ITP Glossary: Kicker

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From climbing the pocket to off man technique, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.


The kicker is a member of a football team tasked with handling kickoff, field goal, and extra point duties. At high school and college levels, a team may employ multiple kickers for different facets of the kicking game, but in the NFL, teams typically carry just one kicker due to roster limitations. In some situations, a punter may handle kickoff duties in place of the placekicker, but teams rarely have more than two specialists on the roster. Kickers are often significantly smaller than other players on the field, making them a liability in kickoff coverage in the event of a breakaway returner. Placekickers also are the highest-scoring member on many teams, as points scored by skill position players tend to vary widely from week to week.

Kickers are tasked with booming the ball on kickoffs downfield in an attempt to pin the opposing team as deep as possible:


Typically lining up 7-10 yards behind the ball, the primary goal of a kicker on this play is to generate significant lift and distance:


The still above shows the Miami Dolphins set up in 5×5 alignment on kickoff, ready to kick deep to the Buffalo Bills. Kicker Caleb Sturgis is just outside the left hash as he takes a soccer-style approach to strike the ball that is just inside the hash on the 35-yard line.

Kickers may also utilize onside kicks, squib kicks, and pooch kicks on kickoffs in which they seek to avoid kicking the ball directly to a dangerous returner.

On field goals and extra points, the kicker’s responsibility is to strike the ball through the uprights after a successful catch and placement by the holder:Gostkowski-Scobee

The still above shows kickers Stephen Gostkowski and Josh Scobee just after making contact with the ball on field goals. Field goal attempts need to gain significant height prior to the line of scrimmage in order to avoid being blocked by opposing players, often requiring more than 11 feet of elevation to ensure a safe kick.

Although kickers are typically poor tacklers, in recent years, kickers have begun to show improved tackling skills.

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Chuck Zodda wrote this entryFollow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.

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