nfl/news/story?id=5497799. Retrieved 2010-09-06.
- Finn, Chad (2011-12-24). "Gostkowski tackle proved important". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/extra_points/2011/12/gostkowski_tack.html.
- "Stephen Gostkowski miss not only mistake - Worcester Telegram & Gazette". telegram.com. 2010-01-07. http://www.telegram.com/article/20120917/NEWS/109179981/1009. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
|Current starting placekickers in the National Football League (as of Week 17 of the 2011 NFL season)|
|American Football Conference|
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|National Football Conference|
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